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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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Texan Pulled Pork Tacos

You don’t need to have been to the Longhorn state of Texas to know that Texans like it big, they like it meaty and above all they like it spicy. I am of course talking about their food. Tex Mex is big business over here in chilly Blighty, starting off in the 70’s with the hugely popular chilli con carne and now taking over our ‘world food’ aisle in the supermarkets. You can’t move in Tesco for people with a fajita kit, some guacamole or taco shells and most people I know now rely on fajitas for a speedy weeknight meal. We’ve taken it to our hearts, and who can blame us for wanting a bit of Texan warmth in our kitchens when the clouds are grey and the rain eternal. But with ease and familiarity comes boredom. Tex Mex will surely go the way of spaghetti bolognese, a tasty and satisfying dinner but nothing to get excited about and eaten with little fuss or fireworks. Something needed doing, and gosh darn it, I’ve done it, and got myself all excited over Tex Mex again. Having bought a book stuffed full of delicious looking Texan food and being unable to cook practically anything in it, I desperately turned to Google in the hope I would find something to sate my increasing appetite for authentic Tex Mex. What I found may well be the tastiest recipe on the Internet and easily the nicest recipe I’ve ever made using my slow cooker. Texan BBQ pulled pork. It’s unbelievably simple to make, all it requires of the cook is to chuck a few ingredients in the slow cooker and then leave all day so that the pork falls to pieces at the mere mention of a fork into the smoky BBQ sauce. It really is very good. The author of the recipe suggests stuffing the pulled pork into hamburger buns,which I’m sure is delicious but craving some Tex Mex I couldn’t think of a better way to show off the pork than with taco shells with all the trimmings. It’s a feast, for sure, but living alone for a few weeks doesn’t mean I have to resign myself to ready meals or jacket potatoes. My options are limited as it is with no oven, and the horrific stereotype of sad ‘Bridget Jones’ women eating their lonely ready meal for one really grinds my gears (as the Texans would say). Eating dinner alone needn’t be a dreaded event, and there are times when I really look forward to being alone at the end of a busy day or week and just taking time for myself to eat what I want and watch what I want on the telly. I don’t like being apart from The Boyfriend for so long and there have been some pretty tough times, but there have equally been plenty of amazing times with friends, family and just myself. Without the dark we can’t truly appreciate the light, and realising you can still have a happy, fulfilling time while missing someone like crazy is eye opening and makes you more independent and comfortable in your own company. In short, make the best of a tough situation and don’t neglect yourself.
With the pulled pork and tacos I also had sour cream, cheddar, salsa and homemade guacamole, possibly the only recipe from my new cookbook that I could actually make in my kitchen. Again, it’s very easy and just involves mashing up an avocado with some of my favourite ever ingredients, lime juice, coriander, garlic and chilli. How can you go wrong with a dish when its got those babies in it? The Homesick Texan, by Lisa Fain is all about a Texan who moves to New York and struggles to find the authentic foods she grew up on and loved. To overcome this she took to perfecting the recipes herself and started a blog which was so successful that this book now graces my shelves. I find it hard to believe anyone would struggle finding Tex Mex in the most restaurant crazy city in the world, but what do I know, I’ve never lived there?

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how outstandingly good the pulled pork tacos were, the photo tells you everything you really need to know, but I’ll say it anyway: they were epic. The strong BBQ flavour of the pork stands up really well to the salsa and guacamole, while the sour cream cools the mouth and prevents the BBQ from being sickly sweet. Add in the crunch from the tacos and you’ve got a perfect meal to end the weekend with. I highly recommend you make this. Be prepared though for messy fingers and cheeks covered in salsa and sauce, this ain’t first date food! I’m absolutely making this for The Boyfriend when he comes back, after nearly 10 years together we can handle seeing each others hands and face covered in food. If you make this meal and find you don’t like it, then I don’t think we could ever be friends. You can find the recipe here, http://allrecipes.com/recipe/slow-cooker-texas-pulled-pork/ and I urge you to try it to combat the familiarity of fajitas and nachos. Do it for the Tex Mex reputation!

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Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Books, Cooking, Food

 

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