Alejandra Utrera, The Chef's Line winner 2018, creates fresh Mexican meals with Skygate
You can’t help but get excited about cooking when you speak to Alejandra Utrera – her energy is infectious!
Alejandra was born and raised in Venezuela; her childhood spent with family, watching Mexican telenovelas and eating amazing food. It wasn’t until years later however, when she fell in love with an Aussie in London, married and moved to Brisbane, Australia, that Alejandra realised she had never really thought about learning to cook. There wasn’t really any food in Australia which even came close to those flavours she grew up with, so she began to call her family – her mum, dad and grandmother – for their recipes and cooking tips. It was her way of staying connected to her family from the other side of the world.
Once Alejandra began to hone her skills, she quickly found a love for Mexican food (her best friend in London was Mexican) and, deciding she needed to master the cuisine, packed her bags and travelled to Mexico for two months.
“I followed all the Mexican food bloggers, I booked classes, I did so much research. When I got there, I travelled to all regions of Mexico. From Mexico City to Cancun, Oaxaca, all around. I realised I’d have to be there forever if I were to learn all I wanted to know, such is the Mexican way or preserving their culture and their heritage, it’s complex and rich. They are proud, the way they talk about their food, present it, sell it. The ingredients are so fresh, so special to each region, it’s so easy to fall in love with Mexican culture,” Alejandra said in an interview with SBS.
In 2018, Alejandra applied to appear on series two of the SBS television show ‘The Chefs’ Life' where home cooks go head-to-head with professional chefs from Australia’s most well-known restaurants. Not only was she successful in making it onto the show for Mexican Cuisine week, she beat head chef Michael Smith from Melbourne restaurant Mamasita with her chicken tamales.
This month, we asked Alejandra to create some delicious recipes using fresh produce from Skygate retailers. Read on to find out how to make tacos at home with all the zingy Mexican accompaniments, freshly cured ceviche and impress guests with Alejandra’s sexy guacamole. Find all the ingredients you need at Nautilus Seafood & Grill, Bahn Mi Bakery and Queensland’s only 24-hour Woolworths at Skygate.
Tacos de Tinga de pollos (Tacos filled with chicken in tomato sauce)
Preparation time: 45 minutes
1 pack of tortillas
500g chicken breasts
2 bay leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled
Place the chicken in a large pot filled with just enough water to cover the chicken. Add the onion, bay leaves, garlic and bring to the boil.
Cover and simmer for 25 mins or until the chicken is cooked through.
Remove from the pot (keep the stock to the side) and let cool. Shred the chicken.
Tinga sauce ingredients
1 tin of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp canola oil
1 cup diced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp oregano
¼ cup homemade chicken stock (set aside from the cooked chicken)
In a large frypan, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot add the onion and cook until soft and translucent (about 3 mins).
Add the garlic , chillies and tomatoes and cook for 5 mins.
Stir in the shredded chicken, oregano and ¼ cup of the homemade chicken stock. Salt to your taste.
To serve, place in the tortilla accompanied with queso fresco (fetta cheese), pickled red onion, sexy guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa verde and lime wedges.
Cebolla Morada en Vinagre (Pickled red onion)
Preparation time: 5 minutes
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 Habanero chilli
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Mix lime juice and salt together, and pour over the onion in a non-metallic bowl.
Let stand for at least 30 mins before serving.
Garnish with chopped Habanero chilli.
Pico de gallo
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Chill: 30 minutes
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
½ red onion, chopped
1 tbsp coriander
¼ cup fresh lime juice
Salt to taste
Place all the ingredients in a bowl.
Pour in the lime juice and mix well.
Season with salt to taste.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
½ green capsicum
1 clove garlic
½ bunch of coriander
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup vinegar
Add all the ingredients into a blender and blend.
Preparation time: 10 mins
2 ripe avocados
1 green chilli
2 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp pomegranate seeds
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
Cut the avocados, remove seed and scoop flesh out into a mixing bowl.
Mash the avocado with a fork.
Add lime juice, onion, chilli and coriander.
Season with salt
Garnish with pomegranate and sesame seeds, and serve with fresh crusty bread or tortilla chips.
Preparation time: 20 mins
Serves 4-6 as an appetiser
500g fresh kingfish, gurnard, terakihi or bonito fillets, deboned and skinned
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely diced
2 cups fresh lime juice
1 bunch coriander, finely chopped, to garnish
Place a medium-sized bowl in the refrigerator or freezer to chill.
Dice fish fillets into 1cm cubes and transfer to the cold bowl. Season the fish with salt.
Add red onion, chillies, lime juice and mix well.
Garnish with coriander and serve with sweet potato.