So the quest to use my neglected cookbooks to prove The Boyfriend wrong, wrong, so very wrong continues. If I can show him that actually I do very much use and value every single one of my lovely cookbooks, then the better chance I have at receiving more cookbooks from him when Christmas rolls around. Forward planning at its very best, I’m in this for the long haul. Using these cookbooks also means that I’ll be trying new and interesting foods that I might not have cooked otherwise, which seems more in the spirit of things than wishing for presents, I guess. But you know why I’m really doing it.
Feeling in the mood for something spicy but fairly healthy, I called upon Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers and her book Wahaca: Mexican Food at Home. Her first cookbook – Mexican Food Made Simple – is a favourite of mine and has seen plenty of kitchen action but the sequel has not been so lucky. I made the banana, chocolate and nut bread last year from it and then that was that. Considering how much I love Mexican food, its surprising that I’ve managed to neglect it so well. I’d like to stress that if you’re tempted to buy this book, don’t expect to find cheesy burritos, fajitas or chilli con carne because a Tex-Mex book this ain’t. Tex -Mex food is delicious without doubt and I’d never turn my nose up at it, but it definitely falls more into Tex cuisine than Mex. I’d imagine most Mexicans wouldn’t recognise a Taco Bell style burrito and certainly wouldn’t classify it as authentic Mexican food. Mexican food is considerably lighter than its Tex counterparts and makes the best use of the fresh ingredients that Mexico is rolling in. They use tortilla wraps, yes, but the fillings are fresh rather than greasy and are often filled without a scrap of meat. I’ve never been to Mexico but Thomasina paints such a fantastic picture with her books and TV series of the country that I feel like I have.
From this book I made spinach and feta tacos and a homemade roast tomato salsa. You know you’re getting old when you look forward to coming home and eating spinach and feta, no sane child or teenager that I know would see this as an acceptable meal. Up until a couple of years ago I would have completely agreed, but judging by this dinner and how much I was looking forward to it, I have now matured, much like a blue cheese or a fine wine. It’s official, I’m old. The roast tomato salsa is made by chucking tomatoes, onions, chilli and garlic in a hot, dry saucepan and cooking until soft and ‘charred’. Basically, you need to burn your food. I was hesitant about this but Thomasina won Masterchef so clearly she knows better than me. I obediently burnt the ingredients and then blitzed then in my mini food processor (best £16 spent, by the way. I’ve made countless curry pastes, dips, hummus and now a salsa and wouldn’t be without it in the kitchen). Despite my reservations it tasted amazing, smoky from all that burning but still spicy, sweet and with a strong taste of roasted garlic. Thomasina recommends pairing the tacos with this salsa and she certainly knows what she’s talking about. The tacos themselves were more like sweetcorn and feta than spinach as after wilting in a hot pan then adding to the sweetcorn mixture the spinach had practically disappeared. I love spinach but its tendency to drastically reduce in size once cooked really ticks me off. I want more of the food I love, not less of it. Still, when served in corn tortillas and topped off with smoky salsa and crumbly feta you barely notice the spinach as there’s so much more going on. I’m not sure just how healthy they are, but with all the vegetables contained within the tortillas, no meat and only cooked in a small amount of oil, they surely can’t be bad for you. While I could never be a vegetarian for any longer than a day before I caved in to a bacon sandwich over here, I imagine living meat free wouldn’t be so much of a chore in Mexico. With chillies, corn, tomatoes, mangoes, pineapples, bananas and citrus fruits growing in abundance over there, as well as being a huge producer of cocoa beans, sugar cane and coffee, I think somehow I’d survive on a meat free diet. Although they do appreciate the humble pig in much the same way us Brits do, so perhaps bacon sandwiches or pulled pork tacos would get the better of me at some point anyway. Ah well, there are some things in life that are just too good to give up.