Cinco de Mayo

In Mexico, the celebration of Cinco de Mayo is held today (it translates as Five of May). Cinco de Mayo is often mistakenly thought to be Mexican Independence Day (which is actually observed on September 16). Instead, it commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Cinco de Mayo has its roots in the French occupation of Mexico, which took place in the aftermath of the Mexican–American War of 1846–48 and the 1858–61 Reform War. These wars left the Mexican Treasury nearly bankrupt. As a result, Mexican President Benito Juárez issued a moratorium in which suspended foreign debt payments for two years. Understandably, those expecting payment reacted – France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, at the time ruled by Napoleon III, decided to use the opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico. A 6,000-strong French army attacked the much smaller and poorly equipped Mexican army , outnumbering them 3:1. On May 5, 1862, the Mexicans managed to decisively crush the French army, which resulted in a huge moral boost for the Mexican population at large.

Commentators have said that the Puebla victory has come to symbolise unity and pride for what seemed like a Mexican David defeating a French Goliath, and credited it helping to establish a much-needed sense of national unity.

To commemorate Cinco de Mayo, here is one Mexican classic, the Margarita, and a Mexican twist on a family favourite, lasagna. ¡Ole! 

margaritaClassic Margarita

Rub the rim of two cocktail glasses with lime; then dip in sea salt. 3/4 fill the glasses with ice. Combine 1/2 cup tequila, 1/3 cup fresh lime juice, 1/4 cup orange-flavoured liqueur and 1 teaspoon superfine sugar in a cocktail shaker. Shake well, then pour into the glasses. Garnish with lime.

mexican lasangaMexican Lasagna

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 kg chicken mince
2 tablespoons chilli powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 x 420g can black beans, drained
1 cup medium heat taco sauce
1 cup frozen corn kernels
8 x 20cm flour tortillas
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 spring onions, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Preheat a large pan over medium/high heat. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Add chicken and season with chilli powder, cumin, and red onion. Brown for 5 minutes. Add the taco sauce, black beans and corn. Heat the mixture through for 2 to 3 minutes then season with salt, to your taste.

Coat a shallow baking dish with remaining extra-virgin olive oil, about 1 tablespoon oil. Cut the tortillas in half or quarters to make them easy to layer with. Build lasagna in layers of meat and beans, then tortillas, then cheese. Repeat: meat, tortilla, cheese again. Bake lasagna 12 to 15 minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly. Top with the spring onions and serve.