el Dia de Muertos or the event Day of the Dead is a Mexican version of Halloween celebrations. It’s also when Gran Luchito was launched last year so this year on their first birthday Gran Luchito decided to throw a party in association with Amathus Drinks and Oaxaca Cheese, on 30th Oct at Amathus Soho with a great spread of Mexican eats and the amazing Mezcal!
Image Courtesy: Wiki Images
Gran Luchito’s owner, Fergus Chamberlain, explains: “I am on a mission to bring authentic and rural Mexican flavours to our kitchens, making them accessible and contemporary. Gran Luchito’s products are made to enhance the flavour of any food”.He discovered the rare pasilla Oaxaca chilli on a trip to Mexico and he now works with local farmers to create the smoky, rich Gran Luchito paste. (Oaxaca pronounced as Wahaca) There are 56 varieties in Mexico and Gran Luchito is made from artisan smoked Mexican chillies – the pasilla Oaxaca, agave (agave is the plant from which mezcal and tequila are made!) and garlic amongst other ingredients. It is a very versatile paste. I love using it as a meat marinade and with some poached eggs. Actually, the applications can be as vivid as your imagination.
The farmers who grow the Pasilla Oaxaca chilli live in the Mixes Hills that surround Oaxaca. Their existence is a really tough one, with long dry summers and heavy monsoons. The rare Pasilla Oaxaca chillies are smoked over the oak fire when perfectly ripe in handmade clay ovens, to prevent insects from eating them, or torrential rains from rotting them. The deep rich and smoky flavours are an aftertaste after the initial heat. Making a chilli paste is a traditional way of using chilli in Mexico. They make it using a stone grinder called a metate.
Listening to a presentation sitting surrounded by exotic spirits lining shelves from floor to ceiling was distracting enough and to add to that a table full of delicious Mexican snacks was at our table. There were Tostadas de frijoles or beans tostadas with sour cream blended with Gran Luchito paste, Ensalada de nopales, or a cactus salad made with cactus available at Mexgrocer, Ensalada de Pollo or a chicken salad along with some other small eats. I loved the prawns topped with marmalade made with caramelised onion with Gran Luchito Paste.
We also tried 5 different types of Mezcal which is a very tasty and sharp alcoholic drink made from plant agave. Agave is also used to make Tequila but unlike tequila Mezcal is to be sipped slowly ideally balanced by popping loads of Mexican cheese between sips. I feasted on 2 types of artisan Oaxaca Cheese ,one like a crumbly feta but much less salty and another a chewy string cheese which is absolutely amazing, very morish! Both made in Mexican cheese makers here in the U.K using milk from local farms by Oaxaca Taste.
Mezcal is made mainly in Oaxaca in Mexico and it is a long and laborious process and everything is done by the local folks by hand including harvesting , roasting,grinding and leaving to ferment using traditional artisan methods.There is a saying attributed to Oaxaca regarding the drink: “para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también” (“for all bad, mezcal, for all good, as well”) I couldn’t agree more , because this fine drink didn’t get me tipsy inspite of 5 different very potent varieties of Mezcal called Vida ,Minero,San Luis del Rio Azul,C and Alipus San Anders,ranging in alcoholic content from 45% to 49% !
Mezcal is a drink that has come of age and deserves its rightfull place amongst other fine spirits.Because it has been such a closely guarded secret amongst the Mexican Hills for years and has only being sold outside of Mexico in the past decade or so , it is best introduced along with a peek into the rich Oaxacan culture that surrounds this drink.
I know one thing for sure when I plan a pre christmas dinner party I am going to make a cactus salad, use generous dollops of Gran Luchito honey on my crackers , serve some Oxacan stringy cheese( most of which I greedily plan to wolf down) and stock up on Arroqueno , the smooth and smoky taste is addictive without being overpowering.Oh yes and it made me feel so warm inside like an internal thermostat set to warm and toasty, didn’t need my coat on the way back …hummmm better than sake I say !
Image Courtesy: Gran Luchito
*With thanks to Gran Luchito for the invite. All opinions expressed and photographs used are, as always, my own, unless otherwise mentioned. No monetary compensation was provided.