Mexican food that’s better than the takeaway? Here’s how to do it at home

Fakeaway Friday: Brunch tacos and loaded nachos with charred sweetcorn and homemade queso sauce

Nachos with all the toppings. Photograph: iStock.

Nachos with all the toppings. Photograph: iStock.


Do you know the difference between an enchilada and an entomatada? No, I didn’t either, until Lily Ramirez-Foran, owner of Picado Mexican, a boutique Mexican grocery and cookery school, explained: “An enchilada uses a good quality corn tortilla which has been dipped into a nice warm bath of a chilli sauce, then stuffed with a filling of cheese or meat and rolled or folded. It is then topped again with some more sauce.

“The word enchilada means covered in chilli. An entomatada (meaning covered in tomato), is a similar thing, however it is actually covered with tomato sauce that has been cooked with some fresh chilli. By the way, no enchilada is ever baked in Mexico. ”

Ramirez-Foran makes entomatadas stuffed with St Tola cheese and onion, in a mildly hot fresh tomato and chilli sauce, topped with shredded Iceberg lettuce, creme fraiche and refried beans.

Lily Ramirez-Foran’s entomatadas.
Lily Ramirez-Foran’s entomatadas.

When it comes to that other Mexican favourite of Irish palates, the taco, Ramirez-Foran has come up with a version that combines crumbled black pudding, half moons of thinly sliced onion and poblano chilli (fresh in season, canned otherwise), caramelised in oil in a pan, then stuffed into a fresh tortilla (always corn, never wheat), with salsa and creme fraiche.

For additional breakfast or brunch inspiration, check out Donal Skehan’s Mexican breakfast egg taco and Domini Kemp’s breakfast tostadas. Skehan’s recipe incorporates instructions on how to make a quick, simple tomato salsa, and Kemp’s version brings a bit of ballast with the addition of crushed black beans.

Donal Skehan’s Mexican breakfast taco.
Donal Skehan’s Mexican breakfast taco.

Recipe: Mexican breakfast egg taco

Recipe: Breakfast tostada

Domini Kemp’s breakfast tostadas
Domini Kemp’s breakfast tostadas

Another delicious use for corn tortillas is as the base for a big, colourful platter of nachos, perhaps topped with salsa, avocado, chopped red onion, coriander and that essential runny orange cheese.

Ramirez-Foran’s nachos (scroll down for the recipe), come topped with homemade “queso”, a delicious amalgam of cheese, milk, cornflour and seasonings, melted together, as well as charred sweetcorn mixed with mayonnaise and lime. An essential ingredient is the addictive seasoning of powdered dried limes, chilli and salt. Two types of this condiment, Tajin and La Valentina, are available from Picado Mexican’s online shop.

Homemade queso sauce for nachos is nothing like the commercial variety.
Homemade queso sauce for nachos is much better than the commercial variety.

What you won’t ever find Ramirez-Foran making, or eating, is a burrito, which she considers to be a Tex-Mex or Cali-Mex invention. “But I realise that burritos are doing a great service to Mexican food in Ireland because they are introducing people to the flavours of Mexican food. They’re not Mexican, but they are inspired by Mexican flavours.”

Lily Ramirez-Foran’s nachos with esquites and queso


For the queso (cheese) dip:
250g good quality Cheddar cheese (or Mossfield organic cheese)
60ml milk
2 tsp cornflour
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
2 -3 pickled jalapenos, finely chopped

For the esquites (sweet corn):
1 tbsp sunflower oil
200g frozen corn kernels, thawed
3 tbsp mayonnaise
½ lime, juiced
Tajin chilli & lime powder, to taste

For the nachos:
200g corn tortilla chips
Fresh coriander leaves, to taste


1. Start by making your queso - cheese dip. Put the cheese, milk, cornflour and garlic in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water to create a bain marie. Use a rubber spatula to mix all ingredients and gently melt them until it’s all smooth and runny. Add the tomato and pickled jalapenos and mix until everything is incorporated. Keep the queso warm over the bain marie while you prepare the rest.

2. Spread the tortilla chips on a baking tray or pyrex dish and heat them in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 10 minutes.

3. Heat the oil on a large pan until it is almost smoking. Add the corn kernels and allow them to sear. Don’t over mix it. Let it sear nicely for about three to four minutes. Transfer the corn into a bowl and add the mayonnaise, lime juice and tajin. Mix everything well until it’s all incorporated.

4. Take the tortilla chips from the oven, drizzle the warm queso over the crispy chips, top with the esquites and sprinkle some coriander on top. Enjoy while they’re warm.

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