Pati Jinich says a little background music makes her tortillas taste better.
Mariam Digges

19 Jul 2017 - 4:23 PM  UPDATED 21 Jul 2020 - 4:28 PM

Pati Jinich has a family taco night every week. And you can bet that the star of Pati's Mexican Table makes her own fresh tortillas for the occasion.

“The feel and taste of a homemade tortilla de harina does happen to be a galaxy away from a store bought one,” she believes.

Whether it’s corn or plain tortillas, Pati says you can make them the traditional way (using a comal or griddle – get Pati’s corn tortilla recipe here) or with an electric tortilla maker, if you’re lucky enough to own one.

But to really create tortilla magic - that happy place between light, soft and tender and earthy - you’ll need two extra ingredients alongside the usual flour, salt and water.

“Music in the background, and no hurry to go anywhere anytime soon,” Pati tells SBS.

"My most favorite to be in the whole wide world is my kitchen. I think that's where my family and I spend 90 per cent of our time."

The advice sums up the Mexican-born chef’s approach to food: she’s warm, open, and lots of fun. Everything she cooks up is entirely achievable, even for the most novice cooks.

The self-proclaimed “soccer mum” of three boys is all about injecting maximum flavour and colour into dishes in as short a time and with as little ingredients as possible. As for her go-to dish when feeding her family?

Chilaquiles!” she says without hesitation. “They are a one-stop meal that come together in a snap and are ridiculously tasty and incredibly satisfying. They are also accessible: you can top them with sunny-side up eggs in the morning and garnish them with shredded cooked chicken for lunch or dinner.”

Chicken and egg chilaquiles

The original nachos, eaten by Mexicans for breakfast as a nifty way of using up leftover tortillas and salsa from the day before.

Tomato and chipotle bathed corn chips with fried eggs (chilaquiles rojos)

A classic breakfast in Mexico that uses yesterday's stale tortillas to great effect. The smoky flavour of chipotle chilli works wonderfully with eggs and takes a simple breakfast dish to a new level. To save time, make the tomato sauce ahead of time and reheat before serving.

“Another quick and filling one is Molletes,” Patti says.

Pati created Pati’s Mexican Table (prompted by the Director of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C.)  to demystify Mexican cuisine and offer its breadth beyond cheesy blankets and spicy sauces. Applying her learnings from her mother and grandmother, the series serves up creative spins on classics and lesser-known regional specialties, like this gazpacho.

“No, it is not the Spanish cold tomato soup,” she clarifies, “It is a savoury, ripe and sweet fruit salad garnished with tart, savoury, spicy, sweet flavours.”

And there’s plenty more where that came from; in season 5 of the series (airing Wednesdays 7:30pm, on Food Network), Pati transforms the colours of Mexico to bright plates that, in true Pati style, mix a little old with a little new. Pork and beans are given a new lease on life, served up DIY-style with garnishes that can be individually “puuch-ed”, or mashed. Her basic Yucatecan tomato sauce is an addictive mix of habanero, coriander and white onion – a great egg or seafood topper. There’s the generous Everything But The Kitchen Sink Rice, a To-die-for ceviche, and a mango habanero hot sauce you’ll soon be slathering on everything.

Get the recipe for Pati's basic Yucatecan tomato sauce.

There’s no lavish ingredients or fancy hardware needed – just a well-stocked pantry and a few simple ingredients. Patti’s picks of the bunch?

“Black beans, corn tortillas, fresh or dried chillis, rice and tomatoes.”

Sounds easy enough.

For more of Pati's tasty Mexican plates, watch Pati's Mexican Table at SBS On Demand.

Try these delicious recipes by Pati Jinich
Coconut shrimp (camarones al coco)

This seafood favourite is found in the Yucatán peninsula, from the shores of Campeche to the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean.

Crema de coco

Once topped with the crisp coconut flakes, these warm coconut custards are entirely addictive.

Orange vanilla flan

My family, we've always been crazy about flan. I think I grew up eating flan at least once a week... all different kinds. I love this one because it's just super duper refreshing. 

Pati's tacos al pastor

At a taco stand, tacos al pastor are made from seasoned meat stacked high on a vertical rotisserie. You probably don't have a vertical rotisserie! But don't worry, I'm going to show you an easy way to make this right in your own kitchen.