Postcards from Old Palma, Mallorca

I don’t know how I’d never made it to Palma before now. Wonderful tales of Mallorcan life have been reaching my ears for years, many imparted with passion by people who return year after year for just a bit more of what this picturesque Mediterranean isle has to offer. On this, my first visit, three generations of family shared self-catering accommodation just outside Palma. Some weeks later we’re still reliving it and reading as much as we can about the island.

Here’s a taste of Palma’s Old Town, the focus of which is undoubtably the Catedral. It’s like a Titanic of ecclesiastical architecture – an absolute behemoth on the Palma skyline.

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Off the Carrer d’En Morei, a narrow street running away from the back of the Catedral towards the Plaça de Santa Eulàlia, we peeked into inner courtyards – this one belonging to a hotel but others the sanctuary of local folk.

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 Horse-drawn carriages wend their way around Old Palma offering visitors a quaint, if slightly kitsch, way to see the town.

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In the Plaça de la Cort there’s an olive tree so gnarled and ancient that it definitely shows it’s been eight hundred or so years on the planet.

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Many shops sell Mallorcan delicacies: from dried sausage and flavoured oils to the popular ensaimadas – large, spiral-shaped pastries filled with sweet cream or marmalade, almond paste or a host of other sweet surprises. I was particularly drawn to the Aladdin’s Cave frontage of this little store of  Mallorcan produce.

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A close up of the little mannequin for you:

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Another glimpse behind a pair of old gates:

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And lastly, our view back at base after a hard day on our feet. Time to kick back with a chilly glass of blanco.

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Total-ly Greek – the Yoghurt Cookbook by TOTAL

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TOTAL yoghurt is totally, one hundred per cent Greek. Not Greek-style, but authentically Greek, as in Nana Mouskouri Greek, only a bit older. TOTAL was born of a traditional Greek recipe in 1926. It’s so natural that all it contains is milk, cream and live yoghurt cultures. It’s a household name here in the UK and has been since it was first imported here in 1983, but how much further than breakfast do YOU think when you open a punnet of yoghurt? Sadly, a lot of folk don’t recognise the massive potential yoghurt has as a healthy cream-substitute for all sorts of kitchen creations. Now, courtesy of the Total Greek Yoghurt cookbook by Chef Sophie Michell, yoghurt’s versatility is highlighted in a great many delicious and healthy ways.

For instance, did you know that Total 0% Greek yoghurt contains only 57kCal  per 100 grams? Or that it has a fat content of zero? Okay, you probably guessed that from the name. It’s high in protein, extremely low in sugar, making it ideal for diabetics and dieters, whilst lending its thick, creamy texture to all sorts of dishes, sweet and savoury alike. Even TOTAL’s Classic Greek Yoghurt is still low on calorie count (96 per 100 grams), fat and sugar. So, it scores low where it counts, but is also high scoring in all the right places – like protein and calcium content. To boot, TOTAL is blessedly gluten free for anyone with that particular intolerance.

Science over, let’s flick through the recipes in the book. There are three main sections:

  • Small Plates and Soups
  • Main Plates
  • Sweet Plates, Shakes and Smoothies

Under Small Plates there are wonderful concoctions – both the expected Greek staples, such as taramasalata – this time served alongside green olive and lemon bread containing Greek yoghurt, and dolmades served with a dipping side of yoghurt, but there are also surprises which bring the warm Mediterranean sun out from behind the clouds – such as barbecued watermelon with agave and Greek yoghurt (if you don’t have a barbie, Michell has thoughtfully suggested using a griddle pan). The recipes take their influence from a variety of cuisines, too, so we’re not always going to be noshing down with the gods on Mount Olympus. There are crab cakes and wontons and a ceviche-inspired King Prawn cocktail. The yoghurt may be Greek, but we’re travelling the world here.

For something more substantial, skip to the Main Plates section. Here you’ll find generous salads, a rich macaroni cheese, a very grown-up version of baked beans with mustard (and Greek yoghurt) mash, fish tacos with chipotle yoghurt and pickled red onions, and one-pan meals like the smoked haddock and prawn pilaf with coriander and cashew yoghurt.

When I decided to recipe test from the book I went for an old favourite: potato rösti. Here it’s plated up with smoked salmon, vodka-spiked yoghurt and salmon keta. I was salivating more than Cerberus once I’d chosen to whip up a plate of these, so didn’t make it to the shops to pick up the keta, but next time I’ll make sure to do so (and there will definitely be a next time).

The recipe was straightforward to follow, written (as so many are not) in a logical sequence. Apart from one naughty deviation, where I added one finely sliced small onion to the rösti mixture, because I do so love a bite of onion in my potato cakes, the whole process went like a dream and tasted precisely as it should, give or take an onion. As for the vodka-spiced yoghurt, it’s the essence of simple yet wicked enough to be whipped up and paired with other fishy dishes another time.

Which brings me to the TOTAL + pages. There are four of these: TOTAL +1 is comprised of incredibly short recipes for sauces, dips and the like, made up of a mere two ingredients – TOTAL Greek yoghurt being one, plus one other. Creamy chocolate dip, miso dip, yoghurt-dipped strawberries feature here. So quick, so EASY. TOTAL +2 uses two ingredients on top of the yoghurt component, and there’s a special, second TOTAL +2 page in the Sweet Plates section. Lastly, TOTAL +3 is where to find the recipes for yoghurt plus three ingredients. Your classic tzatziki is here, with a beetroot version, a couple of dressings, a dip (blue cheese) and sriracha chilli and lime sauce.

Just a word on the layout: most of the recipes have a page to themselves, with a glorious photo of either the food or some aspect of Greek life opposite. What I really appreciate about the food styling here is that it looks like any reader can make this food. It isn’t overly groomed or presented as if you need a Michelin star just to deign a peek at the pic; the food is displayed on simple kitchenware and has a slightly tousled, ruffled air to it, as if it’s just been tossed out of a normal pan in an average kitchen, from Anywheres-ville. I find that lack of pretension quietly reassuring. As for the lifestyle images featuring Greece and Greeks, they could be holiday snaps, they’re so relaxed. This only adds to the flavour of the book as no-nonsense and accessible.

The Sweet Plates chapter once again follows world cuisines, but the page I gravitate towards each time I open this book boasts recipes for five ice lollies. In execution, they couldn’t be more basic, yet the flavour combinations of rosewater and pistachio, peach and honey, to give just two examples, evoke images of Halcyon days. As the shortest day of the Northern Hemisphere year approaches, those are images I like to hold in my head and, call me odd, but I’ve always preferred ice lollies in winter. This may well be my next TOTAL-ly Greek kitchen experiment.

Sophie Michell is Britain’s youngest female Executive Chef , running Pont St. at Belgraves Hotel, in London’s Belgravia. She was one of four female chefs tasked with creating The Gorgeous Kitchen at Heathrow’s revamped Terminal 2 (opened in June 2014), co-presents the popular TV show Cook Yourself Thin and is a guest judge on Iron Chef USA. Michell has been travelling to Greece on a regular basis since she was two years old and has drawn on her experience of cooking with TOTAL Greek yoghurt in Crete to inspire this book.

**The TOTAL Greek Yoghurt Cookbook by Sophie Michell is published by Kyle Books and retails at £19.99.

A Very Bombay Lunchbox

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Bombay Lunchbox is a compact cookbook, filled to the brim with sweet and savoury tiffin recipes and the sort of photography that makes the reader’s tummy rumble and feet itch. When I received it for review, I was unprepared for how this little book would make me feel once I turned the first few pages. The illustrations go far to make it less of a read or instructive kitchen tool and more of an experience, like a city break on paper. It’s so evocative that you can almost SMELL India on these pages.

So, Bombay Lunchbox arrived in the post.  Before I knew it, I’d tabbed the pages of recipes I’d decided to try. Next, came the necessary spice inventory to ensure I could properly make myself an authentic little tiffin. There was then an outing to a nearby Indian spice merchant to fill the ingredient gaps, and the dusting off of my cake stand, ready for loading with cucumber sandwiches spiked with spicy mint and coriander chutney and miniature masala papad. Darjeeling tea was brewed along with a little dish of sugared fennel seeds, which I could quite happily shovel into my mouth by the handful. To complete the scene, should I watch a Bollywood classic, or snort my way through the antics of Clarkson, May and The Hamster in the Top Gear India special?

In fact, the tv remained resolutely cold as I decided instead to google all things tiffin, such was the effect of reading Bombay Lunchbox. Nibbles of warm, oozy chilli cheese toasties fuelled my surfing. And this is what I found:

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It’s a proper, four-tiered tiffin tin – which, if you don’t have a wallah to deliver your lunch in such colourful style to the office, could act as an original serving tool for an Indian food-fest at your place. It could also be combined with a copy of Bombay Lunchbox and some Indian spices to create a wonderful gift for an Indian food-loving friend. Then all that remains is to make a date to cook up a tiffin storm together and settle in for some back-to-back Bollywood.

Bombay Lunchbox by Carolyn Caldicott, photos by Chris Caldicott, RRP £9.99

Hand-painted tiffin tin currently £39.99 on Amazon UK (by Indian Tiffin)

Suppose for Christmas

I don’t SUPPOSE many of my readers start buying presents for loved ones in October. Then again, you might. Please do correct me if I’m wrong. Anyway, when I visited my local supermarket yesterday there were plenty of chocaholic advent calendars on display, which makes me think that if I start buying the odd present now, December won’t be so painful.

Bring on http://www.suppose.com/

This is a site where you look at their wares and track them. If the item is on Suppose, it’s already likely to be cheaper than anywhere else you might buy it. Register yourself and you’ll be able to track the price of your chosen item, and Suppose will let you know when it reaches the level you’re comfortable with paying.

Suppose asked me to look at blue-eyed Paul Hollywood of The Great British Bake Off fame and one of his books: How to Bake.

The cover price for this particular cookbook is £20.00. When Suppose sent it to me it was £4.00 if you bought it from their site. These prices do tend to go up and down, but given that Christmas isn’t far away, I’d recommend checking out Suppose and its other offers. It could well save you a fortune in the run-up to crazy Crimbo.

Anyway, if you want to get Mr Hollywood’s How to Bake at a steal, have a look at Suppose here: http://suppose.com/howtobake

The Food People at An Evening of Flavour

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I was recently enticed all the way across London in heat wave temperatures to hear about London’s food trends and sample a selection of John Quilter’s recipes using Loyd Grossman sauces. As I exited Old Street tube station, dripping with discomfort following a long, airless tube journey, I hoped the evening would prove worthwhile. As I sat, chilled espresso martini in hand, listening to Charles Banks pronounce on London’s food trends, I forgot the make up sliding down my face for a while. Self-lubricating, re-energised thanks to the caffeine in hand, this was my kind of event – educational and not just about stuffing one’s face whilst murmuring an appreciative ‘ah, delicious’.

Charles Banks is co-founder of the agency known as Food People. It consults on food trends, working with clients to build product and strategy appropriate to the current market. These folk know their onions, in a literal sense. Here’s the Food People’s breakdown of what’s hot on the London food scene right now:

  • Trends include American and Mediterranean food. Neither are new to London, but both are ramping up their volume a notch. Diner food like burgers and hot dogs has never been so gourmet. Chase them down with bubbly or bourbon cocktail, or think gimlet for an All-American experience. As for nosh from the Med, it’s expanding its perimeter and becoming more aware of seasonality. Recent TV jaunts around the area see chefs waving their whisks amidst the landscapes of the ancients. Given the delights of Mediterranean produce coupled with animated cuisiniers and the landscapes that wanderlust is made of, it’s little wonder that the food of the Med is seeing a revival, an update and a resurgence of popularity.
  • Mash ups are essentially the creative merger of two meal concepts with unexpected results. Nacho lasagne uses layers of nacho chips and cheese to replace the usual pasta layer. A ramen burger places the meat pattie between buns made of compressed noodles; and soup with mac ‘n’ cheese sees a dollop of the latter dunked into the former.
  • More styles see Small Plate Dining coming to the fore. The idea is to order a lot of small plates to share. The popularity of cicchetti-inspired eateries and Peruvian restaurants with an accent on small quantities with big flavour is where the appeal lies. It’s also far from being a burden on the waistline.
  • Dude Food is a style for the carnivore. Think meat, spice and the fire turned way up.
  • Everyday Food Done Better is where you take an everyday homemade meal and play around with the ingredients to make it same same but different. Think cheese on toast but replace your classic cheddar with gorgonzola and garnish with fresh pear. Or take fried chicken and add some Korean influence – a touch of sesame, a cup of gochujang – for a different taste entirely.
  • According to the Food People’s research, the trending flavour for 2014 is chilli. There certainly seem to be more colours, flavours and varieties available than ever before. My tip: get a selection and experiment with them at home so you know your jalapeño from your habanero.
  • Future flavours are predicted as being Persian, Israeli and Greek. This excites me. All things cardamom and saffron, chickpea and spice. Who said Falafel?
  • Fusing Flavour and Format is where you take the flavours of one cuisine and present them in the format of another. Think confit de canard with caramelised onions and chèvre presented burger-style in a brioche bun. Oh-so-very French, but within an American format.
  • Then there’s the developing trend for sensory restaurants. We’ve all heard about the one where there’s no light, in order to heighten the diner’s sense of taste. Well, now we’re seeing new concepts like the Edible Cinema, where you snack on particular items at key points during the screening of a film, each food relating directly to the current sequence and intended to add to the sensory experience, through taste, sound, sense and touch.
  • Further trending flavours feature Savoury in Sweet – for example a strawberry spinach salad or marmite caramel cupcake.
  • Lastly, there’s the age-old classic ingredient: alcohol. Slow cook some brisket in beer and hickory barbecue sauce or stir piña colada into a pannacotta. I think it’s time to dust off my retro-Cointreau chocolate mousse recipe.

Useful links:

The Food People

John Quilter, Food Busker

Loyd Grossman

The Underground Cookery School

Cirkle PR

Nossy Be, La Baule

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Following a rough pregnancy and even rougher ‘special delivery’ of our small person this summer, I seriously doubted I was up for a trip to France. Two months into parenthood, still feeling battered and bloated and somewhat embarrassed to be seen in public, I somehow lost the family holiday debate to the ever-persuasive Monsieur and we set off for his motherland for the first time with buggy and baby seat loaded into the car, not to mention our BABY.

One of the highlights of this trip was a stay in La Baule. It’s one of those French Atlantic seaside towns with whimsical, slope-roofed houses shaded by soaring, aromatic pines. I loved it from the very minute we arrived. However, I soon found that this was a vacation spot for the chic, slim, sparrow-boned French and every time I passed a reflective surface, my image screamed HEFFALUMP! How ever could I hold my head high in my current, still-swollen state, whilst surrounded by such studiously-maintained examples of the human form? If it’s one thing I’ve learned since meeting my Frenchman, the French are extremely efficient at commenting on one’s size and think nothing of discussing diets at the dinner table. I hoped the presence of my dear, precious child might cut me some slack this time.

On top of my confidence crisis, Monsieur and I were so new to taking our baby out that you could have hung L plates around our necks and called us Learner (Baby) Drivers. Just the thought of dining out with her was enough to make me itch with anxiety. What if she cried and we couldn’t soothe her? Would the restaurant have changing facilities? Did we have enough milk with us? Nappies? Wipes? Would restaurants even WANT us there, now we had a small child? It all seems so silly in hindsight, but at the time these were very real anxieties for us. The good thing about travelling so early on in our baby’s life was that it threw us into the parenting pool’s deep end and we were forced to swim which, with practice, we did.

Our first day in La Baule we decided to take a stroll along the promenade, in the hope of finding lunch with a view. I was positively dizzy with all of the above concerns, not to mention the heat. We reached one eatery on the beach, but it was down on the sand with no ramp, only stairs. There was no way we could get the buggy down to the door so we walked on. Eventually, we found Nossy Be, a smart establishment, also on the sand, but with a navigable ramp leading down to the entrance. So far, so promising, but once inside my heart sank. It was so super-hip modern that if a mirror ball had suddenly started twirling to the latest euro-beat, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised. As for the patrons – they were all perfectly bronzed, in crisp polos and Bermudas, or ethereal kaftans with the style of sandal that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a goddess lunching at Mount Olympus. I, by contrast bright white and elephantine, was absolutely certain that we weren’t their kind of desirable and prepared for the ‘I’m sorry, we have no free tables,’ brush-0ff, especially as I couldn’t see any space for us in the bustling restaurant. I was wrong.

A waiter and his colleague asked us to wait for a moment, then busied themselves finding spare seats to position around a low table not far from the bar. In a flash, the table was set and we were seated, with ample room for the baby in her buggy. Menus arrived, as did chilled water – Ferrarelle, an Italian brand that I rate for its gentle bubble and faintly salty taste. So far, the brownie points were accruing fast in this eatery’s favour.

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Monsieur and I shared a starter of melon and prosciutto – the melon fanned across the plate in fine slices, contrasting with the insouciant tumble of ham.

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I followed on with a starter size of red tuna tartare, presented South-East Asian style, with a garnish of small beads of wasabi that looked just like luminous, green caviar might. A verrine of refreshing petits pois soup and mint ‘nuage’, or foam, accompanied the plate.

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Monsieur ordered a stir fry of rice with King Prawns, which he pronounced ‘excellent'; this is praise indeed from a particularly particular eater. It arrived atop giant petals of watermelon radish – at once arresting on the plate, but also cooling against the spice of this dish.

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This place was a revelation for an anxious new mum. We were impeccably looked after, were placed sensitively with ample room to care for our little one, the food was excellent in all respects AND we had a sea front view. With a glass of chilled rosé I felt less harried and more human. More human, that is, until a whiff of something a little earthy floated up from the buggy and I found out the hard way how important it is to find eateries with baby changing facilities. Trying to change a wriggling two month-old on a loo seat is far from fun, especially when there’s a queue of the be-jewelled and be-kaftanned lined up outside and your baby is letting out wails to rival the loudest siren. Blessedly, this was the only blip we experienced at Nossy Be.

In summary? Food – superb and not too calorific. Views – of beach, sea and excellent for people-watching. Staff – you’ll seldom find such helpful individuals. Family-friendly? Definitely. There were other babies and small patrons present – all accepted without fuss and kindly catered for. Downside? No changing tables for small babies, but the food and service were so good that this is just nitpicking. Budget – above average but acceptable, given the quality of produce. On my dime – anytime. Reservations – we walked in without one and were generously accommodated, however, another time I’d reserve, especially in high season.

Nossy Be, Beach and Lounge Restaurant

02 40 604 225

Plage La Baule, opposite 15 boulevard Darlu

www.nossybe.com                           contact@nossbe.com

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The Octo-Cocktail

I ADORE octopus. All eight legs of it. And the head. Even removing the so-called beak during kitchen prep no longer freaks me out. When I spotted a whole octopus at our local fish stall recently, I had to have it. Home it came, where I cooked it into a red wine and tomato sauce with a comforting depth that’s welcome on a wintry night. That recipe will come later. First, I have to show you what I call the Octo-Cocktail – a glass of guava-coloured juice made from tenderising the eight-legged beast over heat with just half a cup of water. The resulting juice, for use later in the casserole, was such a gorgeous colour that I felt compelled to play with my food. I poured it into an apéritif glass and garnished it with a soupçon of leg. Just a bit of fun, and NOT for consumption, but pretty as a Cosmopolitan, don’t you think?

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Epic Sherry Truffles

Every year, as Christmas approaches, I make a mound of sherry truffles. They’re lovely to have on hand as a sweet treat for the end of a meal – just one or two will satisfy any sugary craving. Sherry truffles also make a special gift for the grown ups on your pressie list – I bottle mine in preserving jars, which not only look attractive but are also practical in that they may be later reused, once the truffles have all been scoffed greedily down.

Here’s my recipe:

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150g rich tea biscuits

100g butter

1/4 cup cocoa

1 cup icing sugar

1 1/2 cup dessicated coconut

2/3 cup raisins

6 Tbsp sherry (I used Harveys VORS Pedro Ximénez (PX)

Blend the biscuits into a breadcrumb consistency and reserve.

Blend the butter, cocoa, icing sugar and coconut in a food processor.

Add the blitzed biscuits and sherry to the mixer and blend again until the mixture becomes a ball.

Remove from processor, place in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave overnight. This allows the consistency to settle and not be too sticky when you roll it into balls.

Using a teaspoon, take lumps of mixture and roll them between your hands until they form a shape similar to a small ping pong ball.

Then roll the balls in a  shallow dish of sherry before rolling them again in another dish filled with coconut. Not only does this help the coconut to stick, but it adds extra wickedness and sherry flavour to these rich, sweet mouthfuls.

May be served either with a cup of coffee at the end of a meal, or with a naughty little glass of post-prandial sherry, just in case the balls aren’t sherry enough for your tastebuds!

**I was sent a bottle of Harveys VORS Pedro Ximénez (PX) for the purposes of making my annual batch of sherry truffles. Whilst any sweet sherry will work with this recipe, the Pedro Ximénez has some deliciously intense notes, such as licorice, black treacle and chocolate, adding depth and extra flavour to this already moreish treat. RRP £21.76

 

Harvey’s Mulled Apple and Winter Spice

In our house, sherry is one of those Christmas staples: somehow the holiday just wouldn’t be the same without a taste of the stuff. This year, I’ve followed some Harveys suggestions to update our sherry repertoire. Sherry on the rocks with a squeeze of fresh orange (just a small squeeze, mind you!), garnished with a slice of orange not only looks the festive goods but is also refreshing – perfect for cooling down the rellies when they get a little flushed and flustered during the family charades tournament.

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Another brilliant take on the winter sherry tipple is mulled apple juice.

Slowly heat 200ml of Harveys Bristol Cream with 500ml of premium pressed apple juice, 6 cloves and 50 grams of sugar. Simmer for around 15 minutes – an ideal length of time for the liquid to warm and flavours to mingle.

Strain into a warm jug, garnish with slices of apple and serve in glasses with a star anise.

This is a beautifully warming beverage to warm everyone up after those bracing post-prandial route-marches. The sherry content can also be upped to a pleasant 300ml to 500ml of apple juice – giving it a little extra oomph without overpowering the mulled effect.

Bottoms up!

**Harveys sent me a bottle of Bristol Cream for the purpose of experimenting with their winter cocktail concepts. RRP £9.41 but I’ve spotted loads of pre-Christmas specials out there so keep your eyes peeled for special deals. 

Day of the Dead Layer Dip

We’ve made it through Hallowe’en, pumpkin carving and small ghouls with treat buckets haunting the neighbourhood, so what comes next? The Mexican equivalent, El Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, celebrated on 1st November. Here’s a Mexican Layer Dip that I feed to certain hungry Mexican food-lovers I know when Mexican holidays roll around and we crave a bit of chilli and spice. It’s also a great share platter to offer up to friends while you watch the forthcoming rugby fixtures. In our house it’s somewhat of a tradition to chow down on Mexican food when the rugby’s on TV. Perhaps it’s the heat in the food that helps us to scream louder and longer than usual at the ref, screen and opposing team? 

This recipe allows for four, generous, hungry adult servings, or more if you’re serving other food alongside the dip.

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Individual serving of layer dip, with Mexican lime lager on ice.

Ingredients:

BEAN layer:

2 x 400g cans of black (turtle) beans

1 small onion, finely diced

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 bottle of Wahaca Smoky Chipotle Chile sauce

RICE layer:

125g long grain white rice

Handful of coriander, chopped

Juice of 1 fresh lime

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 tspn garlic salt

CORN layer:

4 ears of fresh corn

1 red capsicum, chopped into 1 cm cubes

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 red chilli (or 2 if you like a kick)

CHEESE layer:

2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese

2 cups of grated mature cheddar (or other tasty) cheese

OR 4 cups of tasty Oaxaca cheese, if you can get your hands on some! (http://oaxaca-cheese.co.uk can supply UK residents. I recommend their Oaxaca or Chihuahua cheeses for this recipe because they’re great for melting)

CHORIZO layer:

4 regular chorizo sausages (each about 50g in size, or equivalent), cut into 0.5cm wide slices and lightly fried on both sides until just starting to brown

CREAM layer:

2 300ml tubs of soured cream

GUACAMOLE layer:

4 ripe avocados

Juice of 2 lemons

4 Tbsp chopped coriander

1 tspn minced fresh garlic

2 large tomatoes, diced, with seeds and juice

8 salad onions, chopped finely

Tabasco to taste

TOP TOMATO SALSA layer:

4 large tomatoes, diced, with seeds and juice

1 small onion, finely diced

2 Tbsn chopped coriander

1 green chilli, chopped finely

1 Tbsn vegetable oil

1 tspn salt

½ tspn sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

FINALLY:

Jar of sliced preserved jalapeño chillis

TO SERVE:

4 glass bowls, top diameter approximately 20 cm

Or

2 glass serving dishes, approximately 25cmL x 20cmW x 8-10cmD

For the bowls, use a quarter of each of the layer mixes

For the serving dishes, use half of each of the layer mixes.

How to make:

The WARM layers go first.

BEAN layer:

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, then add onions and stir until translucent.

Add beans, stir for 2-3 minutes, or until heated through

Add the Wahaca sauce and stir until all combined

***if you don’t live somewhere that you can easily purchase the Wahaca sauces, add to the onion 8 cloves of minced garlic (less if your palate isn’t mad on the stuff) and 4 chipotle chillis, deseeded and finely diced. Next mix through 4 teaspoons of smoked paprika and pour in the beans. After stirring the beans into the pan add 4 heaped Tablespoons of cocoa for a hint of the Mexican mole experience.

Heat all for a further 5 minutes over a medium heat.

Remove from heat and set aside

RICE layer:

At the same time that you’re cooking the beans, bring to the boil a saucepan of water and add 125g of rinsed, white, long-grain rice.

Cook for 10 minutes,

Drain, rinse and place in a mixing bowl. Add oil, salt, coriander and lime juice and stir all until combined.

CORN layer:

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the shucked cobs and simmer for 10 minutes

Drain the water, allowing the cobs to cool

Trim the corn kernels from the cobs

Fry the diced red capsicum with the chilli in the vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes before adding the corn

Heat all through, but do not allow to brown

Remove from heat and reserve.

START TO LAYER the warm ingredients

Beans first in the bottom of the serving bowls/ dishes

Then a layer of the coriander and lime rice

Followed by a layer of the chilli corn and capsicum mix

Top off these layers with a generous spread of the combined grated cheeses

Place the slices of cooked chorizo in an evenly-spaced geometric pattern across the top of the cheese.

NB: You can always prepare these layers in advance and add the cool layers prior to serving. It’s also extra unctuous if you warm the first layers through in the oven for ten minutes before adding the cool layers. It helps the flavours to intensify and the cheese to melt into gooey unctuousness.

When you are ready to finish the dish, add the SOUR CREAM to the top of the cheese layer and spread evenly across it.

Then make the GUACAMOLE layer:

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Making the guacamole.

De-seed and skin the avocados, chopping the flesh into rough cubes. Then put them through a potato ricer or blend well with a fork

Add the lemon juice, garlic, coriander, tomato and salad onions

Mash all together

Add tobasco to taste.

Smooth a quarter of the guacamole mixture atop the sour cream layer in each bowl

Top it all with a sprinkling of TOMATO SALSA

Combine the tomato, onion, coriander and chilli.

Add the vegetable oil, salt, sugar and lemon juice

Mix through and spoon generously onto the top of each bowl. Spread until it forms a loose layer with the guacamole showing through. Dollop a generous spoonful of extra sour cream to the top centre of each bowl.

For those who like the added kick of extra chilli, you may wish to add slices of preserved JALAPEÑO to the top of the salsa, in a geometric pattern.

Serve a bowl to each of your four guests, with lots of tortilla chips and a giant mixed salad to share.

Dig in and enjoy with a jug of home-made Margaritas, or glasses of chilled Mexican lager, poured over ice with a couple of quarters of lime squeezed into each glass, and the fruit tossed in for extra juiciness!

TO DECORATE the salad for Day of the Dead:

I found vibrant Mexican skull images online, printed them, cut them out and taped them to wooden skewers to decorate the dish.

FOR YOUNG, ACCOMPANYING GUESTS:

Print off some basic, black and white skulls

Provide felt tip pens, coloured pencils or crayons in plenty of colours

Ask the kids to decorate the skulls for you, with flowers and bright and happy outlines. You may like to give them a couple of printed examples to follow, with a bowl of their own tortillas, a bowl of (not so spicy) guacamole, and a dipping sauce – perhaps Wahaca’s Habanero sauce, which we find our young friends gobble up without the need for too much water.

IMG_6416

The serving dish version – enough for two people to fight over.

 

 

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