In 2002, aged 21, I travelled to the wilds of Oaxaca, Mexico to work on a turtle conservation camp for three months.
This wasn’t so easy. As the only non-Mexican volunteer working and living on the small beach in La Escobilla, near Puerto Escondido, I had to learn a lot about Mexican culture, not least the cuisine.
And while our small group of four volunteers were supplied with food by the camp managers, these were really just the bare essentials – fruit, vegetables, dairy products and meat. With this, we all took turns cooking for the group.
In addition, this was before I bought the cookbook that changed my life, so I was pretty daunted about cooking for everyone, especially a cuisine I had never attempted before.
But over the course of the next three months, Laura, Carlos and Patricia taught me how to make many Mexican staples – quesadillas, salsa verde, salsa roja, sopes, guacamole, frijoles refritos – and I left Mexico in love with the dishes we concocted in our threadbare kitchen on our deserted beach.
After all these years though, my favourite dish is still huevos mexicanos, which we would make as a treat when supplies arrived. It’s a great hangover cure and let’s face it, nothing gives your day a kickstart like a little hot chilli!
Ingredients for two:
2 or 3 good size tomatoes
half an onion
1 green chilli (taste a little of the raw chilli to test its hotness – and adjust the amount you use accordingly!)
1) Chop the tomatoes, onion and chilli into very small pieces – the smaller the better – then fry over medium heat in a frying pan until reasonably soft, stirring occasionally.
2) Quickly whisk up the eggs using a fork, until the whites and yolks are completely mixed, then pour this into the frying pan. Turn up the heat to medium-hot.
3) Keep stirring the contents of the pan as the eggs cook, and you’ll notice the small pieces of tomato, onion and chilli start to cling to the little fragments of egg. Breakfast is ready when the egg looks firm.
The best thing about this recipe is that it is quick and easy to adjust to suit your tastes. Cook the eggs for less time and you get Mexican scrambled eggs.
Add less or more chilli as you wish, and if you’re a big onion fan feel free to add more. I usually serve huevos mexicanos on toast, but you could try it with tortillas or pita bread.
Finally a little note on the origin of the name. As my fellow volunteers explained to me, the dish represents the three colours of the Mexican flag – tomato for red, onion for white and chilli for green.
Which means you could easily adapt this to the flag of your choice! Try making huevos mexicanos Canadian style by swapping the green chillies for red ones. I did this the other day and it worked a treat!