Though the name of this soup implies an Aztec origin, it owes much more of its origin to the Tarascan people from the Michoacán area. Dozens of variations of this soup exist, often featuring a spicy tomato broth with different chillies as the garnish. One much-loved addition is chicharrón, or pork crackling, which works wonderfully well, though in Mexico it can be bought prepared to save one the trouble of the preparation!
- 250 ml (1 cup) vegetable oil
- 3 corn tortillas, cut into strips
- 4 dried chipotle chillies (see Note), seeds and membrane removed
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 3 black peppercorns
- 4 ripe tomatoes, quartered
- 3–4 cups chicken stock
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt, to taste
- 200 g shredded chicken thigh
- 80 g queso fresco (see Note)
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
- 1 lime, quartered
- ½ cup chopped coriander
- ½ cup finely diced white onion
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Heat 1 cm oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add half the tortilla strips and fry for 2–3 minutes, until crisp and lightly golden. Remove and drain on paper towel. Repeat with the remaining tortilla strips.
In the same oil, fry the chipotle for a few seconds on each side until it lightens in colour and puffs up. Be careful not to burn the chilli as it will become very bitter.
Blend the tomato, onion, garlic, thyme and pepper in a blender until smooth. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the pureed tomato mixture and cook, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Season to taste.
To serve, fill each bowl with the prepared garnishes of fried tortilla strips, chicken, chipotle chilli, queso fresco and avocado. Divide the tomato broth between bowls and serve immediately with lime wedges and coriander.
• If queso fresco is unavailable, a mild cow's milk feta works well. It should be brined, not marinated in oil.
• Chipotle chillies are dried, smoked jalapeños. You can buy chipotle chillies in Latin food stores and specialist spice merchants.
Photographs by Benito Martin. Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd. Bowl from the r.e.a.l store; tiles from Onsite Supply & Design.