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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

A Chef from Mexico is the Toast of London and Author of a Comprehensive New Cookbook

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Aguachile, as seen in Cocina Mexicana, a new cookbook by Mexican chef Adriana Cavita. Photo: Clare Winfield © Ryland Peters & Small

Adriana Cavita wasn’t even 20 when she became associated with one of the world’s best restaurants. When she left Mexico City for London, she took the job as head chef at Peyotito, considered one of the UK’s best restaurants. Now she has an eponymous restaurant of her own, also in London, where she’s built a solid following.

I’m not sure what panuchos and other Yucatecan specialties would look like in Cavita’s Marylebone Village kitchen, but her upcoming Cocina Mexicana hints at how her restaurant would elevate them. 

Cavita grew up between the capital and the village of San Felipe Ixtacuixtla, inspired by her grandmother’s street-food business. “Her huaraches became famous in the neighborhood,” Cavita says. 

She has since traveled extensively around Mexico, sampling tlayudas of Oaxaca and Baja’s rugged, meaty birria. Of course, she did not skip the Yucatán Peninsula’s famous dishes. This collection of recipes is built around all her experiences.

“The object of this book is to share my love for Mexican cooking through a series of recipes adapted so that they can be easily reproduced at home,” Cavita says. “Influences from all over the world can be traced through Mexican food: Spanish, North African, Middle Eastern, French, Italian, American, and even English.” 

Her pork pibil, panuchos, and salbutes are upscale versions of Yucatán classics. A simple ceviche or a grilled fish wrapped in banana leaves are seen through the eyes of a young, exceptionally sophisticated and successful chef. 

Adriana shares some Mexican cooking basics, including salsas, corn dough, tostadas, and moles and, as if to reward us, includes a solid selection of tequila and mezcal cocktails. 

She’s far from home and under the glare of a celebrity-chef spotlight in London, but Cocina Mexicana tells the world she has not forgotten her heritage and the people who taught her the craft of cooking.

Cocina Mexicana (Ryland Peters & Small, US$30). 192 pages, hardcover. Photography by Clare Winfield © Ryland Peters & Small

Recipe: Sinaloa-Style Aguachile

Serves 4

Sinaloa is very well known for this dish. Goes well with a cold beer. The prawns or shrimp really need to be very fresh — ask for the largest and freshest available. 

  • 20 raw prawns / shrimp, cleaned, shelled, deveined, and cut in half 
  • 1½ cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1-2 fresh green chiles, finely chopped (depending on how spicy you like your food)
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber, halved lengthways and thinly sliced

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir gently to mix everything together. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Let rest for one minute. Serve with tostadas and avocado salsa/guacamole.

Adapted from Cocina Mexicana: Fresh, Vibrant Recipes for Authentic Mexican Food
by Adriana Cavita

Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012.
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