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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Wahaca Mexican Masterclass

Wahaca Westfield Stratford 7721 R

Last week I was invited to a rather special Mexican cookery workshop, run by Tommi Miers and held at her Wahaca restaurant in Westfield Stratford City. We watched as Tommi effortlessly demonstrated three recipes from her new book, Mexican Food at Home, (whilst relating tales of her life in Mexico) all in less than 30 minutes while being filmed for the Westfield food website!

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Tommi demonstrating the recipes

Then it was our turn. Pairing up with other food bloggers (my partner being the lovely Sumayya of Pukka Paki) we made the same three dishes - also in under 30 minutes - but I must mention that no actual 'cooking' was involved! It just goes to show that simple fresh ingredients, when put together with herbs and spices can make fabulously easy dishes, perfect for family meals or entertaining.

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Finishing the sea bass ceviche

The first dish was a simple summery guacamole, similar to my own recipe and a staple on the Mexican table. This was followed by a stunning sea bass ceviche, fish 'cooked' in a citrus juice base, not something I would have normally dare to make, but will definitely give it a go after trying this recipe. Finally, a colourful cucumber, chilli, beetroot & ricotta salad - I'm not really a fan of beetroot but this beetroot was marinated in some amazing hibiscus syrup, which was so good I could have slurped down a good few tablespoons of the stuff. The ricotta was cool and slightly minty, which married perfectly with the marinated beetroot and crunchy cucumber.

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Our finished dishes

After we had made our dishes, we were treated to a Mexican feast of some of the summer dishes on the Wahaca menu, together with divine margaritas made with tamarind.

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 Dishes from the summer menu, including seasonal new potato taquitos and crispy fried chunks of sweet potato

wahaca book cover

 If you can't get to a Wahaca to try some Mexican food, you can always make your own! The recipes for the three dishes we made and the tamarind margarita can be found in the new Wahaca Mexican Food at Home book, which is on sale from the 21st June 2012. We were kindly given advance copies of the book to take home with us - it's packed with interesting, authentic recipes.

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Wahaca Mexican Cooking Demo 4149 R

And if that's not enough, there are 3 different spicy Wahaca sauces to try, created by Tommi to spice up your Mexican home cooking and are available in Sainsbury's and Asda. I tried the fiery habanero chile sauce and it is hot... Hot... HOT! (We just need to get them to sell some of that wonderful hibiscus syrup now!)

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When you go to Wahaca, you can pick up a seriously cool packet of seeds to grow your own serrano chillies!

Here's a litlle video of the night, which is credited to Westfield Stratford City Restaurants

Click here to see more food news & videos from the Stratford restaurants - including the Wahaca workshop video! 

Many thanks to Thomasina Miers, Wahaca and to Megan Hart for the invitation to attend, it was a brilliant evening!

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2012 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Red Hot Chilli Cookbook - Book Review

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Our serrano seedlings

If you thought you couldn't grow chillies here in the UK, think again. The world's most northerly chilli farm is in the wilds of Northumberland, where Dan May and his team grow around 60 varieties of chillies. The chillies vary in strength, colour and size, and are used to produce chilli sauces and products under the name Trees Can't Dance. Now, Dan May is sharing some of his fabulously fiery recipes in his first book The Red Hot Chilli Cookbook.

Inside Red Hot Chilli Cookbook 4015 R

The book starts off with a little history about the chilli pepper, health and dietary benefits and goes on to talk about identifying them and how to grow them. Here at Cherrapeno, we grow quite a few different varieties of chilli peppers for cooking and it's quite exciting to see them ripen in the warm summer months ready for picking. I am still using up our stock of dried Apache chillies while waiting for the seedlings to grow. At the back of the book is a small list of supplies and stockists of chilli outlets and farms - growing chillies from seed is easy!

There are chapters on 'soups & starters', 'nibbles & sharing plates', 'main dishes', 'side dishes', 'sauces, salsas & marinades', but my favourite chapter is 'sweet things & drinks'. How could you not want to try 'chilli pecan brownies or 'chilli jam ice cream'? I think I made the best recipe in the whole book, 'deliciously boozy truffles with ginger & chilli praline' - amazing brandy truffles covered in praline with just a hint of chilli, and then they are dipped in chocolate.... W O W ! ! ! (I've made them twice... just to be sure...)

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Deliciously boozy truffles with ginger & chilli praline

The photography in the book (by Peter Cassidy) is vibrant, colourful and radiates warmth, and the recipes are well laid out with the ingredients (in bold clear type) to the left of the recipe. I particularly liked the little box at the end of each recipe recommending which chillies you can use for the recipe, perfect for those who are just discovering the delights of cooking with chillies. If I had to have a have a niggle with the book, it would be to say that I would have liked to have seen a few photographs of the various types of chillies in the 'identifying chillies' chapter, but otherwise, a lovely book with plenty of interesting recipes.

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Praline ready to crush for the truffles

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Truffles ready for a chocolate bath 

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Barbecue shrimp marinated in chilli and soy

I also tried the following recipe which comes from the book and I have been given kind permission to reprint it in full.

Barbecue Shrimp Marinated in Chilli & Soy
By Dan May from The Red Hot Chilli Cookbook.

Here’s a great Asian marinade that is really quick and simple to make and just perfect for prawns. Marinating in a bag is also an excellent way to ensure everything gets an even coating of sauce. My favourite aïoli is the ideal accompaniment for the spicy prawns and juicy tomatoes.

500 g raw tiger prawns, peeled but tails intact
250 g cherry vine tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large green sweet pepper, deseeded and cut into 3-cm chunks
2 red Jalapeños, deseeded and cut into 1-cm pieces
watercress and toasted pita bread, to serve

1 garlic clove, crushed
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Fresh aïoli
2 large egg yolks
4 very fresh garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
150 ml good-quality light olive oil
freshly squeezed juice of 1⁄2 lemon
medium sealable plastic food bag
8 wooden skewers, soaked in water overnight
gas or charcoal barbecue

Serves 4

To make the marinade, mix together all the ingredients and blend to a smooth purée using a hand blender. If you don’t have a hand blender, grind to a paste using a pestle and mortar.
Put the prawns in the sealable food bag and pour in the marinade. Seal securely. Shake vigorously and when all the prawns/shrimp look well coated, refrigerate, still in the bag, for about 2 hours.

Put the tomatoes and half the olive oil in a small saucepan and gently warm for 5 minutes, or just long enough for the tomatoes to start to soften. Remove from the heat and let cool.

To make the fresh aioli, beat the eggs yolks in a large bowl with a balloon whisk. Add the garlic and mustard and beat through. While beating the mixture, slowly add the olive oil in a thin, steady stream. When all the oil has been added, the aïoli should have a smooth, velvety appearance. Add the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and gently stir through. Refrigerate until needed.

Light your barbecue. Always do this in plenty of time to have built up a good bed of hot ashes or charcoal that have burnt down to a white glow with no visible flames. This normally takes about 45 minutes from lighting.

Take the refrigerated prawns out of the bag and place on a plate, reserving any remaining marinade. Thread the marinated prawns, tomatoes, sweet pepper and Jalapeños onto the skewers in a repeating sequence and continue until all 8 skewers are filled. Make sure you allow for enough of each ingredient on each skewer, and leave enough space at the ends of the skewers to handle when on the barbecue.

In a small bowl, loosen the reserved marinade with 1–2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil. Using a pastry brush, liberally coat the skewers with the marinade just before placing on the barbecue.

Cook for a couple of minutes on each side until the prawns/shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. Serve with watercress, toasted pita bread and a good dollop of fresh aïoli.

My Tip: Be sure to soak the wooden skewers thoroughly, preferably overnight, before making up the skewers for the barbecue. This will prevent them from catching fire while you are cooking!

Recommended Chillies: For the skewers – Jalapeño, Cherry Bomb. For the marinade – Thai-style hot red chilli or red Bird’s Eye.

Red Hot Chilli Cookbook cover

This book can be bought directly from Ryland Peters & Small, or from Amazon and all good book shops.

The Red Hot Chilli Cookbook
£16.99 / Hardback, 160 pages
Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small
March 2012
ISBN: 978 84975 2220

With thanks to Sarah at Ryland Peters & Small

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2012 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.