First things first: this salad is not mexican in the sense of being part of a body of mexican cuisine. Its combination of beans, capsicum and tomato in a lime juice dressing proclaim its place in the genre of things mexicana, as does the inclusion of tortillas. That the recipe calls for the tortillas to be cut into cactus and sombrero shapes too – well, clearly that’s not essential for the flavour but it does add a little extra mexicana something, doesn’t it?

What is mexican, though, is this guacamole recipe. Our dear friends organised a fabulous wedding present for us to enjoy on our honeymoon in Mexico, which included a cooking class in Oaxaca. After a guided visit to the local produce markets, past towering stacks of dried chillies and other wonders, the class took place in a fabulous open-air kitchen in the courtyard of an beautiful house in the city’s old town, and we enjoyed the fruits of our labour with a cooling jug of agua de mango. The thing I learned from Pilar that day that I use most is her method of making guacamole. Somehow, it just works every time and tastes sensational with this salad, on quesadillas, or any old time you’d eat guacamole really. I hope you enjoy it!

Mexicana bean salad with mexican guacamole
Adapted from recipes from Pilar Cabrera and Edwina


For the salad

1 x 400g tin borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
400g sweet potato, peeled, cut into 2cm cubes and steamed until just cooked
1 green capsicum, chopped into 2cm pieces
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped into 2 cm pieces
1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped

For the dressing

1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon very finely chopped red onion
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the guacamole

1 tablespoon roughly chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 bunch fresh coriander, leaves and the finer stalks
juice of half a lime
2 ripe avocados
good dash of tabasco, to taste
freshly ground sea salt

For the tortilla bits

2 flour tortillas
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
olive oil spray
Combine all salad ingredients into a big bowl. Stir dressing ingredients together, pour over the salad and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the guacamole, reserve a few coriander leaves for garnish (you can chop these too if you prefer). Place the garlic, red onion and a large pinch of salt into a stone mortar.  Grind until it’s as smooth as you can get it, then add in the rest of the coriander (including the stalks). Grind again until the ingredients are roughly combined and you have a messy green paste. In a large bowl, mash the flesh of the avocado coarsely with a fork  and immediately stir in the lime juice.   Then scrape out the green coriander paste and stir into the mashed avocado. Taste and season with salt, tabasco and extra lime juice if needed, and scatter the reserved coriander on top. The final texture should be slightly lumpy but very tasty.

To make the tortilla bits, cut out cactus and sombrero shapes (or boring old triangles, if desired) out of the tortillas with kitchen scissors or a sharp pointy knife. Arrange shapes on a tray lined with baking paper, sprinkle with the parmesan and finish with a light spray of oil. Bake in a hot oven (200 degrees celsius) for 3 minutes or until just golden. Allow to cool slightly and crisp up before using.

To assemble the salad: in the salad bowl or on individual plates, top the salad with the guacamole and arrange the tortilla bits on top!