“And then finally, we will make… a mole.” Oscar, our smiley, softly-spoken chef had just gone through the suggested menu for today’s cookery lesson. A shudder rippled around the dining table. “No more mole” was the consensus in the class. Mole for breakfast. Mole for lunch. Mole for dinner. We had had our fill of the rich chocolate-y sauce over the past few days.
“Something light, then, like an almond mole, then,” said Oscar with a smile, “it will be nice… I promise.” Taking his word for it, we knocked back the dregs of our liquorice tea and followed Oscar and his able assistant Alfredo out the door to the nearest Oaxaca market.
Downtown at the market, Oscar gathered the class into small clusters so that he could explain the subtle differences between various chilies, point out local delicacies such as Huitlacoche (corn fungus) and chicken feet and make sure nobody got lost in the maze of spices, chocolate and fragrant flowers.
The market trip gave us all the chance to appreciate the freshness and variety of produce available in Oaxaca. It was also the perfect opportunity to photograph daily life in the market, something you could imagine hadn’t changed for generations.
Back in Casa Crespo, sunlight flooded the yellow kitchen as we donned our aprons in preparation of our first dish – tortillas.
Surprisingly simple to make, the tortillas would form the basis for a number of lunchtime dishes including, tortilla soup and stuffed pumpkin flour tortillas. The heavy tortilla presses are readily available to buy in the local market for a few dollars – a handy gadget, but sadly too heavy to lug across Mexico in a rucksack.
Everyone in the class had the chance to contribute a dish to the menu. By lunchtime we had cooked up an impressive banquet of salsas, deep-fried pumpkin flowers stuffed with cheese, tortilla soup, guacamole, chicken and almond mole (sweet and delicious), horchata (an ice-cold almond drink) and a refreshing mango ice-cream.
While we enjoyed a well-deserved Corona on the roof terrace, downtairs, the dining room had been transformed into an elegant space for us to enjoy our colourful fare.
Oh, and of course, being Oaxaca, our host couldn’t let us leave without a drop of the local Mezcal.
About Cookery Courses at Casa Crespo:
- Classes are informal and relaxed in style and focus exclusively on cuisine from Oaxaca. The cost of a 4-hour class is $65 (€50). This fee includes a market visit, ingredients, full recipes for the dishes prepared in class, as well as a beer or Mezcal.