Before the lockdown, one of our favourite things to do together was to go out for dinner, lunch or brunch. Whether we were trying out a new restaurant or returning to a much-loved cafe, it's something that we spent a large amount of our free time doing. A few months ago, our favourite date activity suddenly became impossible to do. So we began thinking about how we could recreate it at home by cooking up our favourite restaurant's food and endeavouring to mix up the routines that were formed whilst spending so much time at home. Mealtimes can become pretty monotonous and it's easy to get into a rut, cooking the same few meals on rotation. This is a great way to get creative again in the kitchen and challenge yourself to cook some new dishes.
Creating an at-home restaurant experience is for us, the perfect date night activity when you have/want to stay at home. You can cook up an amazing three-course meal with drinks for a fraction of the price of what it would cost you in a restaurant. Mexican food is something we love to cook, especially since coming back from our trip to Mexico last year. There's still so much we have to learn about the cuisine though! We were lucky enough to go on a cooking course with a local in Oaxaca, where we learnt how to make authentic corn tortillas. They tasted amazing, so much better than the wheat ones they sell in shops in the UK. Date night isn't just about the food though! Mexico has an incredibly rich culture, so we've tried to recreate just a tiny pinch of that within our home for the night.
Here are a few ideas for how to create a Mexican date night at home:
The most obvious place to start when planning is the food. It's what the whole experience is centred around. When we think of Mexican cuisine, we think of lime, coriander, chilli, salt, corn, avocados and chocolate. These ingredients are things we came across time and time again when eating out in Mexico and in Mexican restaurants in the UK. If you can incorporate these ingredients into each course, then you're already on your way to a delicious Mexican meal. Here's what cooked:
- tortilla chips
- tacos with vegan chicken, lettuce, peppers & guac
- street corn (corn on the cob covered in cashew cream, chilli powder, chopped coriander & lime juice)
- salted chocolate and chilli pots
Whilst we were in Mexico, the only thing we drank, apart from water, was beer, margaritas & mezcal. So we like to stick to these three beverages for our Mexican date nights. Margaritas are so easy to make at home. It's just tequila (or mezcal if you're having a mezcal marg), an orange liqueur like Cointreau or Grand Marnier, lime juice, and a sweetener like agave syrup. You'll also need ice and some salt for the rim of your glass. A well-made margarita is my idea of heaven, I'll be a happy bunny if that's all I'm getting! If cocktails aren't your thing, then a good Mexican beer will go really well with your meal, or if you can get your hands on some, then a small dram of mescal will also do the trick! We brought a bottle back from Mexico, and we've barely got any left now. We're constantly kicking ourselves as to why we don't bring back more!
No dinner date would be complete without the right music. We like to go fully into the theme and play some Mexican or Cuban music. We're very into the playlist called 'Salsa Los 70s' on Spotify, it just immediately transports us back to the bars in Mexico City. Although it's not exactly authentic, we also love listening to the Chef soundtrack. It's got some great tracks on it and has become a bit of a tradition for us to play whilst we're cooking.
After we've finished eating, if we're not completely stuffed, we try (and fail!) at learning some salsa dancing. We went to an amazing bar called Mama Rumba in Mexico city, which is a salsa bar with a live Cuban band playing. It was such a memorable experience seeing the locals all dancing around each other in partners, as the waiters magically danced around them with trays of drinks. It was crazy yet all harmonious at the same time. No one knocked into each other or collied, it was pretty incredible. We tried having a go ourselves but were a bit embarrassed about how terrible we were compared to everyone else. They grow up dancing salsa and Latin dances, so it's second nature to them. We promised ourselves we would have some lessons when we got back to the UK, but it hasn't happened yet. We rely on YouTube to teach us, and there are some good tutorials on there! When we're too full to dance, we'll sit and watch a movie or something. We'd recommend Coco or Rick Stein's Road To Mexico to get you in the mood.
As with any date night, what sets it apart from a normal evening is making things that bit extra special. For us, that's having dinner at the dining table, lighting some candles, not wearing pj's, just generally making a bit more of an effort. It's especially important to do this when you're at home, as it's so easy to just stick to what you do every night. Don't get me wrong, we love evenings on the sofa in comfy clothes watching Netflix together, but once in awhile it's fun to have a proper at-home date night.
Mexican date nights are probably our favourite kind. We love everything about Mexican culture, so we know it's always going to be a winner. However, you could apply these same ideas to any at-home dinner date night. We've done Italian nights, Indian feasts and tapas spreads whilst in lockdown, and we've honestly loved having the chance to do this and getting creative in the kitchen. We are so excited to be able to eat out in restaurants again, but we'll definitely be continuing to do these at home restaurant feasts.
If you gave this a go, we'd love to know how you got on! Write a comment, like, or share this recipe with your friends.