Mexican food, for me, is vibrant, bold, exciting and, above all, damn tasty. Over the years, I've had the good fortune to cook with many Mexican chefs and home cooks, and I've always been impressed by their flair and intelligence in the kitchen. My first real taste of Mexico was, funnily enough, in the U.S., while writing my book Jamie's America. I was truly overwhelmed by Los Angeles's vibrant Mexican-American community, and the people and food I encountered there – everyone was welcoming and passionate, their food a real fusion of fresh Californian produce with bold Mexican flavours, like lime and coriander, hot chili sauces and zingy salsas. An incredible combination.
And like in L.A., the cuisines of most cities and countries these days are blessed with a mishmash of flavours, influences and ingredients that comes with mass immigration – truly spirited communities that have merged their ways of cooking with the ones they discovered (or vice versa) to create recipes that have become loved by everyone.
So, in a nod to diversity and the passion and heart that I consistently discover in migrant communities and in their cooking, I've taken a comforting veggie ragù and put my own Mexican twist on it. Loaded with spices and packed with sweet winter veggies and black beans, this no-fuss tray bake is an absolute winner at home. I've made a super-fresh, zippy salsa to liven it up – season it with that Mexican spirit by being brave with the lime juice and chipotle, and you'll have it nailed.
Servings: Serves 6.
1 cup frozen corn
2 sweet potatoes
300 grams (just under ¾ pound) fresh pumpkin or squash
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
½ tablespoon dried oregano
Sea salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 fresh red chili
1 green pepper
2 ribs of celery
2 540-millilitre (19-ounce) tins of black beans
1 540-millilitre (19-ounce) tin of plum tomatoes
1 bunch of fresh mint
8 green onions
1-2 teaspoons chipotle Tabasco
1½ cups brown rice
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Place corn in a colander in the sink and pour over boiling water to defrost.
Wash and cut the sweet potatoes into 1-inch (2.5-centimetre) cubes, then peel and chop the pumpkin or squash to roughly the same size. Peel and cut the carrots into wedges. Place the prepped veg and corn on a large roasting tray.
Using a mortar and pestle, crush coriander seeds, oregano and a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper, then sprinkle over the veg. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss together well.
Pop the tray in the oven and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the veg are starting to soften and turn golden, giving them a shake halfway through.
Meanwhile, peel and finely chop onions and garlic, deseed and finely chop the chili and pepper, then trim and finely chop the celery.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, then add the chopped veg. Sauté for 10 minutes, or until softened but not coloured.
Add the black beans (juice and all) and the tinned tomatoes. Season and gently bring to a boil, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to low and leave it to tick away for 25 to 30 minutes, or until thickened.
Pick and chop the mint leaves, trim and chop the green onions, then add to a small bowl. Squeeze over the lime juice and add a few splashes of Tabasco, then stir well.
Cook the rice according to the packet instructions and set aside.
When the veg are starting to turn golden, remove the tray from the oven and push the contents to the sides of the tray, leaving a space in the middle.
Ladle the beans into the middle and return the tray to the oven for a further 20 minutes, or until everything is sticky and golden.
In the last minutes of cooking, stir the roasted veg into the beans, and serve, with the brown rice and the green-onion salsa on the side.