‘It’s just impossible not to be swept up by it’: The new Mexican-Irish cookbook that Nigella Lawson has ‘fallen in love’ with
Taking pride of place on South Richmond Street in Dublin 8, Lily Ramirez-Foran’s beloved Mexican pantry, Picado, has become a staple on the Irish food scene.
The country’s first boutique Mexican grocer and cookery school, its shelves are packed full of goodness – the likes of which you’d find in Lily’s own personal pantry too – and if the colourful window displays and Frida Kahlo shoulder bags don’t tempt you in, then her new cookbook, Tacos, most definitely will.
The culmination of years of hard work, the bright-pink covered hardback is a love letter to the fun, convivial Mexican food Lily has been brought up on, with recipes ranging from real corn tortillas to smoky chillies which she matches with local Irish produce to combine the best of both worlds.
Even celebrity chef Nigella Lawson is a fan, recently featuring it as part of her Cookbook Corner segment and admitting that she has “fallen in love” with the beautiful little book. As per her description: “Yes, it’s a recipe book, but – though it be but little – there is so much more to it than that. In these 60-something pages, you learn about context and place, history and (without wishing to sound pretentious) the philosophy of the taco. And this is conveyed with such wit and buoyant enthusiasm it’s just impossible not to be swept up by it.” And that’s without mentioning the gorgeous illustrations by Nicky Hooper that accompany each recipe.
We chatted to Lily about her business, her love of food and whether Picado’s famous evening cooking classes will be returning anytime soon.
Tell us about you and your shop
I am from Monterrey, a vibrant and modern city in the Northeast of Mexico. I met my husband, Alan, during a study trip to Japan in 1996, where we were both learning Japanese. It was love at first sight. I came to Ireland for the first time in the summer of 1999 and I was enamoured with the place. I’ve been living in Ireland for almost 21 years now – it’s freaky to think that soon I will be living in Ireland for longer than I ever lived in Mexico!
Picado Mexican is a boutique Mexican grocer and cookery school in Portobello. We set up originally online as I was fed up with what people were passing off as Mexican food in Ireland and wanted to show Irish people what real Mexican food was all about. Four years later we opened a brick and mortar shop as I wanted a pantry space to showcase all the fabulous products we sold online and a kitchen space where people could learn how to use them. Picado is a shop during the day and a cooking school at night.
What is your mission for Picado Mexican?
I come from a long line of traditional tortilla bakers in Mexico, my grandfather, his dad and my own dad had traditional tortillerías (tortilla bakeries). I grew up in the business but decided during my teenage years that getting up at the crack of dawn to make tortillas wasn’t for me! So I went to college to learn languages and studied English and Japanese.
Where did your love for cooking stem from?
When I moved to Ireland, I went back to college here to get a business degree, however, I soon learnt that food was my passion and the kitchen was the key to me not feeling too homesick while living in Ireland. I started writing a Mexican food blog and that lead to my career in food.
What kind of items do you stock?
When you walk into Picado, you are walking into my kitchen. The pantry is packed with products you can buy to cook fabulous Mexican food at home. The table is full of food and Mexican kitchen equipment and the kitchen is always open for questions and suggestions.
At Picado we stock almost all of the basics for you to cook Mexican food at home. I do all of the sourcing and purchasing for the business and I basically stock what I like (with very few exceptions). If it’s on Picado’s shelves, you’ll probably find it in my kitchen cupboards too.
Are the famous Picado cooking nights back in action?
We used to run private cooking classes at night where I would teach traditional Mexican food and give our guests a bit of background knowledge about the ingredients we’re using. Everyone would cook together and then we’d all sit down to enjoy the fruits of our labour in a friendly and relaxed kitchen environment. We’re currently planning the reopening of our cookery school – which sadly has been closed for the last 2 years due to Covid – and are hoping to reopen at the end of March/early April. So, watch this space as we’ll be sharing details about new dates for in-person classes soon!
Lily’s new cookbook, ‘Tacos’, retails at around €15 and is available to buy in most good bookshops now.