Monday, December 11, 2006

Menu for Hope III

For the third year running, food bloggers from every corner of the world are uniting to fight hunger. This year's worthy cause is the United Nations World Food Programme. So many of us are fortunate to be able to eat what we want, when we want. We have access to the freshest, tastiest and most luxurious ingredients for nearly any dish we crave. Sadly, there are too many people in the world that aren't as lucky.

Fortunately food bloggers aren't doing the chugger (charity mugger) thing and accosting you on the street and following you around until you drop some change in the bucket, instead we are tugging at the heartstrings by auctioning off prizes donated by loads of food bloggers- some you'll know and some you may not. Prizes vary from meals out at some of the best restaurants to personalised city tours to tasty homemade treats.

To donate and get your chance to win a prize, here's what you've got to do:

1. Go to Chez Pim for the prize round up and all the nitty gritty on bidding. You can bid for something from your region or if you fancy something exotic, you can go for something from further afield- the donating bloggers have agreed to ship anywhere (unless specified otherwise or if Customs has a problem with it).

2. Make your donation of at least $10 at

Pim will announce the results on January 15th.

Last year over $17,000 was raised, please help to beat that amount. I plan on be donating my fair share...once I can decide what I want to bid on!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A taste of home - the final chapter

In my quest to learn more about Mexican cooking (beyond the regional style that I grew up with) I asked for a Mexican cookbook as my Christmas present from The Boy's parents last year. I requested something by Diana Kennedy since I'd liked her books when checking them out at the book store. What I unwrapped on the day was not what I had expected but has ultimately proved to be more valuable. Diana Kennedy's From My Mexican Kitchen, Techniques and Ingredients is the perfect reference book for anyone wanting to educate themselves on Mexican cuisine. It's handy when buying dried chiles and understanding the sometimes subtle differences between the varieties. It covers regional differences of particular dishes like tamales- not all are made with corn masa, some are made with a type of wheat flour; not all are wrapped in dried corn husks- fresh husks, banana leaves and corn stalk leaves can be used. There aren't too many recipes in the book but the ones that are, are worth making.

But back to the London Mexican Day...

I have to admit that I had never had Rajas con queso (pronounced ra-hass con kay-so) before. Or if I have, I just never realised it. Poblano chiles are fresh yet have a meatiness to them that makes it very versatile. This dish is rich so if serving as a main, serve a salad alongside to cut the heaviness of it. It works great as a side dish for something like machaca or a simple meat dish.

Rajas con queso (Chile in creamy sauce)


8 fresh Poblano chiles
100 ml milk
150 g Philadelphia cream cheese
250 g Lancashire Crumbly (or Queso Fresco, if you can get your hands on some)


Clean the chiles and cut into 3 cm strips, removing all membranes and seeds. Either place under the grill until slightly charred or fry in a pan until browning and soft.Use half of them to blend in a liquidizer (ir with a hand-held blender) with the milk and some salt.Heat some oil in a pan and fry this paste to thicken. Add the cream cheese and cook until dissolved.
Add the remaining chile strips, and, as soon as it’s boiling, crumble over the cheese.

(Recipe Jo Wagner)

This is another staple in the Xochitl Cooks kitchen. It's fairly easy to make and makes great lunch leftovers the next day- it beats a sandwich anyday! You can use machaca (prounouced ma-cha-ka) as a base for many dishes- not just tacos. It can be a burrito filling, a sope topping or it can be stirred into other ingredients like scrambled eggs. Like Tinga de Pollo, Machaca can feed a lot with a small amount of meat.

Machaca (Taco filling with Beef)

Makes 6-8 tacos

250g flank or skirt steak
2 tomatoes, chopped
½ onion

olive oil


Place the steak in a small stock pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and leave to cook for 30-45 minutes depending on the thickness of the steak.

Remove the steak from the pot and allow to cool. Reserve the liquid.

Once cooled, shred the beef, removing any excess fat or sinewy bits.

Heat a skillet to medium heat and add a little olive oil. Sauté the onions until translucent. Add the beef and a ½ cup of the reserved liquid. When the beef has warmed through add the tomatoes and cook until the liquid has reduced to roughly 2 tablespoons (just enough so the bottom of the pan has a thin coating to keep the meat from drying out and sticking to the pan).

Serve with tortillas.

(Recipe Xochitl Ireland)

Along with tortillas, frijoles (beans) are a staple in every Mexican household. The type of frijoles (pronounced free-ho-less) eaten is usually dependant on where you live. Iliana and I have family in the North so we prefer using pinto beans but Johanna, who lived in Mexico City, prefers black beans. Whatever your preference, the cooking method is the same- soak and simmer. My mother uses a slow cooker, I will get her timings and post it on the site soon. Once the beansare cooked, they can be eaten whole or refried (recipe below).

Frijoles (beans)

Pinto (or black) beans


Rinse beans, cover with water and soak overnight, or do this in the morning before work and let it soak during the day.
Remove any floating beans and bring to a boil and cover, cook over low heat so water does not come out the top. You will cook for 2-3 hours until beans are soft when squeezed between your fingers. About once an hour check water level so it doesn’t dry out.
When done add salt to taste, better to under salt. If you add too much salt peel a potato, add it to the beans and cook for half an hour, remove potato.
Store in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for a week if desired.
When cooking beans, every time you put a spoon in the beans make sure it’s clean or beans will spoil faster.

Refried Beans (Frijoles refritos)

Heat oil in frying pan. Add desired amount of beans and heat through. Mash with a potato masher and let it keep cooking over low heat until you see the beans pulling away from the sides of pan.You can fry some onion first and then add the mashed beans – a favourite topping is queso fresco (use Lancashire crumbly).

(Recipes Xochitl Ireland)

Fish Tacos are a Baja thing. Several places in Baja California and in San Diego claim to be the home of the original fish taco; I don't know which place really started the trend but they have become a seller at Mexican restaurants all over the place. If it seems like an odd combination think of it this way (the way I sold it to The Boy)- it's like fish finger sandwich but with a tortilla instead of bread.

Fish Taco photo courtesy of Cooksister.

Tacos de pescado (Fish tacos - Baja style)

Makes 4 tacos (depending on size of fish and tortillas)


For the filling:
1 white fish fillet
1 cup beer
1 cup water
pinch of chilli powder
frying oil

To serve:
1 small white cabbage, shredded
sour cream
1 lime, cut into wedges

Cut the fish into slices/chunks.

Combine the flour and chilli powder. Add the beer and stir until well mixed (batter will be thick).
In a deep pot/ skillet over medium high heat, heat enough oil so that the fish will be partially submerged (if you happen to have a deep fryer, this is even easier).

While the oil heats, coat each piece of fish in the batter and add to the oil being careful not to overcrowd the pot.

Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and fish is cooked through.
Place a couple of pieces of fish in each tortilla and top with some cabbage and a dollop of sour cream. Serve with a wedge of lime

(Recipe Xochitl Ireland)

I didn't get any pictures of the other salsas we made or the guacamole so I leave it to your imagination as to what they look like but the recipes are below if you want to give any of them a go. Salsas are quick and easy so no more buying ones in jars! I highly recommend the Chipotle Salsa one- it's spicy and citrussy and can be used as a dip or a sauce.

Chipotle Salsa

10 chipotle chillies in adobo (deseeded and chopped)
5-6 tomatoes (excess juice drained and tomatoes chopped)
juice of 4-5 limes
1/2 red onion (finely chopped)


Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. More of each of the ingredients can be added to tailor the salsa to your liking.

(Recipe Xochitl Ireland)

Salsa Mexicana (Pico de Gallo)


6 medium tomatoes (diced)
1 medium onion (finely diced)
2 fresh serrano or jalapeño chillies, (seeded and finely chopped)
1 clove garlic (crushed)
Salt to taste
Juice of 1-2 limes, to taste
1 handful fresh coriander (chopped)


Combine all ingredients (except the coriander) in a bowl, mix through thoroughly and leave to stand for at least 30 minutes before serving. Stir in coriander just before serving.

(Recipe Jo Wagner)



2 medium avocados (ripe)
1 shallot (finely chopped or crushed)
1 clove garlic (crushed)
½ - 1 finely chopped green chilli (seed them first if you can't stand the heat!)
1 medium tomato (finely diced)
juice of 1 lime
1 handful coriander leaves (chopped)


Cut through the avocados around the seed, scoop the flesh into a bowl and reserve the seeds for later. Mash the flesh up with a fork, mix with the lime juice and combine with all the other ingredients. Keep the guacamole in the bowl with the avocado stone, to prevent it from going brown.

(Recipe Jo Wagner)

Mexicans have a sweet tooth which could very easily rival that if the Brit. Because of the heat, sweets tend to be fruit or custard based rather than chocolate. Great helados (ice creams) that I remember buying on the beach in the summer in flavours like coconut and tamarind that were homemade, my dad's arroz con leche (rice pudding) that I still make whenever I feel ill and the ultimate dessert- flan. Flan can either be very good or very bad. Luckily, Johanna made a very, very good version that I know I will make again (even if I am the only one in the house who likes flan).

Flan de Fiesta


230 g and 115 g sugar
6 large eggs
1 can (397 ml) sweetened condensed milk
2 cans (410 ml each) evaporated milk
1 vanilla pod


Pre-heat oven to 160C. You will need 6 ramekins or other oven-proof dish and a large baking pan to put them in.
Pour 230 g sugar and 100 ml water into a non-stick pan over medium heat. Constantly stir sugar until browns and caramelises. Quickly pour into the dish (or divide between ramekins) tilting it to swirl the caramel around the bottom and the sides.

Beat the eggs together with the remaining sugar. Mix in the two milks, then the scraped vanilla seeds. Blend smooth after each ingredient is added.

Pour custard into caramel-lined dish. Place the dish in a large baking dish and fill with boiling water, at least half-way up the sides of the flan dish. Keep an eye on the water and re-fill if evaporating too quickly.
Bake for 60 minutes in the water bath and check with a knife just to the side of the center. If knife comes out clean, it's ready.

Remove and let cool in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Turn onto a plate, the caramel sauce will flow over the custard.

(Recipe Jo Wagner)

The day was long and labour intensive but it didn’t matter as everyone pitched in to chop, char, peel, bake, shape and gossip. It was a great feeling knowing that everyone who came wanted to learn about a cuisine that the three of us hold so dear. On a non-food, personal note, spending the day chatting to someone else (from the same city as my father) that grew up brown was a nice change (although I will admit that my childhood was a mix of both cultures- turkey at Thanksgiving, tamales at Christmas).When we eventually sat down to our feast it really felt like our love of Mexican food had been passed along and hopefully inspired everyone to go beyond the prepacked stodge that tries to pass itself off as Mexican food.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sugar High Friday - Chocolate Truffles

When Johanna said that she was hosting Sugar High Friday and was choosing truffles as the theme, I was a bit apprehensive about playing along. I'd never made chocolate truffles before and more importantly, I don't go weak in the knees at the thought of being given a box of chocolates. Yes, I like chocolate but I don't LOVE it. I'm not the kind that orders anything as long as it's chocolate on a dessert menu. I do like some truffles but I am a picky bastard when it comes to the ones that The Boy is allowed to bribe me with. Salted Caramel Truffles from L'Artisan du Chocolat, English Creams (especially the violet ones- it makes me feel like a granny) from Rococo, any extra dark chocolate from La Maison du Chocolat - to name a few. The chocolate has to be dark and the filling has to be different.

But what the hell I thought, why not. I usually have a bar or two of dark chocolate stored away in the cupboard for a rainy day so I could use it up before my holiday. The next question was- how do I make chocolate truffles? One rather shitty afternoon earlier this week, I received what must've been a sign that I should do this. Whilst doing errands for work, I saw this month's cover of Bon Appetit- CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES. End of discussion. I was in.

I used the recipe from an article on Katrina Markoff of Vosges Haut Chocolat as the base. Once I made a few traditional bittersweet truffles and felt that it wasn't going to go pear shaped, I ventured out into unknown territory creating flavours like chili and lemon-thyme (my combinations and shortcuts follow the recipe).

The recipe uses American measurements; if you don't have U.S. measuring cups, just keep in mind that the chocolate and cream are nearly used in equal measure but there is a dash more cream.

Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles (from Bon Appetit Dec 06)

Makes about 30 truffles


Truffle Base:
1 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream (I used double cream)
9 ounces high quality bittersweet (dark) chocolate (70% cocoa, I used 72%), chopped, divided

Chocolate Coating:
8 ounces high quality bittersweet (dark) chocolate (70% cocoa, I used 72%), chopped

Unsweetened cocoa powder for rolling

For truffle base:

Bring cream to simmer in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat; cool to lukewarm, 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir 7 ounces of chocolate in metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water until smooth. Remove from heat. Add 2 ounces of chocolate; stir until smooth. Stir in cream. Chill truffle base until firm enough to roll, about 3 hours.

Line rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper. Roll 2 teaspoons truffle base between fingertips into ball. Transfer to prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining truffle base. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.

For chocolate coating:

Line another baking sheet with waxed paper. Stir chocolate in metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water just until melted. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.

Scoop some of warm (not hot) melted chocolate into palm of hand. Place 1 chilled truffle in hand and roll in palm to coat. Transfer to prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining melted chocolate and truffles, rewarming chocolate if necessary.

Roll in cocoa powder if desired.

Chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.
I used that recipe as the base for my truffles but I deviated and experimented with methods and fillings. To start, I didn’t use two baking sheets I used one and then taped some parchment paper onto the countertop since my kitchen tends to be on the chilly side (a good excuse to bake things). I also used a melon baller to shape the truffles.

The Truffle article does give suggested variations on the truffles- balsamic truffles and mango curry truffles (not too sure on that one) – but the added flavourings need to infuse the cream before being mixed into the chocolate. There were only so many batches of truffle base I could make (which was two) so I rewarmed portions of the base and stirred in the extras. Be careful not to overheat the truffle base. Warm it just enough so that the additions can be mixed in then rechilled and make into balls.

My versions are listed below and all but the last two have had bits stirred into the already prepared base. The last two were made from scratch where the cream was infused with flavouring.

Version 1: Plain dark chocolate rolled in chocolate then coated with chopped salted almonds. (Picture right, middle truffle)

Version 2: Chocolate Raspberry- Two small teaspoons of raspberry jam was stirred into the base and coated with chocolate. (Picture right, far left truffle)

Version 3: Cranberry Kirsch- Two teaspoons of kirsch was stirred in as well as a handful of dried cranberries that I had blitzed into a pulp. The pulp wanted to clump together in the base so next time I would probably finely chop them instead. The balls were then coated chocolate and cocoa and marked with a small X on top. (Top picture)

Version 4: Chile- Half a dried Pasilla chile was finely chopped and stirred into the base. The final ball was coated in chocolate and one side was dipped in a mixture of cocoa and cinnamon. (Picture left, middle truffle)

Version 5: Lemon Thyme- The original recipe gave a recipe for Meyer Lemon and Thyme neither of which I had so I infused the cream with the leaves from a couple of sprigs of lemon thyme for 20 minutes. Afterwards, I squeezed a wedge of lemon and stirred the zest of half a lemon into the cream mix, which was then added to the chocolate. That was then coated in chocolate and sprinkled with some lemon zest on top. (Picture left, far left)

Version 6: Jasmin Fruits Concassees- Ginny sent me a pack of jasmine scented dried fruits and challenged me to experiment with it. The fruits look like a tea so I infused a couple of teaspoons on the cream for 10 minutes before straining it into the chocolate base. The truffles were rolled into chocolate with a couple bits of jasmine fruits on top. (Picture above, far right)

Although the prep and rolling of the truffles is time consuming, it isn’t a difficult item to make and I would make again for my Christmas goody bags. I can imagine that it would be a great rainy day messy activity for kids. For someone who isn’t a chocolate fanatic, I have shed loads of the stuff. I have eaten enough during the process that I’m not sure I want anymore so my mates at work (and The Boy’s work) will end up with chocolate filled bellies. I hope that when Johanna reads this she realises that some of these are going to magically appear in her fridge when I see her next week!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A taste of home - part dos

You can never have too much Mexican I say and so I continue my epic entry on our day in a Mexican kitchen. Our helpers in the kitchen were Jenni from Pertelote, Keiko from Nordljus, Shuna from Eggbeater (visiting from the States), Jeanne from Cook Sister and Vanessa who doesn't have a blog...yet.

We chopped, sliced and diced our way through countless onions, too many tomatoes and had tingly fingertips from chiles. The effort paid off as we sat down and chowed on yet more food including Chile Rellenos, Tinga de Pollo, Machaca and Fish Tacos.

Chile Rellenos (pronounced chi-lay ray-enos; picture top and below) are one of my favourites and there is a strong chance that it would be one my last meal ever dishes. It means stuffed chile in Spanish and is usually stuffed with cheese (sometimes it gets a meat filling but that isn't common); it's a great vegetarian dish for those who think that Mexican food is all about meat. When Johanna and I met up to plan the menu, I suggested this and had my fingers crossed hoping that she would agree to it.

Cheese, batter and frying oil don't really make for a healthy meal but it is damn good. The sauce in the recipe below is good but one day I hope to score my Tio Meno's recipe for chile relleno sauce. It's been in the family for years and when my grandmother died she only told one person in the family the recipe- Uncle Meno. If you are ever in San Diego, look him up, order the chile rellenos and marvel at the sauce. Tell him that I sent you.

Chiles rellenos (Stuffed Chiles)


6 large pasilla, poblanos or Anaheim chiles (fresh)
150 g Mozzarella or other quick-melting cheese, thinly sliced
100 g gouda (grated)
60 g self-raising flour
6 raw eggs, separated
flour for rolling (ca. 100 g)
1/4 tsp salt
250 ml grapeseed oil (for frying)

For the sauce (you can also use Mexican Salsa in a jar, green or red to taste):

500 ml passata (pureed tomato)
1 large onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
oregano or epazote
chile to taste
50 ml single cream (optional)


Preheat your oven to grill.

Rinse the chiles. Place them in on baking tray and place on the top shelf of your oven under the grill. When the chiles are charring and popping their skins, turn them over to grill in the other side. Pay close attention, as this might not take more than a few minutes, depending on the strength of your grill.

When both sides are fairly evenly charred, remove them from the oven and place straight into a large bowl, covering tightly with clingfilm so the chiles “sweat”. Leave for about 30 minutes, then peel.Cut a slit almost the full length of each chile. Carefully remove all the seeds and membranes, making sure the stem of the chile stays intact. Fill with the cheese.
You can set these aside, for a few minutes or a few hours if you put them in the refrigerator.

To prepare the sauce, fry the onion and garlic in a little oil until starting to brown. Add the chile (if using) and fry for a further minute. Pour in the passata and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and work until smooth. Return to the pan and season with salt, pepper and the herbs. The sauce should be quite runny. Set aside for re-heating later.Heat the oil in a skillet (or a deep-frier) until a drop of water sizzles when dropped into the pan.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks have formed. Beat the egg yolks with one tablespoon flour and salt. Mix the yolks into egg whites and stir until you have a thick paste.Roll the chiles in flour and dip each one in the egg batter. Coat evenly.

Fry, seam side down on both sides until golden brown. Place on paper towels to drain. Meanwhile, re-heat the salsa in a medium saucepan. Stir in the cream (if using) and adjust the seasoning.

Place one or two Rellenos on each plate and pour salsa over them. Serve

(Recipe Jo Wagner: Chiles (not sauce) adapted from a recipe on

Tinga de pollo (pronounced teen-ga de poy-yo; picture left) is another favourite and makes a very regular appearance in my house. This version has chorizo and potato in it which makes it heartier.

However, there are many variations on this theme; mine has neither chorizo nor potatoes and is quicker to make. The next time I make it I promise to write it up. It is extra work to shred the chicken but it is a great way to make a small amount of meat go further. If buying organic chicken is usually out of your budget, buying chicken thighs and then shredding them means that you get quality meat and a yummy meal.

Tinga de pollo (Chicken with chorizo and potatoes)


750 g chicken breast
150 g chorizo (finely diced)
4 tomatoes (finely diced)
2 large potatoes (peeled and finely diced)
2 medium onions (1 half set aside, the rest finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (1 set aside, the other crushed)
2 tbsp chipotle chili in vinegar, finely chopped
1 dash vinegar
2 handful fresh coriander or oregano
oil, salt

To serve: 2 avocados, chopped lettuce, corn tortillas or tostadas


Clean the chicken breast thoroughly. Cook it in boiling water with half of the onion and a garlic cloves. Once cooked, let the meat cool and shred into thin strips with your fingers or two forks.
Cook the potatoes in salt water until soft, but retaining a bite.

Fry the chorizo (no oil required) in a big pan, when it’s browning, lift the sausage out with a slotted spoon and reserve. Fry the chopped onions and garlic clove as well as the shredded chicken in the oil from the chorizo. Add the tomatoes, the potatoes, and the chili.

Put the sausage back in the pan. Add vinegar and herbs and season with salt. Let cook until slightly dry.

Serve with tacos or tostadas, shredded lettuce or avocado.

Recipe adapted from: Universidad de Guadalajara

I know this is not the most attractive photo you will ever have seen and I highly doubt that it fills you up with so much excitement that you want to rush out and make it, however, Asado de puerco is good. Asado de puerco (pronounced ah-sah-do de pu-erco) has a lovely and deep smokey flavour. This is be a great weeknight meal with a bit of rice on the side (especially if it is cold out).

Asado de puerco


1 kg pork (fillet or escalope)
250 g Chile Colorado (cut open and stems and seeds removed)
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
oil, salt


Toast the chiles lightly in a pan without burning, then bring to a boil in a pot of water. Remove from the heat and leave to soak for 30 minutes.

When the chiles are soft, chop finely in a magimix or using a hand-held blender – add a little water, if necessary.

Meanwhile, clean the pork and cut into small, bite-sized cubes. Fry it in oil until well browned.

Add the chile sauce and the bay leaves, bring to a boil and season with salt. Set aside until serving, then re-heat.

Serve with tacos or simply with rice, frijoles (black beans) and a salad.

(Recipe Iliana Villareal)

I was slaving away in the kitchen and didn't manage to get a photo of this salad. Nopales (cactus) are not to everyone's liking but if you are in th emood for a culinary adventure give this a go. Ensalada de Nopales (pronounced en-sa-lada de no-pal-ess) is a change from the usual iceberg wedge salad; make it in advance so that the cactus marinates in the dressing.

Ensalada de Nopales (Salad with Cactus Leaves)


6 tinned cactus leaves (nopales)
100 g Lancashire Crumbly (or other crumbly cheese – like Feta)
2 jalapeno chiles (membranes and seeds removed and finely chopped)
1 shallot (finely chopped)
1 handful fresh coriander (chopped)
half a tbsp of dry oregano
5 tbsp wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste


Drain the cactus leaves from the tin, wash thoroughly and (if using whole) cut into thin strips. Mix the oil, vinegar, onion and herbs in a small bowl, then pour over the nopales and mix thoroughly, Leave to infuse (you can prepare this well ahead).When ready to serve, toss the salad again and adjust the seasoning. Crumble over the cheese and serve.

(Recipe Iliana Villareal)

That's it for part two of my Mexican Fiesta. Still to come are Fish Tacos, Machaca and, to sweeten things up and prove that Mexican food is not just about spice, Flan. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


In the run up to Thanksgiving next week, and while I decide whether or not I can be bothered to cook a turkey for two, I've been reminiscing over last year's gargantuan feast. My mouth waters when I even think about it. ENJOY!

Sorry for the lack of photos- this was one of my first entries and was before I learned how to publish photos!

Better late than never. In need of a feast before the Pre-Christmas fast, I threw a belated Thanksgiving for myself (regular visitors to this blog will no doubt also remember that the Boy’s Xmas party always falls on T-Day- good news though as I can happily report that there was no puking and no incidents of a drunken nature). As the only Yank in the house, I anointed three Brits and four Australians as honorary Americans for the day. After trawling through cookbooks and magazines and after a few calls home I put together what I like to think of as a tasty little menu.

I was attached to the stove for a few days and there were a few mishaps that I managed to fix. The results must have been good since the leftover ratio was low and everyone’s belly stuck out just a little bit more. It was a real compliment that a few people asked for recipes to add to their own Christmas lunches- especially any dish of mine that gets added to the Shah family meal since I imagine it to be an amazing feast. I have decided to put the full menu up so we (in particular Nat and pals) can bask in its glory.

Here is the full she-bang:

Mash Potatoes
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Polenta Cornbread Stuffing
Green Beans with Hazelnuts
Sugar Snaps
Cranberry Sauce
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Apple Pie


This was the first bump in the road. The Boy works near the main meat market in town and they were actually offering fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving (everywhere else was selling frozen birds). Goody gumdrops! We ordered a 10-12 pounder for pickup on Saturday. The big day comes and we get given 15 pounds of pure turkey. At first we thought that it would be all right, the Australians are a hungry bunch. But alas, the problems were only just beginning. First off, the damn thing barely fit in the fridge- everything had to come out. This also meant that I could not brine it (my preferred method). Not the end of the world. Ah, but try sticking that thing in a roasting pan. I have a fair amount of pans and roasters but that was one hell of a wide load and didn’t fit in anything! In the end I managed to stick it in a pan at a funky angle. The moral of this story kids is that you need to make sure you have a roasting pan that will fit your turkey even if the one you get is bigger than expected.

Since I couldn’t brine the thing, I took a leaf out of the Martha Stewart Living Thanksgiving issue and draped a butter-soaked muslin on the turkey. Basically, you melt a stick of butter, into which you dip a piece of muslin (the size of which when folded into quarters covers the turkey with extra to tuck in along the sides) and squeeze the excess butter from it. Place over the turkey and baste with the remaining butter every half hour. For the last half hour remove the cloth if the bird is not browned. My turkey emerged from the oven such a beautiful golden brown shade that it looked like it should be on a magazine cover.

Mashed Potatoes

Everyone likes mash and everyone likes his or her mash done differently. Some like it with skins still on, some like it lumpy, some like it smooth and some like it creamy. On Sunday I was in the mood for rich and creamy mash. Potatoes were boiled, drained and mashed with the red skin on. I started with a generous dollop of butter and roughly a ½ cup of warmed milk. Mash together and add small amounts of butter and milk until the consistency is smooth and slightly runny and the taste is definitely rich.

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Mmmm- my favourite part of Thanksgiving. The dish that reminds me of being a kid and feeling like I’ve struck gold and am getting dessert with my dinner. The dish that grosses any non-American out that is until they taste it. The dish that got the most compliments on Sunday and was the most requested recipe. It is a combination of my mother’s recipe with a glazing method that I saw on telly and a few additions of my own.


5 Sweet Potatoes
150 g. Brown sugar (if you have light and dark use a mix of both)
125 g. Butter
1 tbsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Dash of nutmeg
Juice of 1 orange
Good size glug of Rum
½ c. Walnuts, roughly chopped and toasted
1 can of pineapple in its own juice
1 bag of Mini Marshmallows

Heat oven to 200C.

Boil sweet potatoes until they are cooked but still firm (this time can vary depending on the size of the sweet potatoes but will be about 20 minutes). When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into ½ inch slices. Layer the slices into rows in an ovenproof dish that is deep enough to hold the glaze when it is added.

Drain the pineapple and break it up into chunks. Don’t worry about breaking up into uniform pieces- this is not an attractive looking dish. Sprinkle the walnuts and pineapple over the top.

In a saucepan, place the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, vanilla extract, nutmeg, orange and rum and bring to a boil. Pour over the sweet potato mixture and bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the marshmallows over the top and cook until the marshmallows are melted with a light brown colour.

Polenta Cornbread Stuffing

This year’s food magazines’ Thanksgiving editions were of a particularly high standard this year. The choice of dishes for all cooking abilities using a plethora of standard and new ingredients was so great that it made it tough to decide what to cook. I wanted to try to use ingredients in the cupboard to keep costs down so this recipe from November’s issue of Gourmet ticked all the right boxes.


¼ c. Butter
6 ½ c. Water
2 tsp. Salt
2 c. Quick Cooking Polenta (I don’t know if what I had was put you will definitely know when you have cooked it to the right consistency)
1 lb. Italian Sausage, casings removed (I didn’t have it so I used a good quality herby sausage)
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Onion, chopped
1 Garlic Clove, minced
2 c. Chicken Broth
1 c. Finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
½ c. Finely chopped Flat Leaf Parsley

Butter a shallow baking pan. Bring 6 c. of water with salt to a boil in a heavy pot. Add polenta in a steady stream whilst stirring with a long handled spoon. Simmer, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Polenta will become very thick. Add 3 tbsp. butter and stir until butter is incorporated. Spread polenta in buttered pan and chill, uncovered, until firm, about 15 minutes.

While polenta is chilling, cook sausage in 1 tbsp. of olive oil while breaking up lumps. Cook until no longer pink- about 3 minutes- then transfer to a bowl. Add onion to skillet and cook over medium heat until browned. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining ½ cup of water and stir up browned bits from bottom of the skillet, then add onion mixture and chicken broth to sausage.

Preheat grill. Melt 1 tbsp. butter with remaining tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan. Invert polenta onto a large cutting board, and then cut half of it into ½ inch cubes. Toss cubes in the butter mixture in a bowl. Return the cubes to the baking sheet and place 3-4 inches under the grill and broil until there are golden patches. The recipes says to do this for 8-12 minutes, but under my grill it took 15 minutes to get all sides a golden colour.

Preheat oven to 450F. Butter a baking dish.

Coarsely mash remaining half of polenta and add to sausage mixture. Add polenta cubes. ½ c. cheese, parsley and pepper to taste and toss until combined well. Transfer to baking dish. Sprinkle top of stuffing with remaining cheese, cover and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

Remove foil and bake until top is lightly browned, 10-15 minutes more.

Green Beans with Hazelnuts

Trim green beans and blanch 2-3 minutes in boiling water. Drain and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking. Toast a handful or two of roughly chopped hazelnuts in a pan or in the oven. Heat a skillet with ½ tablespoon of olive oil and add green beans. Heat until warmed through. Add hazelnuts and drizzle a little walnut oil over.

Sugar Snaps

Blanch Sugar Snaps. Put ½ tablespoon of olive oil and heat sugar snaps through. Add the juice of 1 orange and reduce by half. Eat up.

Cranberry Sauce

This is another thing that everyone likes in different forms. As a kid I liked the canned jellified version that kept the tin marks even after you took it out of the can. As I got older I’ve gotten a fondness for homemade versions. This year’s consisted of me boiling up the berries, adding a bit of OJ and straining it so it was more jam like than jelly like. To each his own so I will leave you to your own preferred sauce.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This became another mini drama. I always get my recipe from the wrapper of that name brand canned pumpkin that seems to have a monopoly on the canned pumpkin market. My cans didn’t have the recipe so I trolled the internet and lo and behold there are way too many out there. I picked one from the Nestle website.

First off, I fucked up the measurements and wasn’t paying attention and measured the cream cheese in American and measured the pumpkin in British cups. The result was that the first batch tasted more like Pumpkin Pie instead of Pumpkin Cheesecake and I hate Pumpkin Pie. I realised I needed more cream cheese but of course I had no more and had no time to nip out to the shops. Fortunately I had some ricotta in the fridge (that was earmarked for a ravioli filling) and dumped the tub in the pumpkin mixture. The mini cheesecakes were rich tasting yet had a slightly lighter taste than regular cheesecake. I also recommend using ginger snaps instead of graham crackers; it gives the flavour more depth and helps cut the richness of the cheesecake.


For the crust-
1 ½ c. Ginger Snap crumbs
1/3 c. Butter, melted
¼ c. Caster Sugar

For the filling-
24 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
1 c. Caster Sugar
¼ c. Brown Sugar, packed
2 eggs
15 oz. Canned Pure Pumpkin
5 fl. Oz. Evaporated Milk
2 tbsp. Cornflower
1 ¼ tsp. Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp. Ground Nutmeg

For the topping-
16 oz. Sour Cream
1/3 c. Granulated Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine ginger snap crumbs, butter and granulated sugar in medium bowl. Press onto bottom ½ inch thick in each muffin cup. Bake for 4 to 6 minutes (do not allow to brown). Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Put to one side.Beat cream cheese, granulated sugar and brown sugar in large mixer bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs, pumpkin and evaporated milk. Add cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg; beat well. Pour into muffin cups.Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until edge is set but center still moves slightly. While cheesecakes are cooling, combine sour cream, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in small bowl; mix well. Spread over surface of warm cheesecake. Bake for 5 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Apple Pie

This has got to be one of my all time favourite desserts. I love pretty much any fruit dessert but there is sometime so warming and consoling about a desert with baked apples. It’s like a warm hug in your belly. I found this recipe in Bon Appetit in 1999 and it is the dessert I get asked to make most often. I have used this as a guideline and re-interpreted other apple desserts. Make sure you use baking apples or else they will turn to mush. I made the mistake of not double-checking which apples I bought and got a couple of eating apples and had some applesauce in my pie.

I have not given the piecrust recipe since you either like to make pastry or you are happy to buy ready made shortcrust pastry. Below is only the recipe for the filling.


5 lbs. Bramley Apples (or other cooking apple) peeled, cored, cut in ½ inch thick slices
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
6 tbsp. butter
1 c. Brown Sugar, packed
2 tbsp. Flour
1 ¼ tsp. Chinese Five Spice
Toss the apples in the lemon juice. Melt the butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add apples and brown sugar; cook until apples are just tender, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apples back to bowl. Boil juices until thick, about 15 minutes. Pour juice over apples; cool completely. Mix in flour and five spice. Add filling to pie shell. Bake in oven at 375F.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A taste of home - part uno

Food always serves as a reminder of home when we are away from what we are accustomed to. It comforts when you are down and it inspires you when you celebrate. It acts as a quick and simple connection to family when we need it. One of the things I find toughest about being away from home is the lack of Mexican food. The proper, hearty, rustic food I grew up with. Although there has been a recent spate of Mexican restaurant opening in London- Green & Red, Mestizo, Taqueria, Daddy Donkey, Mercado - I find it tough to pay £5 for what should really be a $3 burrito at my uncle’s restaurant in San Diego. I’ve decided to make it my mission in the upcoming months to try these places since Mexican friends have recommended a couple of them.

Which brings me to my point. A couple of months ago Johanna, from The Passionate Cook, asking if I was interested in helping her organise a day of Mexican cuisine. Since the only way I get Mexican food here is to make it myself- how could I resist! So Johanna, myself and Iliana- or how I’ve taken to calling us- decaf (Johanna spent a year in Mexico), half caff (I’m the half breed) and full caff (Iliana was the only 100% Mexican there) put together a superbly authentic feast for the group coming over.

Our table of food was massive so I'm breaking this up into a multiple entry feast!

To nibble on we had jicama (pronounced he-ka-ma; top picture)- one of my favourite snacks. I used to always bring some cut pieces back to London when I first moved here but a couple of years ago when in Chinatown I saw my beloved root snack. Jicama is of course its Mexican name, here it goes by the name yam root. When bought in the shops, it is bulbous shaped with light brown skin and usually a bit of dirt on it. It's eaten raw so to prepare it, cut into half or quarters (depending on size) and peel away the brown skin with a paring knife. Cut into sticks or chunks to serve. You can easily use it in salads for a bit of crunch (similar to a water chestnut) but my favourite way to eat it, and how we ate it on Mexi-day, is to cut it into sticks, squeeze a lime over and sprinkle chili powder on top.

A little research on jicama turned up some intersting facts- jicama can weigh up to 50 pounds and a 3.5 ounce serving has 39 calories and 25% RDA of vitamin C. Not bad for a rather unattractive looking tuber.

We also snacked on sopes (pronounced so-pez). This was the start of our "work for your supper" dishes. Fortunately I had some Maseca back from my last trip home so no one had to hand grind corn to make the corn flour that is used to make sopes (and tortillas). Iliana got the masa (dough) ready after which Jenni and Vanessa made dough balls (picture left). I heated up a frying pan and flattened each ball into a 1/4 inch thick disc and cooked both sides in the pan. The gals then had the task of shaping the cooked patties into their final shape by creating a slight ridge along the edge so that the filling would not fall out.

The finished product on this day (picture below right) was filled with beans, lettuce, cheese and a bit of salsa. In this case the cheese was Crumbly Lancashire which I have found to be the closest I'll get to Queso Fresco. Feta can also be used but I find it a bit too tangy for my taste when used in Mexican food. The salsa was my mother's recipe for Salsa de tomatillo (pronounced to-mah-tee-yo)- the recipe is below as well and its uses are not confined to sopes. It can be used for a dip, for enchiladas, for fish- anywhere we you want a tangy sauce.

Tomatillos look like large, green versions of the Cape Gooseberry (also know as Physalis) and add a tart flavour to many Mexican sauces. They are related to tomatoes and are members of the nightshade family (click here for more info on tomatillos).



500 g masa harina (corn flour) – if your masa is very yellow, you may want to mix this with some regular flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups warm water
Vegetable oil, for frying

Mix flour, baking powder and salt, then add the warm water. You may need a little more warm water to make moist, smooth dough.

Traditional sopes forming method: Make balls the size of a walnut, a few at a time, and keep the dough in a plastic bag to prevent it from drying out. Moisten a cloth napkin or tea towel and spread out on a flat surface. Roll each ball of dough in moistened palm of you hand until smooth, lay on the damp towel, cover with a plastic bag, and press down with your hand.

To shape the patty, flatten again with a small can or flat-bottomed glass into a perfectly smooth circle 2 to 2 1/2 inches (5 – 7.5 cm) in diameter. It should be about 1/4-inch (5 mm) thick. Peel the plastic bag off the top, then lay the tortilla in your hand and peel off the damp cloth. Smooth any rough edges with your fingers and the tortilla is ready to fry.

Topping: frijoles, queso fresco (Lancashire crumbly or mild feta), salsa verde

(recipe Iliana Villareal)

Salsa Verde (Green Sauce)


500 g Tomatillos (green tomatoes)
1-2 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 onion (finely chopped)
1-2 jalapeno chiles (depending on how hot you like it)
1 handful fresh coriander (chopped)

Remove husks from the tomatillos and wash to remove any stickiness.

Boil the tomatillos and garlic in a pot, deep enough to cover them completely, for roughly 15 minutes or until the tomatillos change colour slightly.

Put the tomatillos, garlic, jalapenos and half of the chopped onion in a blender or food processor. Blitz until well blended. A little water can be added if the salsa is too thick for your liking.

Pour into a bowl and stir in the cilantro and remaining onion.

(Recipe Xochitl Ireland)

Another dish that I thought was essential for anyone wanting to know more about Mexican cuisine is Ceviche (pronounced see-vee-chay). Even though I'm not big on fish, I make this for parties and it reminds me of family get togethers when I was a kid.

Ceviche is great on a hot summer day as a starter or a light lunch. The fish can be marinated 5-6 hours or overnight (which will give it a more citrussy flavour). Although finely dicing the vegetables is labour intensive, it can be done ahead of time so that the final dish can be quickly assembled.

One important note on ceviche- I recommend buying a few extra lemons/limes as it is essential that there is enough juice to completely submerge the fish. The juice pickles and 'cooks' the fish; any fish that isn't covered in juice will still be raw. This shouldn't put anyone off making ceviche as it is easy to do if prepared properly.


Serves 4-6 (depending on if eaten as a starter or main)


For the fish:
1 white fish fillet, cut into small dice
juice of 6-10 lemons and/or limes

To serve:
1 carrot (finely diced)
1 onion (finely diced)
1 cucumber (deseeded and finely diced)
1 green pepper (finely diced)
½ bunch of fresh coriander (finely chopped)
1 jalapeno chile (finely chopped) (optional)
garlic powder (optional)
salted crackers or unsalted tortilla chips

Place the fish and lemon juice in a glass bowl and leave to marinate for 5-6 hours or overnight in the fridge. There should be enough juice to completely submerge the fish.

About 1 hour before serving, remove the fish from the fridge and break down the chunks of fish using your hands. (Since the fish is served with crackers, the finer the chunks are broken down, the easier it is to serve and eat.) Return to the fridge.

Just before serving, gently stir in all the vegetables. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder (if using) to taste.

Serve with crackers or lightly salted / unsalted tortilla chips.

(Recipe Xochitl Ireland)

I think I'll call it a day for now- this should get you started! The next part will follow shortly and will cover yummy treats like Chiles Rellenos, Tinga de Pollo, Frijoles and Flan.

I'm craving it all again just thinking about it...

Friday, October 20, 2006


Oh yes, EBBP (Euro Blogging By Post) seems to happen more and more lately. I'm not going to complain though as it means that I get PRESENTS! This time it was hosted by Johanna at The Passionate Cook who was tasked with sorting everyone out and making sure that everyone got their package and blogged about it.

I am the last one to do so because of my holiday but it is always nice to come home to a package filled with treats. My package for this round came from Ginny at La Petite Chinoise and she sent a bag of Parisian delights.

First up there was a cute little tin of Langues de Chat chocolates. They are milk chocolate and hazelnut and went down well for elevenses at work. Fleur de Sel de Guerande- a hand picked salt from Brittany (France). Fleur de sel is the top layer of the salt marshes and has been handpicked by women since 878AD. In her note, Ginny says that 1 salt marsh yields only 1 kg of Fleur de sel which costs about 20 euros wholesale. It's an amazing salt that should only be used as a finishing or sprinkling salt as cooking with it destroys it's delicate taste. I love this salt and the area it is from- it's an area that is close to my heart as I have spent many a summer there since my teens and have many good friends there. There was also some Maille mustard in girolles, shallot and chervil flavour; again another item I love. Like the French I used mustards for salad dressing, gravies, roast; Ginny said it even gets used in desserts (I wonder what it tastes like). More interesting facts from Ginny on Maille mustard: Mr. Maille invented the antiseptic vinegar in 1720 and later on used it in his mustard. It wasn't until the 1950's when the brand merged with another Dijon brand that the mustard became famous.

There was also a pretty Torchon (tea towel)- I've used it as the background in the photo. She recommends wrapping my bread in it before storage to keep it fresher for longer. She apologised for it not being a very French thing but you can never have too many tea towels! The last item in my delightful package was a sachet of Jasmin Fruit Concassees from Fauchon. It is, as explained on my note, "fruits broken up with jasmin scent. Although I haven't seen it used much, I've had it with baked fish en papillote with rice. So, I'm leaving this up to your imagination and creativity." The smell is great and I will take Ginny up on the offer to get creative with this- any ideas are welcome!

Thanks Johanna for organising this round (for a full round up of what's was zooming around Europe click here) and many, many thanks to Ginny for my package!

If you want to see what I sent and to whom- click here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Viva Espana!

I've been away on a much needed break in Spain, the Costa de la Luz to be specific. The weather was fab, the food great and the solitude divine. I owe you many an entry on this blog which I promise to do in the upcoming days (once I manage to unpack all that Jamon de Jabugo I brought back with me...).

Xoch xx

PS- If anyone is in Tarifa and looking for a bit of shelter whist the other half windsurfs, I recommend the Tangana Bar at the Spin Out Surf School. They make a fab bocadillo (sandwich to the rest of us) and a perfect cafe con leche.

Monday, September 25, 2006

New Yauatcha Macaroons

I'm a sucker for Yauatcha any day of the week. Which is the reason why I force myself to stay in the office on my lunch- if I'm not lured into the super sized Topshop then I'm 'just happening' to stroll past Yauatcha and a bag of macaroons 'just happened' to look at me in a suggestive, come hither, you know you want to sort of glare. Well if it's ain't the macaroons than it's one of the delicious cakes. I know I'm having a crap day if the only thing to put a smile on my face is a macaroon.

I usually get my favourites, so one Friday The Boy presented me with a bag of the latest flavours. How do the new ones rate compared to my usual? Fig Violet (purple) was sweet but had a nice faint taste of violet, Strawberry Tagada (pink) didn't quite have the fresh strawberry taste I was hoping for, Coconut Saffron (light yellow)gave me mixed feelings. One bite would be too sweet for me, but then I'd taste it again and liked the rich saffron taste. My pick of the bunch however was Apricot Ginger (orange). It was fresh, fruity with the occasional bite of stem ginger. A perfect combination.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Fennel and Pear Salad

In the mood for a quick salad for dinner after a long day at work and desperate to use up random bits about the house namely a pear, some fennel and some feta. It turned out to be a refreshingly light salad that just oozed late summer to me. The saltiness of the feta pairs well with the aniseed taste of the fennel and the honey sweetness of the pear.

One note of caution- it doesn't keep too well. Eat the same day and before the pear turns brown.

Fennel and Pear Salad

Serves 2


2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 pear, thinly sliced
handful of crumbled feta
handful of walnuts, candied or unsalted

walnut oil, to drizzle

Mix the fennel and pear in abowl. Drizzle with a little walnut oil and toss. Add the walnuts and feta and serve immediately.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Mmmmm pancakes

A major craving (not to mention a raging hangover) has fuelled my recent foray into making American (as opposed to the French) style pancakes from scratch (and without the help of Bisquick). It's surprising easy, you probably already have all the ingredients in the cupboard and they taste pretty damn fine (even when not hungover). Even The Boy has converted and hasn't bitched about been fed pancakes the last three weekends in place of his favourite eggs on toast. Mind you I did bribe him with a side of bacon...

Anyone brought up on pancakes knows that there are many choices when it comes to flavouring these puppies. Mashed up banana was tops as a kid, chocolate chips worked into the mix gives you that extra sugar high- extras can go in the mix or on top it's up to you. In the picture above I topped the stack with summer berries- freshly picked strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants and raspberries- and since I was put of maple syrup, I drizzled a little of the syrup from a jar of stem ginger. DELISH!

Fluffy American Pancakes

Makes 10 small pancakes


3 eggs- separated
120 g. plain flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
150 ml. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

Mix the yolks and the vanilla. Mix in the milk. Add the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt. Put to one side.

Whisk the egg whites until they reach the soft peak stage. Slowly whisk in the flour mixture.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. You can add a knob of butter if you want a light buttery taste.

Using a tea cup, pour the mix into the skillet so that you have two or three round pancakes.

It's time to flip the pancakes when they form little holes all over the top side of the pancake- it's almost swiss cheese like holes. You'll know when you see it but allow roughly three to four minutes on each side. Don't worry if you think one side has cooked more than the other- you can flip it back over and cook it to your liking.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Homemade BBQ Sauce

I was feeling very American and was craving BBQ sauce. I'm not a fan of the bottled variety and usually go out to satisfy this kind of craving but I was determined to use up things in the kitchen so I made up my own.

Amazingly it isn't that difficult to make your own sauce and you are smug in the knowledge that you know what is in it. I wanted something smoky with a kick to it- so I added a bit of the pureed chipotle paste I keep in the fridge (just blitz a can of chipotles in adobo and put in a sealable jar).

This is a piece of cake- it's good with steak too.

Xoch's Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce
Enough for 4 drumsticks with plenty leftover to dip in

4 tbsp. ketchup (to add to your feelings of smugness use an organic version)
2 tbsp. Chipotle paste
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. Worcester sauce

Mix everything together in a bowl until well blended.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


I love presents. It's therefore only natural that I should love EBBP. EBBP for the unfamiliar stands for Euro Blogging By Post. The easiest way to describe it is like Secret Santa across Europe and with food. It felt like Christmas in July. The way it works is one person (in this case it was Jeanne from Cook Sister) coordinates the names of all the participants and sorts out who each of us have to send a package to. My Asian inspired package went to Petra in Germany.

Once I sent my box off, I eagerly awaited the arrival of my package. Who would be sending it? Where would it be sent from? What would they put in there? A few days later there was a little box in front of my door from Switzerland. Like a kid at Christmas I ripped open the box and was greeted with lovely wrapped collection of goodies. Here's what Pam at Posie's Place sent me:

Polenta with truffles- I hope to make this up this week
Fruit and nut mix- which Pam likes to snack on when sat outside with a glass of wine and which are on my desk at work for my afternoon snack
Tandoori Masala spice mix- with curry recipe included
Home grown and home dried chilis- which I plan to use in a salsa
Fondue- a small pot of fondue that although it's not very summery she was persuaded by a friend to include it as she felt fondue was fab all year long (sorry- it's missing from the picture above)
Zitronen Lackerli- A gingerbready, hazelnutty, lemony biscuit that I love and have hidden away while I debate whether or not to share.
And since it was the national day in her region, Pam sent me a little candle with the Swiss flag on it.

There was a sweet note included as well as a recipe for a curry that I hope to make soon as I am on a curry kick at the moment. I love my package and can't wait to make everything. Thank you Pam- my apologies for not having a chance to write this up sooner. If you're intrigued and wondering what else was sent out, here is Jeanne's round up.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I heart tortillas

Growing up in my house meant that no meal was complete unless my Mexican father had his tortillas by his side - even if we were eating a Chinese takeaway. There were (and still are) two camps in the house; those that only ate flour tortillas and those who ate the corn version. The children always seem to prefer the comforting softness of the flour ones while the grown ups went for the hearty coarseness of the corn tortillas.

With all the interest in Mexican cooking, there hasn’t been enough praise heaped on the humble tortilla. Yes, it makes a meal when eaten as fajitas or enchiladas, but the possibilities are endless. It is the ultimate midnight munchies fix, it makes a tasty breakfast on the go or, as it was when I was growing up, an after-school snack.

Below are some quick and easy recipes that are staples in my house. Use it as a springboard to try other things in a tortilla. As The Boy likes to say- Everything tastes better in a tortilla! But please promise me that you will warm them- eating a tortilla cold is just wrong.

Avocado Burrito
This was my favourite after school snack as a kid. It is my comfort food as an adult and always hits the spot when nothing else will do.
Serves 1

½ avocado
1 tortilla

Warm the tortilla on both sides. Add slices of avocado. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roll into a burrito.

Breakfast Burrito
Serves 1

1-2 eggs
2 strips of bacon
½ tomato, sliced
2 mushrooms, sliced
1 tortilla

Cook up all the ingredients (except the tortilla) as if making a breakfast fry-up. Put the cooked ingredients in the tortilla and roll into a burrito.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

That finishing touch...

A few years ago I was given my grandmother's cookbook that was started in the 1940s and by looks of some of the pictures and recipes went through to the 60s. Inside is a mix of handwritten recipes and ripped pages from various magazines. Some days I have a look through and toy with the idea of making her Lemon Meringue Pie that was legendary (as was her Cheese Torte), other days I have a look and giggle at some of the moulded and jellified dishes that were the fashion of the day.

Having a look through recently I came across this snippet of garnishing advice that gave me a laugh (especially since it seems that all of last month's magazines had features on plating food or styling for photography). I don't know where it came from or when but it's great nonetheless. Click on the picture for a closer view.

My favourites are "spoon jelly on sliced cold meat" and "tuck a lemon leaf under a sherbet".


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Spice Rub Grilled Chicken

It never occurred to me how obsessed I am with grilling things until I started this blog. I love outdoor barbecues, I love indoor grill pans, I love summer barbecues, I love winter barbecues, it doesn't matter if it's chicken, beef or veg, there is something very relaxing about eating grilled food. On this occasion it was about using up some chicken thighs in the fridge. I raided the spice shelf and made up this rub that has a gentle kick and a tasty saltiness about it. It was good right away with a salad (I ate it with my remoulade) but it was great the next day chopped into a green salad.

Spice Rub Chicken

Serves 4-6

1 tsp of each of the following:

whole cumin seed
ground ginger
ground coriander
crushed chilli flakes
yellow mustard seed

2 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp olive oil

400-500g of chicken (it can be anything- I used chicken thighs)

Grind the cumin seed, chilli flakes and mustard seed in a mortar and pestle so that the spices are lightly crushed. Mix in the remaining spices and the salt and lightly crush some of the sea salt.

Rub the spice mixture on the chicken. Add the olive oil and rub into the spice coating chicken.

Marinate for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

The chicken can be grilled, roasted or pan fried; cooking times will vary depending on method and chicken cut used.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Celeriac Remoulade

Lured in by the thought of getting The Boy to try a new vegetable after reading of a restaurant that puts celeriac in it's mac n'cheese- a trick that convinced him that broad beans weren't evil- I bought myself a bulb/root/ whatever it's called of celeriac. I didn't get round to making the mac n'cheese but I did fancy something to eat with some cold cuts. I whipped up my version of the classic French bistro delight that is celery remoulade (or how I describe it to people who have never had it- French coleslaw). I'm not really big on mayo so my version is light and tangy. Serve as a side for anything ranging from cured meats to leftover roast chicken.

Celery Remoulade
Serves 4-6


400g celeriac
1/2 lemon
100g mayonaise
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
3 cornichons, finely chopped
10 capers, rinsed of salt and finely chopped
large pinch of Herbes de Provence

Wash any dirt off the celeriac and strip away the outer layer using a vegetable peeler. Coarsely grate the celeriac and squeeze the lemon over to prevent the celeriac from turning brown. Put to one side.

In a medium sized bowl mix the mayo, mustard, cornichons, capers and Herbes de Provence.

Add the celeriac and mix until the celeriac has a light coating of dressing on it.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Another summer salad

Food blogging can be tough in the scorching heat. Apart from not having an appetite, it's unbearably hot in the kitchen so I tend to favour meals that I can prepare most of the ingredients in the living room where I can place myself in the direction of the air conditioner and minimise my time in the kitchen.

Inspired by a dish I had in Barcelona recently, I've created what, for me, has become the salad of the summer. It's one I can't get enough of at the moment. I've created it as sort of a un-recipe- it's one where the quantites can be amended to suit your own taste and number of servings. Try it with different leaves- I had Baby Gem lettuce the first time I made this but it also works with Rocket.

Goat's Cheese and Membrillo Salad
Serves 1


50g mild goat's cheese, diced or crumbled
30g membrillo (quince paste), diced
1-2 Baby Gem lettuce, washed and chopped
handful of salted almonds, if available use Marcona almonds

olive oil and sherry vinegar

Place the lettuce on a plate and sprinkle the membrillo and goat's cheese on top. Drizzle with olive oil and sherry vinegar. Top with the almonds.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A picnic by the river dahling...

I'm a few weeks late with my tales of another gorgeous day, another excuse for the London bloggers to get together. Better late than never! This time it was the 2nd annual Henley Regatta dahling! Of course anytime you get a bunch of food lovers together the morsels are gonna be good. This, however, was my first time out with this lot for a public viewing. What a laugh! We commandeered a large strip of grass along the river, next to the footpath. As the crowds walked past you could hear comments like "Wow now that's a picnic.", "Real food- I haven't had that in so long." to my personal favourite, "Salmonella waiting to happen." I don't know if people were more perplexed by the amount of good food we had or the fact that we spent about 20 minutes taking pictures of it all.

We ate, we watched the rowing, we drank many a bottle of Pimms and generally had a good time. My contributions on the day were an easy to make Moroccan Chickpea Salad (recipe below) and some Bakewell Tarts for a bit of a Bakewell Tart Smackdown against Andrew and Jeanne (the link will take you to Jeanne's recap of the event).

For a 'row by row'- cheesy I know but I'm in a cheesy mood today- account of the dishes and the day check out everyone else's blogs:

Andrew - Spittoon Extra
Jeanne - Cook Sister
Johanna - The Passionate Cook
Claire - Lemon Soul
Jenni - Pertelote
June - Bread, Water, Salt, Oil
Shana - Owlfish

Moroccan Chickpea Salad
(Credit this this yummy salad goes to my pal Toral at The Urban Kitchen)
Makes a large bowlfull - serves 6

For the salad:
1 x 400g can of chickpeas, drained
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and diced
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
15g coriander, finely chopped
15g mint, finely chopped

For the dressing:
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 clove of garlic, crushed
5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. cumin seeds, toasted
1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses

For garnishes:
100g feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
coriander leaves

Add all the salad ingredients to a large bowl.
Add all the dressing ingredients to a small jar and shake to mix thoroughly.
Pour dressing over salad and garnish with crumbled feta cheese.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Those of you who emailed were right- I was in Barcelona and this photo was taken in La Boqueria market.

I'm back after a week long stay in Barcelona compliments of my dear friend Mardon. What an amazing place- sort of a Paris on the Med but without the Parisians (no offence to Parisians- I have Parisians friends and have lived in Paris).

The architecture is amazing, the people friendly and the food filling. The weather was scorchio- anyone with a dislike for high temperatures should steer clear of the place in the summer.

Above - View from Park Guell

Right - La Pedrera

I'll keep the writing brief and let the photos speak for themselves. Addresses and more photos to follow. I'd like to thank everyone who gave me tips and advice for a first time trip to Barcelona but in particular Amy from Cooking with Amy who gave me an exhaustive list of gourmet shops to hit.

Between her list and my trusty Time Out guide, there wasn't a bad meal or food shop to be had (except for maybe one that wasn't my choice and resulted in my control over all meals for the rest of the stay).

My Barcelona address book:

Restaurants / Tapas-

Cinc Sentits

C/Aribau 58

tel: 93 323 94 90

Metro Passeig de Garcia or Universitat

Rated as one of the best restos in town. It's tough to get a reservation (I know- I couldn't get one) so call early.

Bar Pinotxo

La Boqueria 466-467, La Rambla 89

Metro Liceu

Located near the main entrance to La Boqueria, this little joint is run by an old man whom everyone calls Juanito. It was near my hotel and was where I went for breakfast everyday at a cost of 3 euros.

Taller de Tapas

Placa Sant Josep Oriol 9

tel: 93 301 80 20

Metro Liceu

Excellent tapas. Try the sausage with white beans dish- it was amazing and rustic- and the Membrillo and Rocket salad. Good value.


C/Palma de Sant Just 1

tel: 93 310 53 09

Metro Jaume I

Swanky cocktail joint with jazzy/loungey tunes (at least when I went). Great tapas and great drinks. One can easily pass the night away here.

Cerveseria Catalana

C/ Mallorca 236

tel: 93 216 0368

Metro Passeig de Garcia

This was our fave meal of the trip. If you're heading to Sagrada Familia, take a 15 minute stroll instead of the metro. Tasty croquetas, amazing grilled asparagus, perfect jabugo ham. We spent a couple of hours nibbling and drinking and gossiping without realising it. The Roscon de la casa (House cake - see picture) was to die for and worth every calorie. Two of us ate very well for less then 35 euros (and that included wine, coffee and dessert).

Left - figs at La Boqueria

Below - Hot Chocolate at Escriba. We tucked in so quickly that we almost forgot to take a photo. Rich and custardy, it is a meal in itself.

Above left - Cerveseria Catalana, well worth the 10 minute walk from La Sagrada Familia. Great tapas, great atmosphere and a great house dessert.

Above right - It was a sponge soaked in rum with a layer of Crema Catalana with caramel sauce

Left - Ceiling of La Sagrada Familia

Below Right - Pinotxo Bar (at La Boqueria), great coffee and breakfast and home to Juanito whom to whole town seems to know.

Bottom left - looking down the stairwell at La Sagrada Familia

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

On hiatus...

I have not deserted my blog- I'm just away for a few days eating my way round a delightful European city. See if you can guess where I am from the picture above. First person to guess correctly gets a high five.

I'll be back soon with tales of my good eats.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Long live the Bakewell Tart

Andrew over at Spittoon issued a challenge, actually it was more like a plea, to hop onboard his Save the Bakewell Tart bus. It looks as if the Bakewell Tart is a dying breed- even a certain Mr. Kipling is having trouble flogging us his disgustingly sweet creation. I have to admit that I have never been a fan of the Bakewell, finding it too sweet, but hell how can I say no to a tart.

I am feeling a bit too lazy this morning to go into the history of the Bakewell Tart but these duelling sites have a thing to say on the matter (click here or here).

Since I've never made one before so I thought it best to seek the advice of professionals and after googling Bakewell Tarts, I settled on this version by Tamsin Day-Lewis from UKTV Food. It looked the part and I was looking forward to giving it a go. Then disaster struck. The washing machine decided to flood the kitchen and take me with it. Fortunately I wasn't badly hurt and once I knew I hadn't fallen onto one of my Globals, I endevoured to get on with it. I must have been more exhausted then I thought because I totally screwed up the recipe. If you look at the Tamsin Day-Lewis version and read my recipe below you may noticed that I added way too many eggs. This gave the top a slightly eggy-custardy taste and a lot of mix. This could easily make two large tarts. I also think I added too much jam. I added more since that was my complaint about them in the past. Perhaps I should have kept it to the original amount. Since there was so much excess filling I was feeling crazy and made one with fig jam but I gave it to Johanna. Hopefully she'll let me know how it was.

It wasn't a complete blowout- it was edible if a bit messy. I took it to Henley for a mini Bakewell Tart showdown but there was stiff competition. Not sure if I want to know how mine rated...

For a full round up (and most likely better versions including Andrew's tasty 'olde worlde' version made without almonds) go to Spittoon Extra.

Something that resembles a Bakewell Tart
Makes a lot- I got a tart and eight tartlets worth

1 shop bought shortcrust pastry case (you can make a second tart or use tartlet cases)

For the filling:
200 g. raspberry jam
110 g. butter
100 g. sugar
110 g. ground almonds
4 egg yolks
3 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
flaked almonds to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Spread the jam over the bottom of the pastry case.

Whisk the sugar, ground almonds, almond extract, eggs and extra yolks until well mixed.

Melt the butter and pour into the egg mixture. Whisk until smooth.

Pour the mix over the jam, filling as high as possible.

Bake for 20 minutes at 180C then turn the heat up to 200C and bake for a further 15 minutes. The top should be lightly browned.

Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top 5 minutes before the tart is finished.

Let it cool before serving.