My Abuela's Table - Day of the Dead: Dia de los Muertos

Jenny Butler
Jenny Butler
14th of 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

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