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Category Archives: Mexican

Well, I’m Going To Texas

The trouble with being so in awe of such an enormous country is that you know you’ll never have the time, money nor inclination to get to grips with the entire place. I don’t think there’s one single state in the US that I wouldn’t deem worthy of a trip to, but with 50 states spread over thousands of miles and some states being worthy of multiple visits, it’s not going to happen without a pretty big lottery win. I’d like to believe that one day I really will win the lottery, but considering I always forget to buy a ticket each week the odds are pretty slim. This fascination with America then and my lack of millions goes some way to explaining the many cookbooks focusing on the country that adorn my bookshelf. To make the most of these books and get more mileage out of them, the theme running through my blogs for the next few weeks will be focusing on the Deep South of the States and the food originating from the region. Or until I get bored and move on, don’t be too shocked if the next blog is all about pasta. I’m fickle like that.

The Deep South apparently consists of the states Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee. I thought it also included Texas and did so up until writing that last sentence, so for the purpose of this blog and to save my blushes, Texas is now part of the Deep South. In my defence it is right next to Louisiana. I’m not one to let facts get in the way of a good recipe. Today I cooked from The Homesick Texan by Lisa Fain and is a collection of the foods she grew up with in Texas before moving to New York. The book is filled with classic photos depicting the Lone Star state – think cowboy boots, vast stretches of road and no mans land, cattle and great big slabs of meat- as well as recipes a true Texan would know and love. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that Texas is up there as one of the states I’d really, really like to visit compared to just really wanting to visit (it still has to contend with California, Maine, Louisiana, Georgia and the Carolina’s – stiff competition). I can’t even tell you why I want to visit it, it’s just so iconic and I think of it as the essence of America, if that makes any sense. When I think of America, two images come immediately to mind, one of which is the New York skyline and the other the cattle horns and cowboy boots of Texas. Get me on that plane to Dallas, please.

Fancy-pants king ranch chicken casserole is the dish I cooked, and yes, that is the title given to it in the book. Most magnificent a name. It’s certainly unique. Lisa tells me that this casserole is one of the most popular ones that Texans make but does not go into the provenance of the name. Even though there are a lot of ingredients for this, if you have a well stocked spice cupboard and vegetable drawer you’ll probably have no problem throwing this together. The chicken breasts are fried in a marinade of ancho chilli powder, lime juice and salt, then shredded and added into a homemade enchilada sauce which is then layered in a baking dish with corn tortillas and lots of cheese. To call it a casserole is pretty misleading as after cooking I would describe it more as an enchilada lasagna (lasagna like in structure alone, with the tortillas replacing lasagna sheets) and a really delicious one at that. It’s subtly spicy, creamy and very cheesy and the perfect antidote to the cold weather, the return to work and the endless diet adverts. Despite all the peppers and tomatoes in the casserole it’s not particularly healthy with all the butter and cheese but mentally it’s the equivalent of sitting in front of the fire with a cosy blanket and a good book – pure comfort. It got the thumbs up from The Fiancé too, which is a rarity when it comes to me experimenting with lesser used cookbooks. If you want to give this recipe a try have a gander at her website The Homesick Texan where you’ll find this very recipe.

It’s safe to say that this recipe has done nothing to dissuade me from wanting to check out Texas, in fact it’s just made me keener to visit. Better start buying those lottery tickets.

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How Do Ya Like Your Eggs In The Morning?

It’s been a while hasn’t it? So much has happened since we last spoke; monarchs have been born, rogue spies have hidden in Russian airports, pensioners have headlined Glastonbury and England has finally had a summer. And in more interesting news, I have done naff all in the kitchen. Naff. All. I’ve had what you might call a cooking ‘funk’. Cookbooks have gone unopened and chillies have gone un-bought. A serious case of funkery if ever there was one (it’s my blog and I’ll make words up if I want to). Could it be the heat? The fact that while The Boyfriends back for three weeks only I haven’t wanted to spend all my free time in the kitchen when instead we could watch New Girl over and over? Have I finally let my laziness get the better of me? Maybe, all I know is I went to bed the other night whining that I was in a cooking funk and upon hearing my dulcet, whining tones The Boyfriend eloquently came back with “well just do some bloody cooking then”. Not just a hat rack my friends, he was absolutely right. All that time I’d spent bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t up for cooking I could have spent cooking and getting back into the habit. No more oven pizzas/stir in sauces/fish fingers for us two, oh no. I’m back on it, ready to try the new and forgo the same old same old. This eureka moment has timed itself perfectly as his next work trip which was starting this Sunday has now been put back a month, so my favourite guinea pig has unwittingly walked himself right into a month free from chilli con carne and roast pork. Sorry dear.

So I started as I meant to go on, by cooking a breakfast that I knew he’d grumble at. While I agree with him that nothing is better on a Sunday morning than a bacon sandwich, I don’t agree that I should eat that every Sunday morning. Mix things up, and have an emergency packet of bacon in the fridge just in case. After falling in love with huevos rancheros earlier on in the year in Liverpool, I knew the time would come that I’d want to make it myself and try it out on The Boyfriend. Step forward Gizzi Erskine and the Weekend Feast section of her most recent cookbook. Huevos rancheros is a traditional Mexican breakfast which combines corn tortillas, tomato sauce, re-fried beans and fries eggs. And cheese, coriander and sour cream. You’re right, it doesn’t sound like breakfast, or at least it doesn’t sound like a breakfast a Brit would have. If every country had a full English as their traditional breakfast then travel would get very boring, very quickly.

Anyway, while cooking this I was fully prepared for The Boyfriend to soon be putting the grill on for that emergency bacon sarnie. Looking at the re-fried beans heating up in their gloop (refried beans are not pretty), I knew just what his reaction would be on seeing these on his plate. Hence why I sandwiched the beans in between the two corn tortillas in the hope he would tuck in with gusto while blissfully ignorant of the legumes hidden under their corn blankets. This is the more exotic version of hiding cauliflower under a river of cheddar sauce for a fussy five year old. Unfortunately, like I said earlier, his head is not just a hat rack so as soon as I handed him his plate he peered between the tortillas to find the stowaway beans. Busted. On the flip side, he’s of the opinion that you should always try something before announcing you don’t like it, which is how we discovered the one pastry item he loves (empanadas, which again he frowned upon before trying and now loves) and that he really can’t stand celeriac. To my amazement, he actually enjoyed the Mexican eggs and ate the whole plate of food, refried beans and all. In his concise summary (at which he is very good at) he stated that “they were good but it’s not a breakfast”. Fair do’s, next Sunday we’ll have a good, old fashioned bacon sarnie where no dispute is needed over its suitability for breakfast.

In summary, just because something doesn’t look to your liking or a meal contains an ingredient you’re unsure of doesn’t mean you should completely write it off. I know and love plenty of people who limit the types of food they eat and don’t really experiment with meals, and that’s fair enough, you can only do what’s right for you and if you’re happy with what you’re eating that’s fine also, it doesn’t affect me one bit. However, I just feel that by doing this people are missing out on so much. If you try it and then find you don’t like it, I respect that, but to announce you don’t like something before you’ve even tried it? What are you basing that on? There is literally a whole world of food out there just waiting to be eaten. Open your mind, but more importantly, open your mouth.

 
 

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Meat Free Monday

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.

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Posted by on June 30, 2013 in American, Books, Cooking, Food, Mexican

 

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