Thursday, 28 October 2010

Roasting Poblano Peppers

I've been considering adding some photos, but generally I hate the "here's-something-I-made-with-5-types-of-bacon-and 6-types-of-cheese-and-here-are-40-photos-of-me-making-it-do-you-like-it reddit-do-yo-do-you-do-you" type food blogs. Neither do I want to degenerate into the type of person who's first act is to photograph every plate that is put in from of them.

So. Occasionally you'll get a photo. As long as it's pretty.

While we are on the subject, the decision not to have ingredient lists followed by a method of preparation is a deliberate choice. I hate reading recipes like that. The body of the recipe normally omits the quantities so you end up going back and forth from ingredients list to the body of the recipe. And my giving an ingredients list, would just give an impression of a level of precision that I really, really don't work to.

If it works for Elizabeth David it'll do for me!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

And yet more book recommending....

There are a couple of other cookbooks I've been leafing through. Both are in Spanish and I'm not sure how available both are. The first is listed by a couple of Amazon marketplace sellers (who are clearly taking the piss with the prices! $112 for new and $156 for second hand?).

The title translates to "Alchemy and Atmospheres of Flavours".

As you can guess from the title it's not an everyday kind of book. The recipes are generally quite involved, but the book is beautifully photographed. If you have a pre-existing prejudice against Mexican cuisine, which I, coming from a French = cooking background, definitely did (the chef who I first worked with described Mexican food as dog food plus ketchup!) - this book will cure you. It is a insight in to the possibilities of Mexican cuisine; the subtlety, variety and most unexpectedly the elegance.

The second book, El Sabor De México is a much simpler. Much more of an everyday book.

There appers to be a couple of different books with this title. The author of this one Marlena Spieler, of whom I have never heard, seems to be a very prolific author with books covering various cuisines in various languages. I wonder would the name simply be a convention used by the publisher?

Whether this is actually a recommendation for the book or not.....

The book is in the style of those of Tasmin Day-Lewis, it has large photos on the facing pages with relatively simple recipes clearly and briefly described.

Some More Book Recommending.....

I had ordered this (available here and here) a few months ago from Amazon.

It had been quite some time since Amazon emailed to say that the order had shipped. The post here is slow at the best of times, and stuff does have a habit of going missing, so when nothing arrived I was resigned to the fact that the book had been stolen/mislaid/lost and I would have to reorder.

Before I placed the order I emailed Amazon customer service just in the hope that there had been a screw up on their part and that the book hadn't actually shipped.

Within 20 minutes of emailing I got the following reply:


I'm sorry your shipment was lost in transit. I've placed a new order that's listed below. We'll ship it to the same address as soon as possible.

Order Number: 102-0169797-1167455
Estimated Delivery Date: September 29 - September 30

To ensure your replacement order isn't held up by delays in customs, I created the replacement order with charges and refunded your original order. The charge for this order is $39.46, and the refund is in the same amount. Both the charge and refund will be applied to the credit card used on the original order; the refund will appear in the next 3-5 business days.

I’ve also upgraded the shipping method to Expedited International Shipping and refunded the amount of that upgrade on the replacement order.

Should you eventually receive the original package, you're welcome to keep, donate, or dispose of it--whichever option is most appropriate and convenient for you.

We hope to see you again soon.

Best regards,

Vishnu M.
Pretty impressive customer service!

The replacement arrived a couple of days ago. It's not strictly Mexican, it covers Native American Latin American food and I haven't done much more than dip into it at this point, however it is very pretty and is interesting thus far.

Sunday, 10 October 2010


There are a couple of versions of this, primarily, breakfast dish, of fried wedges of tortilla fried in oil then smothered in sauce and heated until the tortilla has started to soften. Rick Bayliss describes it as a "tortilla casserole" which I guess is a good a translation as any.

The two most common variations use either tomato salsa or else a salsa verde, however I have also heard of versions which use a mole or a white sauce.

Preparation is quick and straightforward. Stale tortillas are cut into wedges or torn into chunks and fried in oil. It doesn't take a huge quantity of oil, enough to cover the bottom of a large pot to a depth of about 1/2cm is plenty. The tortilla can be fried in batches. It is important to get them golden brown so that they hold together in the sauce. Some of them, will of course turn to much, however it's nice to have some chewier parts in the finished dish.

I used a simple tomato salsa made from a couple of grilled plum tomatoes blended with onion, oregano and two serrano chiles and seasoned. I cooked this out for a few minutes before using it and I didn't add garlic as I didn't particularly fancy garlic in a breakfast dish, though if you were serving the dish as a lunch you could add the garlic and some chicken perhaps.

 To assemble the dish I removed the oil that remained after frying the tortilla from the pan, I poured less than half of the salsa into the pan, added the fried tortilla (which had been draining on some paper towels) and poured the remaining salsa over the top. I covered the pan and let everything heat through.

I served with queso fresco crumbled over the top, which seemed like enough elaboration for me, though you often see recipes that specify adding a melting cheese like oaxaca or adding crema (something like creme fraiche) to the dish.

It's an interesting dish. It makes for a more substantial breakfast then I would normally be inclined to eat, to my mind it's more suitable for a weekend than for everyday. The consistency of the tortilla, softening into the salsa is unusual, but not unpleasant and there are enough chewy parts left on the tortilla to give some contrast.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Rajas con Queso

There are a couple of types of recipes for rajas. The most common is rajas in crema and you sometimes see recipes for rajas composed of different chiles presented as a kind of salad. This version is in a light tomato salsa/broth.

Rajas refers to strips of chile, generally the larger chiles like Poblano or Anaheim. I used poblano. The quantites here aren't very exact, I used 2 poblanos and a tennis ball sized onion, along with over a half cup of diced panela cheese. Just keep in mind that the final dish should have quite a lot of broth for something that is served as a side dish.

Roasting the peppers
The first job is to roast the chiles. To did this I simply lay the chiles on the gas ring and turn it until they are blackened all over. The job can be done just as well under a hot grill (or even on a charcoal grill, though it seems like unreasonable amount of hassle to me). Once the chiles are black all over they are placed into a zip lock bag or into a covered bowl to steam and to cool enough to allow them to be handled. When they are cool enough to handle simply rub off the blackened skin, remove the stem seeds and membranes and cut the chile into slices slightly wider than 1/2cm.

There is nothing difficult in this and nothing that will be unfamiliar to anyone who has roasted a sweet red pepper. The only real knack is having the patience and confidence to wait until the chile is blackened all over before removing it from the heat.

Unlike sweet peppers, poblanos in particular, can be oddly shaped and fold over on themselves. This can make roasting them awkward, so it's best to pick pepper that are as symmetrical as you can find.

While the peppers are steaming saute a onion cut into similar sized strips. Fry the onions until they are translucent and just starting to pick up some colour. At this point add the strips of poblano and toss both together.

The salsa
The salsa is made by blending a couple of cups of water with a plum tomato, a clove or two of garlic, some onion, a serrano chile and some oregano. Blend this to a smooth loose sauce and add to the poblano and onion. Season and allow everything to come to a simmer.

Queso Panela
The cheese I use in this dish is Queso Panela. This is a white rubbery unaged cheese. It doesn't melt easily, you often see ricotta mentioned as a substitute, however panela is firmer. It works well here as it can easily be cut into small neat dice which hold their shape well and don't melt into the broth.

The dish will need some time to cook out and to allow the raw garlic, onion and tomato in the sauce to cook through and mellow. 15 or 20 minutes at a low simmer is plenty, the dish reheats well and the flavours are better after some time to meld.

I had a supply of good chicken stock frozen in cubes in the freezer so I added a couple of those. They were an improvement but are not absolutely necessary.

The dish has a fair amount of heat from the serrano in the salsa (I don't remove the seeds from a serrano. I find that a serrano without the seeds, while not as hot, is quite boring and offers nothing except just heat, the grassy and fruity taste you get with the seeds included is much more interesting. It is better to use less and include the seeds than to use just the flesh. Alternatively you could take a step down the heat scale and use a jalapeno rather than a serrano.) There is a smokey taste from the poblano and sweetness from the onion.

It works well as a side dish and as an accompaniment to tacos.