Friday, 10 May 2013


Melanzane & Peperone Miste al Achiote
Achiote Eggplant & Pepper Relish

Being European, Mexican food is somewhat of a mystery to me. And when I say that, I mean REAL Mexican food, not the Tex-Mex, chain restaurant fodder that is available on every street corner. I am talking about unusual spices and ingredients, different seasonings and flavors... and one of the few unusual spices and flavors that I do know and do like very much is Achiote or Annato as it is also known...

 These tiny red seeds when ground can be turned into a wonderful, mild, rich and earthy paste... but you can also buy this pre-made in jars as I did. The achiote seeds do color food incredibly well- but they also color hands, mortars and pestles, coffee-grinders and all other appliances too! The paste is fine- trust me!

I love eggplant in any of it's numerous incarnations, but wanted to try something a little different out with it today. As it is so wonderful in combination with so many other flavors, I thought I would try combining it with achiote to give it a richer and smoother flavor. Together with Tabasco, lime and mixed peppers, it made for this great dish, which was great eaten simply with baked tortillas, but could make a wonderful side dish or cold salad  too.

I started off by finely dicing a medium sized eggplant, a couple of Spring onions, a clove of garlic, and a half each of a red, yellow and green bell pepper. If I'd had fresh chili's or jalapeno's at home, I may have added some, but as it was, I decided to make do adding some Tabasco for a little heat. In any case, first of all, I popped all of these ingredients into a fat-free non-stick pan and began "frying" them at a high heat, stirring constantly. No, they do not stick, but they cook and begin to brown very nicely!

After a couple of minutes, I added a sprinkle of cumin seeds, salt, pepper, a little cinnamon and some toasted paprika powder, which has a wonderful rich aroma. I stirred this in well and kept the eggplant and peppers moving and browning nicely from all sides. 

Once everything was nicely cooked, I added a nice scoop of achiote paste- about a tablespoonful for this single serving. I stirred the achiote in well and it immediately colored everything a bright and wonderful red. It disperses easily into the other ingredients- I think there is quite a bit of oil in that paste! But yummy, yummy, yummy is that I can say- it is not fatty, just nicely smooth in flavor and perfect for a pleasant, light meal.

I added a squeeze of lime and a little finely chopped parsley, the aforementioned Tabasco and a drizzle of honey, which made the flavor better still and much more "rounded". I served mine up with some toasted tortillas and ate it with a little plain yogurt and parsley. Cilantro would have been good- but hey! This was a great, healthy and fun meal! Make it for yourselves and enjoy!

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