Culinary Mexican/Spanish Flavours

Culinary Mexican/Spanish Flavours


Most of us have tried Mexican food, usually in the form of corn chips, tacos, burritos and salsa. Have you noticed that most supermarkets have a large part of one aisle dedicated to ingredients for Mexican cuisine? Most of these products are pre-made, so you can purchase kits that include everything except the fresh veg and meat, allowing for quick meal preparation.

You may also have tried the ever-increasing-in-popularity Spanish tapas. If you haven't already done so, an evening out eating Spanish Tapas will let you discover just how tasty the food is. Tapas can be found in many restaurants and bars now - a great option for trying lots of little dishes with a great range of flavours. Of course these also go particularly nicely with a bottle of Spanish style wine like a Tempranillo or a blended wine that includes Grenache. Other Spanish foods you may be familiar with are paella, chipotles, mole sauce, chorizo and Spanish omelette.

Plate of nachos

It is worth spending time experimenting with Mexican and Spanish dishes as they are so much more delicious made from scratch. Corn, beans and chilli peppers are the staples in both Mexican and Spanish cuisine. A wide range of peppers are used for their flavour as well as heat. What gives dishes their main flavour is the variety of chilli you choose to use. Some chillies you could choose are:


This spice has been around since the 1400s and is made from dried peppers. The flavours of paprika vary considerably, depending on the variety of pepper used. Up until the 1920s, paprika was always hot. Now you can get mild, hot, sweet or smoked paprika, and you can also get varieties that are a mix of sweet and hot.

The background note to countless dishes in Mexican and Spanish cuisine is Smoked Paprika, which gives a wonderful depth of flavour and colour to any dish to which it is added. Smoked Paprika is known as Pimenton and has a distinct smoky flavour and aroma. It is dried by smoking, typically using oak wood. Smoked Paprika is the cornerstone flavour of chorizo sausage and is good for slow-cooked meats and stews. It can also be used as a garnish - just a wee sprinkle before serving adds great colour.


Wouldn't it be fun to make your own smoked paprika and get a really superior, fresh, home-made product? I usually buy the good quality smoked paprika from specialist food stores, but making your own gives you a fantastic result and with a little experimenting you can come up with your own versions and give little jars or bags away as unique gifts.

1. Set up your smoker ensuring you have a rack that the peppers will not fall through as they dry. Use a little chicken wire over the top of your normal rack if you need to. You can use oak or hickory chips, but trying other wood chips would be a great way to experiment with different flavours.

2. With gloves on, remove the ribs and seeds of your peppers.

3. Lay the peppers on the rack of the smoker and turn occasionally with tongs during the drying process.

4. Use a low heat over at least 2 days, as you are trying to dry rather than cook the peppers. For safety, you can turn off at night and restart the following day.

5. Taste test for the required smokiness and if they taste great but still need a little more drying, finish them in natural sunlight or in a dehydrator.

6. Remove and allow to cool.

7. Store in an airtight container and grind when ready to use.


You can use this as a lovely condiment to go with almost anything. For a quick version, just mix the following ingredients:


1/2 cup of mayonnaise

1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp crushed garlic

Then the aioli can be used:

  • as a dip

  • in salad or coleslaw as a dressing

  • with hot chips or wedges

  • on vegetables

  • with seafood or chicken

  • on sandwiches or burgers

  • as a swirl in your soups or casseroles

The options are endless so be warned - this may become your favourite item in the fridge.


It was impossible to write a blog post about Mexican/Spanish food without including my favourite dish. I first tried Huevos Rancheros on a little island in Tonga, of all places, and have tried many versions since. It is a great brunch dish and sets you up for the day.

The translation is "ranchers eggs" and was traditionally served on rural Mexican farms as a mid-morning breakfast. The traditional version is fried eggs served on a lightly fried tortilla topped with tomato-chilli sauce. Other additions can be made - re-fried beans, rice and/or guacamole.

This is my own version - I try to make it the day before so that there is good flavour infusion. If you don't have time to prepare it ahead or time, it is still really good made on the day. It can be served without the tortilla if you don't feel like bread, or if you don't have tortillas in the pantry you could use a bit of toasted sourdough bread. These quantities make enough for two people:

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 rashers of bacon or ham
2 large tomatoes or a tin of chopped tomatoes
1 chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 can of kidney, cannelloni or black beans
Parsley or coriander - a small handful, chopped
2 tortillas
2-4 eggs

  1. Heat a little oil and fry the onions and garlic for 5 mins.

  2. Add the bacon or ham and cook for 3 mins.

  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and chilli and cook for further 5 mins.

  4. Add beans and cook until they are warmed through. Leave to simmer until ready to serve.

  5. Pan fry the tortillas and your eggs.

  6. Place tortilla on plate, spoon tomato mix over, add the egg and sprinkle with chopped herbs.



If you are looking for some ideas for herbs and spices that can be used in Mexican food choose paprika, coriander, basil, epazote, marjoram, thyme, oregano, cinnamon and cumin.


Some typically Spanish herbs in our range are parsley and sage, but you will also often see garlic, cinnamon, cloves, mint and rosemary used in Spanish cuisine.

I hope this inspires you to further your experimentation and discovery of Mexican and Spanish food. I just know you will enjoy the flavours, smells and delicious experiences to be had........¡Buen provecho.

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