Nov 7 2011

Mexican Madness

Posted by     42 Comments    Posted under: Reviews

Last weekend the Chef and I took a Mexican cooking class together. We drove back over to our friends at Oldfarm, Margaret & Alfie, who were hosting this affair, and spent the day swirling around their kitchen with Lily Ramirez-Foran, owner of My Mexican Shop which is an online Mexican food supply shop. Lily and her husband Alan have just recently purchased Almacén Latino and are making some huge changes to the website as we speak. So for now, you can buy and order all your Mexican goodies here, but bookmark this webpage right here because after Christmas they will be launching their new website and based on the sneak peek Lily gave me on Saturday it will be one of your favourite places to shop!

Our teacher Lily Ramierez-Foran


We arrived late, which is as per usual with the two of us who cannot seem to find our way out of Galway, and when Margaret ushered us in the door we were hit with the enticing smells of Lily’s salsa straight away. She had tomatoes simmering on the stove top, two pans, one with red tomatoes and one with green. We make salsa all the time here at home but not the cooked variety that you can buy in a jar. Ours, I found out, is called Pico de gallo when you use uncooked tomatoes and it is salsa when you used cooked!

First lesson of the day under our belt it was time to get busy.

Now, both Margaret and Lily have pressure cookers and both of their pots were whistling away on the stove. To me, pressure cookers are something my Granny’s both had and used a lot. Us, growing up, not so much, and now, not at all. Lily explained the cooking of beans from the bag, un-soaked, in under an hour. I kinda started to feel like I was back in high school and coveting the cool schoolbag that everyone else had and all I had was an old army n’ navy hand me down, or in this case, beat up heavy bottomed pot that has served is well over the years. Then, came the real smell. The beautiful piece of pork that was simmering away for what smelled like ‘overnight’ was produced. It might have taken an hour in the pressure cooker. Apparently they are a dime a dozen at Argos so I expect the Chef will be picking one up later this week.

Making our own tortillas

Now, on to the tricky part of the lesson. How to make your own tortillas. Good news here, incase you fail miserably, Lily sells the best little tortillas online so if you can’t manage this, then fear not! It is not that hard though. You mix the masa with some hot water, stir with a fork and then make into a nice dough. Once you are happy with the consistency you place it in between two sheets of plastic on your Tortilla press (and I do want one of these now) and hey presto you have a lovely little tortilla. There is a trick to this and unless you are really careful you can make a huge mess and the tortillas stick to the plastic and you will die of starvation. Next time you hear Lily advertising a class – go and learn how to do this. OR bring your Chef husband with you and get him to do the hard part whilst you man the stove and try not to burn them.


La Cochinata in the lovely Nicholas Mosse bowl 'Forget-me-not'

Once the pork was ready and all the salsas were lined up on our very prettily Nicholas Moss adorned table, Lily’s niece gave us a demonstration on how to load and eat a Tortilla. She did this with such ease and grace it fooled us into thinking that it would be easy. Use a knife and fork people. Or be happy with the mess you make because the food tastes so good you should not care about the mess you are wearing all over your face and clothes.

The ‘right’ way to load a tortilla….  

Thankfully, and because we had all worked up a fierce thirst, there were plenty of refreshments for us to choose from. I can’t tell you which one I preferred because two, if not three, of the beers provided were outstanding paired alongside the Mexican fare. None of that Corona with a slice of lime for us. No siree……..

Eight Degrees Brewing and O’ Haras are making some damn fine brews and they are now, thankfully, widely available across the country. AND they have deadly packaging and cool websites. So, if you are looking to while away a few ‘bored at the office’ work hours, have a look why don’t ya?


You could not go wrong with the beer selections………every drop delicious.

It would be fair to say that we made pigs of ourselves. The food that Lily prepared and cooked for us was outstanding. When you are eating such a variety of vibrant colourful dishes paired with equally exciting beers it is hard not to enjoy oneself.

I am addicted to those little pickled red onions

In addition to the food and cooking lesson being fun and educational, Margaret and Lily had taken great pains to organise a beautiful day, weatherwise, so we were able to hang out on the porch outside and take some very pretty photos. I am especially proud of this one and can tell you it is not skill at handling my camera which is not even a dslr, it was just a beautiful day and the props from Nicholas Mosse Pottery  and Margarets own personal crockery made everything look so pretty.

The day was bright and beautiful  


The Chef & I had brought along a few little Scottish Tea Cakes to share with everyone after lunch and with it we also had Lily’s fabulous ‘fast’ flan that she threw together in under a minute and cooked in the microwave in 8 minutes. This is going to be attempted here as a ‘keep-the-kids-quiet-with-a-dessert’ someday soon. Maybe even with cocoa.


Fast n' fabulous flan all gone and a bit of Scottish tea cake to fight over


Sometimes, I would like to expand my repertoire of culinary skills, because although the Chef can cook damn near anything he wants to, I am limited in my skills and confidence in what I can cook. Going to a class like this gives a girl the idea that she could attempt a few new items and perhaps showcase them next time her friends come over for dinner. With there being very little days of sunshine left in the year I am going to take these bright and colourful photos and hang them on the wall near my desk. They will remind me, in the depths of winter, that Chili’s will grow in Ireland, and, if I never manage to cook one thing I learned in the cooking class, it is alright, because the Chef will!


Bright bold and beautiful food


Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,


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42 Comments + Add Comment

  • Mona: Your images are fabulous. What a great day it was and your descripiton of the day, brilliant. Lovely to meet you both.

    • Lisa,
      It was also lovely to meet you and Sophia. I look forward to our next rendezvous and if you are heading up this way between now and Christmas let me know
      and we will arrange tea!

  • Wow Mona, what a lovely review! I am delighted you two had a good time! 🙂 thank you so much for coming & I look forward to meeting again soon! 😀

    • Thank you Lily! You are so ‘at ease’ in the kitchen and generous with your sharing your skills and knowledge in the kitchen.
      Not to mention the food, the glorious food (that pork, those onions) was all so so so good.
      Looking forward to seeing you soon again.

  • Mona,

    It does look like Mexico! I love the photo of the colourful weeds! 🙂


    • Ha ha ha – You know, I tasted those weeds, raw, and I agree that they are not all that spicy but they had a nice taste.
      Did you use seed savers for the plants? We are ordering a few seed packets for our next years ‘growing plan’ …
      And, the sun was most appreciated. I still cannot believe how nice it was on Saturday!

      • I got the packets of seeds for those chillis from – brilliant site for buying packs of seeds. They are based in Westport.


        • Ah – thank you Margaret. I am going to check them out right now because we are planning a winter crop (indoors)
          and our spring garden already!

  • What a great post, Móna. Made me want to set aside my fear and loathing of chillies, right there. Beautiful pics too. What a great discription of another great day at Oldfarm.

    • Colette,
      When I met the Chef I had never eaten chilis and certainly did not enjoy spicy food.
      Over the years, and mostly from growing our own, he has weaned me on to a spicier life as it were :0)
      I think the best way to enjoy the heat is to start small. Maybe upgrade the heat on your favourite curry.
      The day at Oldefarm was just gorgeous and as you know, our hosts made our experience very enjoyable indeed.

  • Mona, that sounds like you had a wonderful afternoon and the food looks fantastic!

    • Nessa,
      It was such a lovely afternoon. The weather was gorgeous, the food was so so so delicious and of course, getting together with other foodies
      and enjoying a cooking lesson from Lily was a lot of fun!

  • Mona your photos rock and so does that pottery! I would be proud to hang them in my kitchen. Yes! The pickled red onions do look very addictive. BTW…the turkey lasagna was delicious. Mine may have weighed a 100lbs.but it made five hungry people very happy. Thanks… p.s. I think I’m getting to like turkey:)

    • Thanks Robert! I think that it was easy to take good photos due to the weather and the yummy food.
      We hope to make our own versions of the food we tried and I will blog all about that soon.
      So glad to hear your lasagne worked out and that you fed five people, well done!
      You should love Turkey. Especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner.

  • Hang the pictures, the pottery would be on my table full of food.(in a perfect world).

    • Ha ha ha – you know, a lot of people hang plates on walls as ‘art’ but really, we should have food on them
      and keep them on the table!

  • I was lucky enough to be able to go to the class Lily gave in her own home earlier this year, and what a treat it was! It was some of the best food I had all year, I still think about it. I made her recipe for cochinita pibil (which I have a feeling is the same pork dish you might have had from the pressure cooker?), but I made it in a slow cooker instead and it turned out beautifully. My next door neighbour is Spanish and she uses a pressure cooker all the time too. It’s funny how our culture doesn’t, isn’t it?

    • Lily is a natural in the kitchen. She is so at ease ‘teaching’.
      The food is very memorable. Yes, it was the pibil. We got to take some home and I froze it immediately
      but plan on using it this weekend when some friends come over for dinner. And I hear you on the
      pressure cooker. We have limited ‘space’ for another kitchen appliance around here so
      I am still ‘on the fence’ with this one.

  • Wow love those pics you made Mona!

    • Thanks Astrid. The light was perfect …..the food was so vibrant in flavour and colour it would have been hard to take a bad photo!

  • What a fabulous experience and it makes me so jealous to see all the cooking class opportunities you and Simone have! There is nothing in Nantes and, like you, I need to learn, need to understand that I can make things I don’t think I can on my own. And immersing yourself in a totally new and different culinary culture is always fascinating! It all looks so delicious and it sounds like you had the best time!

    • I know Jamie. I feel like I can cook well enough, but would love to be able to ‘really’ cook a lovely meal from start to finish knowing it is all delicious
      and not be waiting for that ‘raised eyebrow’ of his nibs. We love Mexican food. What is not to love? Participating in a class like this one
      gives us time ‘alone’ doing something we both love and we get to make new friends and hang out with old ones. We did have a lovely lovely time and
      thanks for popping in for a visit Jamie. I know you are super busy now that you are listed as one of Jamie Olivers fav’s!

  • Wow, it sounds like you had a great day as well as learning new dishes – what a bonus. Saturday was a fab day weather wise too.
    My memories of pressure cookers was that they were used for the Christmas puddings – so they would cook in an hour rather than 8 and I don’t think they were used for anything else.

    • I hate admitting it Lorna, but the sun really made everything so nice……..that is not to say that we would have had any less fun had it been pouring rain, it was
      just nice not to have to wrap up and wear a coat! Yes. I remember the Christmas puddings too. Still not convinced we need one. We shall see :0)

  • Fantastic photography Mona. makes me want to hang the pics on the wall too to cheer the day up and want to eat the food, Fab!!!
    I see pressure cookers seem to be creeping in again, have seen them used on Masterchef Australia at times and yesterday Dunnes Stores had a mountain of them for sale. I got one as a wedding present 24 years ago, sadly the pressure cooker is no more and neither is the husband – not so sadly there though!

    • I printed out a few last night and have them on my wall and none too soon either. So dreary in Galway today!
      I remember seeing someone use one on a cooking show too but have refrained from buying one as we have
      enough pots and pans etc. And now that you have shared your story about your pressure cooker and its whereabouts
      I must ask the Chef if ever ‘had’ one in the past. I am lucky number 3 after all!

  • Wow, Móna. This looks amazing. The food looks fab. The company sounds great. And I’m sure Lily was a brilliant teacher. I wish I could have been there. *sigh*

    • I have to say, that day was enjoyed by all. It was a lot of fun, we had excellent food and a few lovely foodies were there to learn, to share and to eat together.
      I think this format (8 to 10 students/participants) is my favourite kind of way to learn. I am not good in crowds at all. This was the way to go and I think Margaret & Alfie
      have such a warm and inviting home it encourages the visitors to ‘chillax’ and enjoy. And so we did!

  • This makes me want to get over my fear of using a pressure cooking which I haven’t used in over twenty-something years. Back then I only used it to bottle moose meat that only my ex would eat so I gladly let it go with him in the divorce LOL.

    Seriously Mona, this was a wonderful review of a lovely day and you’ve got the beautiful photographs to prove it.

    • Thanks Paula! Glad to know you let go of your pressure cooker and ‘Moose Meat’ is one I have not tried yet.
      I can imagine it would need a while in the cooker for sure.
      It was interesting to see how easy and fast the beans cooked from the bag and the pork was as tender as it gets in a very short amount of time,
      so I can’t say I am not thinking about buying one :0)
      Glad you liked the shots and we did all have a lovely lovely day.

  • Living in an area where there is a Mexican restaurant on every corner, your European journey Mexican cuisine cooking class was delightful to follow. I even learned the difference between salsa & pico de galo!

    In Central California, USA, we eat salsa with tortilla chips as an appetizer. Hispanic prepared entrees including chicken and fish are many times served with a topping of pico de galo. We absolutely love tortillas too, both flour or corn (maze) based.

    Looking forward to your next posting.

    • Hi Bernadine and thank you so much for the lovely comment.
      We lived and worked in CIncinnati, Ohio for 15 years and had a lot of Mexican employees that taught us a lot about
      Mexican culture and food, so we are addicts. It has take us a while to source the right ingredients to cook our favourite dishes
      and lucky for us, we have met Lily along the way. We love the old ‘chips and salsa’ as a snack too so I was surprised that I was calling it the wrong stuff all along.
      Now we know! My husband is making gorditas for supper tonight and the smell coming from the kitchen as I type is very enticing!
      Thanks for checking in all the way from California.

  • Hi Mona,
    Today’s posting on Mexican Cuisine smells coming from your kitchen is enough to make me confess! Yeserday we ate at the fast food chain drive in Mexican restaurant ‘Taco Bell’. Generally we eat more healthy style but yesterday we just had the urge to splurge.

    Back on track today, healthy homemade meals, and we hae followed the Weight Watchers program for years. Healthy and nutritious cooking is the best. Thanks for sharing your adventures in this genre,

    P.S. I have a great recipe for enchilada soup (weight watchers style) yum!

    • Hey again,
      The enchilda soup sounds great! And I have eaten at Taco Bell myself, once or twice.
      Not very pleasant but was good enough when we were in a hurry.
      Supper done and kids are ready for bed…….and it is only 7:30pm.
      I love the dark evenings in Autumn.

  • So many good links in this post Móna that you had me bouncing in and out of it for ages as I investigated hither and yonder. And then at the end I was all ready to bounce to the microwave to devote a whole 8 minutes of my evening to fast flan-making when I noticed that you had unaccountably not given us the recipe…

    • Hi Mise,
      You know, I did not ‘get’ any recipes just yet. I am going to get them from Lily and I think a few of them
      might already be on her website. I am appalled at my own behaviour Mise. I can’t believe you went to all that
      effort to visit the links-of-love with no reward at the end of it all. The least I could have done was offer a recipe. Bad blogger.
      And here is one more link for you though . . . . .
      I am pretty sure you will love these treasures.

      • Indeed some beautiful things there, thanks Móna, with Christmas shopping coming up and all.

        • You are most welcome Mise. I feel a strange urge myself to buy the beautiful moses basket……but will refrain from doing so
          and buy a milk creamer instead.

  • I was so sorry to miss this! Looks like it was a FAB day. I miss Mexican food soooooooo much. Also, thanks for the intro to Lily’s new store….yay for tinned black beans!!!!!!! I shot a campaign in Mexico a few years back…spent a month in Mexico City. Every morning we ate rice. black beans, eggs, salsa fresca. Still my fave breaky. Thanks for sharing your day with us. Imen xx

    • It really was a fab day Imen. I am going to see if Lily will do one in Galway and maybe you can come up for that one?
      Wow – a month in Mexico city .,. Sound like fun and the Chef’s favourite breakfast here is Heuvos rancheros … Hands down.
      You will have to come for Brekkie some Sunday ;0)

  • I want that 8 minute recipe, as well. I kept reading posts hoping I would find it! Fabulous photos of a fun day.

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About Móna
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
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