This recipe was kindly passed on to me by Roberto, a Product Performance Technician from our F&P factory in Reynosa, Mexico. Roberto talks fondly of his time spent in the Dunedin office – after thrown into one of their famous Office Cook Offs, he influenced his team to prepare the dish “Ahuja’s Northenas” – translated to “Northern needles”. He didn’t say whether they won the challenge but I get the feeling that it doesn’t matter; a Kiwi-Mexican collaboration was created, even inspiring a name change to “Kiwi Northern Mexican beef needles”.
Roberto tells me that this dish originates from the Northern region of Mexico City where cooking is predominately outdoors; special seasonings (which are often secret Roberto says) are essential and charcoal grills are used to give meat a rich, smokeyness.
These kebabs are eaten in the backyard with friends, family and neighbours on a balmy Saturday or Sunday evening. It amuses me to hear that Mexico is not unlike NZ where the BBQ is a man’s domain and you will find them crowded around it armed with tongs and beer.
I’m just about ready to jump on a plane to Mexico when Roberto describes typical entrees of quesadillas and Portobello mushrooms stuffed with Oaxaca or Chihuahua cheese, totopos (fried tortilla chips) dipped in salsa or refried beans and chorizo and mains of smokey bbq beef marinated in salt, lemon, black crushed pepper and beer or chicken with pineapple, chilli powder and mustard.
The colours of the beef, capsicum and onion in these kebabs represent those on his national flag – a patriotic way to celebrate “que Viva Mexico!” Roberto suggests serving the needles with “pico de gallo salsa” – this I could have eaten entirely with a cold Corona and a packet of corn chips.
Roberto finished by betting me that after eating Ahuja’s Northnenas I would find myself yelling the approving expression “Ajhua!” and that I did.
Makes approx 10 kebabsFor the kebabs
2 red capsicums, cut into 2cm x 2cm squares
2 green capsicums, cut into 2cm x 2cm squares
2 onions, cut into 2cm x 2cm squares (each square can be a couple of layers thick)
400g beef, cut into 2cm x 2cm squares
Wooden skewers soaked in water (to avoid them burning)
Oil spray (olive or canola)
Salt and pepper
For the pico de gallo salsa
Rooster Pick’s Spicy Dip or Dressing (I couldn’t find this so used ½ a small can of La Morena Chipotle sauce)
250g cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 avocado, chopped into small dice
1 red onion, finely diced
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped (use the stems too)
1 red chilli, finely chopped (if you like it hot!)
1 lemon or lime, juiced
Salt and pepper to season
For the needles, thread the squares of capsicum, onion and beef onto skewers. Do this in the order of red capsicum, onion, beef, onion, green capsicum. You can repeat this twice or three times for a larger skewer.
Heat a griddle pan or bbq grill on high, spray with oil. Cook the skewers for approximately 4 minutes on each side, season with salt and pepper as you cook.
To prepare the salsa combine the Rooster Picks dip or La Morena chipotle sauce with the tomatoes, avocado, onion, coriander, chilli, lemon or lime and seasoning. Stir gently to just combine.
Serve the needles with the salsa and an ice cold beer.