My Abuela’s Table – Day of the Dead: Dia de los Muertos

by Jenny Butler
Tuesday 14th June 2011

After sharing her story yesterday about how My Abuela’s Table came to be, Daniella will be featuring recipes for different Mexican celebrations for the rest of the week, starting today with the Day of the Dead.  Remember to leave a comment to go into the draw to win a copy of My Abuela’s Table! – Jenny x

The most traditionally Mexican of celebrations that links both the Spanish and the Indigenous Mexican cultures. Dia de los Muertos celebrates the souls of the departed who are said to join family and friends in the land of the living on this day. It’s a joyous time, without tears – which can make the return pathway slippery!

On the eve of November 2, there is great activity in Mexican kitchens. The local markets do a roaring trade with typical ingredients such as aromatic herbs, spices, nuts, fish and seafood, selling out by mid afternoon. Hours of preparation produce magnificent dishes like mole (chocolate-based spicy sauce chicken or turkey), empanadas de carne (meat empanadas), tacos fritos (fried tacos), and sweets like camotes (Pueba sweets) and cocadas (coconut fudge). The next day the food is carefully packed in canastas (straw baskets), and ollas (clay pots) and transported to the cemeteries. They are then arranged on top of the graves of loved ones, as an offering to celebrate their lives. The food is consumed on site and stories and memories of the departed are shared by all.

Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead Bread)
Makes two loaves

7 g dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
3 cups plain flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
6 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon orange extract
2 tablespoons anise extract
125 g butter
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
extra sugar, for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C.
  2. Dissolve yeast in the warm water. Mix in ½ cup of the flour and combine well. Leave for 15 minutes.
  3. Sift the remaining flour, sugar and salt three times. Pile onto a clean surface and make a well in the centre.
  4. Into the well, add the yeast mixture, egg yolks, orange and anise extract, butter (in small cubes) and orange rind. Mix well.
  5. Add 3 of the egg whites and combine until the dough is smooth. Knead for at least 5 minutes or until firm and elastic.
  6. Place in a bowl and cover, leaving it in a warm place for 2 hours, or until risen.
  7. Divide the dough into two, reserving a little for decoration. Form two loaves and decorate with the reserved dough. You can make your cake into the shape of a skull or bones!
  8. Cover cakes with a slightly damp cloth and leave for another hour.
  9. Brush loaves with milk and sprinkle with extra sugar. Bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Serve warm with a mug of Mexican hot chocolate.

Beef Empanada
Makes 10 empanadas

For the filling:
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic clovesolive oil, for frying
4 bacon rashers (or 2 chorizo sausages), cubed
500 g shin beef, cubed
3 bay leaves
400 g tin tomatoes
50 g pine nuts
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon tumeric
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon white vinegar

For the pastry:

5 sheets shortcrust pastry milk, for glazing
1 egg
2 tablespoons water

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Sauté onion and garlic in a small amount of olive oil until translucent. Add bacon (or chorizo) and cook for another minute.
  3. Add beef cubes, frying for 5 minutes until brown.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
  5. Cover pan and allow to simmer for 1½ hours.
  6. Add water as needed during the cooking process. Allow to become thick and almost dry.
  7. Set aside to cool.
  8. Cut pastry in circles 15 cm in diameter – two should fit on one sheet. Put 2 heaped tablespoons of mixture into the centre of each. Fold over and seal the edge with a little milk. Use fingers or a fork to create a fancy edge.
  9. Beat egg with the water, and brush over the tops of the empanadas. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.

Daniella x

by Jenny Butler
Tuesday 14th June 2011


  • mish 5 years ago

    ooh! Day of the dead bread, love the name of it!

  • Hat 5 years ago

    I have My Abuela’s Table and this recipe was one of the first I thought to try out. Very exciting for upcoming Day of the Dead! All the recipes look amazing so I highly recommend buying the book.

  • leah 5 years ago

    I have been desiring ‘My Abuela’s Table’. I am sold now I’ve seen the gorgeous illustrations accompanying the recipes.

  • Alejandra Duschatzky 5 years ago

    OMG! Daniella has just made my morning!!!! the illustrations and the recipes have awakened so many memories… I am sure to try the recipe for Empanadas de Carne this week. Daniella, thank you for ‘My Abuela’s Table’.

  • Clare 5 years ago

    My god these recipes both sound so good! Could you add some diced candied peel to the bread, I wonder?

  • Kathleen 5 years ago

    Oh how exciting! Thank you for these! :)

  • kk 5 years ago

    This is my favourite type of cook book and not just because mexican is my absolute favourite type of food! When much loved family recipes are married with such gorgeous illustration, you just know it’s a resource you’ll use over and over again. I can’t wait to see more recipes and start planning my next fiesta!

  • Lorena Mair 5 years ago

    Love it! Need this book!

  • Kerry Smith 5 years ago

    Day of the dead!
    Reminds me of the feat of I Santi e Morti in Italy and all those little bone biscuits!

  • Ann 5 years ago

    I would love this book. I love mexican food and would love to try out new recipes.

  • Anna 5 years ago

    What a beautiful cook book! Now I know what to get my sisters for Christmas. Thank you! xxx

  • Kate 5 years ago

    I love your illustrations Daniella, congratulations on a fantastic book! I have great memories of Day of the Dead in Mexico a few years ago and I would love to be able to re-create this bread:)

  • Rebecca 5 years ago

    Beautiful work! I love a yummy illustration ;-)

  • kristy 5 years ago

    I’m sorry I don’t think I can wait to see if my luck is good this time, I’m off to buy this book NOW!

  • Emma 5 years ago

    Just love mexican food so much! Its warm and nurturing and just yum! Will enjoysmaking thease recipies. Wish I had a mexican Abuelita too

  • Mummageorge 5 years ago

    A beautiful testament to the importance of family, food, tradition and talent!

  • badra 5 years ago

    Oh my! Daniella, I have to say I’m super inspired and jealous at the same time. I mean this is super great, I love it. And I’m super jealous because I would love to do this one day. I love cooking and drawing, so to be able to combine both into something so beautiful, I’m just blown away :)

    Any advice on how to make a beautiful illustrated cook book?


  • Christina 5 years ago

    What divine illustrations….I’ve never wanted to cook more!

  • Sandra 5 years ago

    thanks for sharing two gorgeous recipes! would absolutely love to have a copy of your beautiful cookbook :)

  • Molly 5 years ago

    The recipes sound very yummy. Fantastic illustrations too!

  • Jodi 5 years ago

    Love the look of this book – gorgeous illustrations and looking forward to seeing some more of the recipes!

  • Ann 5 years ago

    It looks like a wonderful book. I love mexican food and would love to try these recipes.

  • Catrina Murray 5 years ago

    I would love to get my hands on a copy of this book! If I can tear myself away from my margarita, that is!

  • Tito 5 years ago

    I would like to try the mole recipes in the book, to see if Ican recreate what enjoyed so much in my stay in Mexico

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