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After visiting the Wahaca restaurant and tasting the delicious Mexican food you can imagine how excited I was when I saw this cook book on sale for only £6.99 at my local "The Works" store!
The book starts with a variety of salsas, nibbles and side dishes - her recipe for fresh tomato salsa has become a staple in my house, it's so fresh and I love the addition of lime, but there are more unusual salsas to try as well like Sweetcorn and Blackbean if you are wanting to try something a little different.
The book then takes you though a selection of more substantial meals such as slow cooked meats, tortilla wraps and even an escebeche recipe- I don't want to say "main meals" because the whole style of the book is street food, you'd hardly get a three course meal from street vendors would you? You'd more likely pick a few different things that take your fancy.
My favourite recipe in her book has to be the recipe for tacos stuffed with onion squash and chorizo - it's something I really hadn't thought of putting together in a taco and it's the first taco recipe I've loved that didn't involve cheese!
The only thing I would say about this book though is that I don't believe it has the greatest dessert selection - so if you want the book for that then you've got the wrong book, there's a few interesting recipes in it like the recipe for Mexican flan with tequila syrup and another for chilli chocolate truffles but on the whole the dessert recipes are a bit limited.
I absolutely adore Mexican food and having lived in Southern California for a number of years I definitely got to try some of the best Mexican food I had ever had. Unfortunately, Mexican food in the United Kingdom has never really lived up to that standard for me, the odd Chiquito restaurant that you would find in some towns was ok but pretty processed Mexican food that just seemed to consist of rice and beans and came "fresh" straight out of the microwave!
That was until MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers opened her Meixcan restaurant, Wahaca. It's funny because the Mexican restaurant I go to in Arizona, USA is a called Oaxaca (which is the proper way to write Wahaca) and so the name caught my attention first and then when we actually went and sampled the food, wow, amazing. There are a few restaurants around London now and we go to the one in Covent Garden and the food is fresh, tasty, full of flavour, amazing and I can't compliment it enough.
In conjunction with the restaurant and a televisions show that she has, Thomasina has released a cookbook, Mexican Food Made Simple. I think Mexican food can be quite simple to make but if you really want to get the flavours in there you do need to follow the tips in this book and the amazing recipes.
If you only ever make one item from this cookbook I definitely recommend the Fresh Tomato Salsa from page 26. If you have ever been to her restaurant you will know that the chips and sals before your mains are so moorish and absolutely delicious and one serving is never enough. Our favourite thing to do is get a couple of servings of this at the bar whilst we are waiting for our table (as there is always a wait because this restaurant is so popular) and to be able to make this dish at home is amazing. The sals is so easy to whip up and you can have it as a nice appetiser before your dinner. It recommends leaving to marinate for 20 minutes but I would give it as much time as you can, I like to leave it a couple of hours as then the flavour just explodes on your tongue! There are quite a few other salsa recipes in this chapter too such as sweetcorn and black bean salsa and some hot salsa recipes and they all include only a few ingredients that are so easy to prepare and put together.
What I like about this cookbook is that Thomasina's love of Mexico and Mexican food definitely comes through in her writing and her recipes. At the front of the book she explains all about the basics of Mexican food and the important and frequent ingredients all the recipes have.
The list of chapters are as follows:
1. Salsas, sauces and relishes
2. Nibbles and side dishes
5. Street food
6. Cheesy things
7. Slow-cooked main courses
8. From the grill
9. Soul food
By far my favourite chapter is the street food section. This includes lots of mini tacos with lots of different ingredients that you can just pick up and eat with one hand and keep eating until you have your fill. There is a recipe to make your own tortillas but even though it seems quite easy that is one step too far for me at the moment and I cheat and buy shop bought ones but the ingredients in her tacos are easy to put together and very flavourful.
Those of you who are familiar with her restaurant will be pleased to know that her Churros y Chocolate recipe (Mexican Doughnuts) are included and a bit fiddly to make but they do turn out really nicely. There is also a nice section at the back with different margarita recipes because great Mexican food is always wonderful washed down with a nice fruity margarita!!
Mexican Food Made Simple is the latest recipe book by Thomasina Miers who won the first series of Masterchef Goes Large a few years back.
Since that win Thomasina has formed the Wahaca chain of Mexican street food restaurants so it is perhaps not surprising that she decided to base a cookbook on this.
There are surprisingly few Mexican cookbooks on the market so I was thrilled when I found out this was coming out and snapped it up straight away.
The book is hardback. The pages have a sort of matt finish so may be a bit absorbent when it comes to splashes and spill. I have to be honest and say that the spine is not the most flexible and I have found that I have had to put it on a cookbook stand to cook from rather than lay it flat.
The introduction recalls Miers own travels in mexico and love for Mexican food and how British food and eating habits have a lot in common.
Folliwng this is a section entitled the basics which initially talks through a Mexican food day and the traditional style dishes that go with this. This then moves on to how to get the closest to authentic ingredients in the UK if the real deal is not available.
Next she discusses the core ingredients in detail giving tips on varieties that should be used and how they should be prepared eg chillies, beans, rice, tortilla wraps, meat, cheeses and creams.
Then we move onto the recipes. Each section has an introduction which sets out some key definitions. Each recipe has an accompanying photograph and details how long they will take to cook. Some recipes have a note at the bottom which suggest possible variations to the method or additional information about ingredients when needed.
The first chapter is called salsas, sauces and relishes. First of all she specifies the definition of relishes and sauces. Next there is a two page spread which shows photographs of different types of chillies, including their heat rating and a brief description of their individual qualities. Recipes include fresh tomato salsa, sweetcorn and black bean salsa, raost chilli salsa, chopped chilli relish, chipotle ketchup, .
Chapter 2 is entitled nibbles and side dishes. The introduction details the different herbs which will be used in this section with accompanying photographs. Recipes include a classic guacamole, pork scratching (!), a really fantastic spicy nuts recipe, smoky, grilled corn cob, cheese and chilli bites, crudités, refried beans, and red rice and green rice (accompaniments which are both really tasty and versatile.)
Chapter 3 is called soups and includes chilled avocado soup, corn and green chilli soup, a really great sweet and spicy squash and chickpea soup, tortilla soup, herby mushroom soup,
Next up are salads. It starts with dressings which include Carribean chilli-citrus dressing, sesame and balsamic dressing. Recipes include citrusy chickpea salad, chicken and avocado salad, smoky asparagus, hot chorizo salad with butternut squash and baby tomatoes.
Chapter 5 is entitled street food and is mainly focussed around tacos. There is even a section on how to fill and eat a taco and fold burritos! It starts with a detailed recipe with accompany photographs on how to make tortillas from scratch. There is even a section halfway through Recipes include spring tacos with mushrooms, summer tacos with courgette and corn, a great tortilla stips recipe, steak burritos.
Chapter 6 is called 'cheesy things'. It begins with a list of cheese that can be used in these recipes. These surprisingly include ricotto, Lancashire, pecorina and feta. Recipes include herby ricotta dip, queso fundido (essentially Mexican -Welsh rarebit), my favourite recipe in the whole book - chorizo, potato and thyme quesadillas, ham and cheese empanadas, smoky stuffed peppers.
Chapter 7 is entitled slow-cooked main courses. This starts with a masterclass on how to poach a chicken and braise meat Mexican-style. Recipes include chicken and chorizo in an almond mole, meatballs de Mehico, chile con carne, tamarind and chilli-infused belly of pork, one-pot bacon, beans and pumpkin.
Chapter 8 is called 'from the grill' and is centred around fast cooking. Recipes include rib-eye steak with chilli mushrooms, Mexican club sandwich, marinated chicken, chilli prawns,
Chapter 9 is soul food, the idea being behind it that it is unpretentious home cooking. Recipes include a fantastic Mexican scrambled eggs with chorizo, chicken and corn humble pie, real Mexican nachos, griddlesd corn cakes, spinach and ricotta enchiladas.
Chapter 10 features puddings. Recipes include chilli chocolate truffles, Mexican chocolate sorbet, vanilla cheesecake with pineapple caramel, mango and strawberry salad, chilled Mexican rice pudding, Mexican sponge cake with strawberry jam, and the fantastic classic - churros!
The final chapter is on drinks - both virgin and alcoholic - mango, papaya and lime sunshine juice, how to make the perfect margarita, sangrita, Mexican hot chocolate.
Following this Miers gives a really good suppliers list to assist with sourcing incredients in the UK that will assist with the recipes.
This is a book I really enjoy using. I always find it really surprising that there is not a bigger movement towards Mexican food in the Uk outside of the Old El Paso range because a lot of the ingredients are so easily accessible and it is not that different from British cuisine in the use of ingredients like chocolate and cheese.
There is a really good mix of recipes here which I think most people would find accessible ie amongst the more complex ones in the slow-cooking section you have the basics like tortilla chips. The inclusion of accompaniments is a really good idea because it means you can dip into the cooking and use them alongside non-Mexican dishes if you want to do something different without going full throttle into the Mexican theme.
The photography is really great, and in the masterclass sections really helps with some of the more fiddly techniques. It is colourful and really attractive and fresh looking. The food in essence looks exciting as well as appetising which is quite an interesting approach to take.
I like the fact that she has really kept to the street food spirit and not gone haute cuisine or overly pretentious. These are real meals that Miers presents to us, real hearty recipes which are satisfying and flavoursome. At the same time there is a lot of encouragement from the writer to get involved with the different techniques and flavours.
The tips on doing tortilla chips and particularly tortilla wraps from scratch are really good. They do take a bit of practice, so the first few times you do it I would recommend that you have some shop-bought ones in the cupboard as a contingency, however once you've mastered them you should find that they save you quite a bit of money and then of course there is the 'ooooh' factor that you get from serving your guests with home-made wraps.
Miers is a really good food writer, which is perhaps unsurprising as that is how she made her living prior to winning Masterchef. Her passion and enthusiasm really comes through and is infectious. She acknowledges the fact that she is encouraging the use of new flavours and techniques and is not slack about going into detail about how these can be used to greatest effect.
In conclusion, for a long awaited Mexican cookbook I am really impressed with this - it contains everything from beginners to more advanced yet is still something that you can enjoy dipping in and out of. If you are bored of Old El Paso kits and want to get your teeth in something more homemade then I think that you could do a lot worse than to get hold of this book!