It's time to add Mexican flair to meals

IF your experience of Mexican food is bland chilli, soggy tacos and limp tortillas you've been missing out.

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Spice up your life and treat your tastebuds to the sparkling sensations on offer at Lupe Pintos.

The Mexican deli, which originally opened in Edinburgh, has had a branch on Great Western Road for a number of years. From chilli novices to aficionados, there is something here for everyone.

The shelves are crammed with ingredients that can transform the dullest of food. If you don't know where to start, ask owner Douglas Bell or any of the helpful staff.

"If someone wants to spend an hour with us and spend a fiver, that doesn't matter," he says. "We give information because we enjoy it."

As we walk around the shop, Douglas picks up bottles, can and packets with a tip here and a recipe there.

"I always use hot sauces, they are brilliant because they can be used by everyone," he explains. "In my family of three my partner has a hotter palate, I have a medium palate and my son has a mild palate. So we make something mild and put hot sauce on the table."

A recent convert to Caribbean food, there is a selection of sauces and exotic vegetables to choose from.

"Jerk seasoning is basically habanero peppers, herbs and spices. In Caribbean cooking, slap that on chops and chicken or vegetables and put them in the barbecue. It gives off an amazing flavour."

Douglas and partner Rhoda Robertson owned the second Mexican restaurant in Scotland 28 years ago in Edinburgh. After three exhausting years they decided to sell up and take a year out to travel around Mexico.

Their trip is retold in the book Two Cooks and a Suitcase, written when the couple came back to Scotland and set up the Edinburgh shop. Way ahead of their time, they supplied the wholesale business and eventually expanded with the Glasgow store.

All these years later, Douglas is as passionate as ever about food with a kick.

"The big difference between Indian and Mexican food is that Indian cuisine has a whole array of spices with chilli to heat it up, whereas Mexican dishes have a whole array of chillies with a few spices," he says.

"One of the things I've spent the last 22 to 30 years doing is blending chillies. If you take a mulato chilli with a wee fiery piquin and mix them up together with a few spices, then add another chilli, you start creating different levels of flavour. We carry about 16 different chillies and if you blend two or three or four together, the combination of flavours goes on and on."

Some of the sachets of sauces are a great way to try new flavours if ingredients are tricky to track down. They also make an easy way to prepare dinner after a long day at work.

"I'm not a food snob, I don't say things like, 'I grind my own' because the truth is I don't. I'll get home at 7pm and cook the family meal but it is more likely to be that than grinding all my own spices, although I do that on occasion," says Douglas.

For recipes for everything from salsas and burritos to enchiladas and tamales, pick up a copy of The Half Canned Cooks, Douglas' latest book that sizzles with inspiration.

n Lupe Pintos, 313 Great Western Road, Glasgow.

Food and drink

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