This recipe was born pretty much out of sheer greediness and a tiny bit of research. I'm quite partial to a good chocolate torte and while devising a vegetarian menu for one of my Supper Clubs at Picado, I experienced a deep craving for a chocolate torte with a Mexican twist. So I put my thinking cap on and within a couple of hours, the bones of this recipe where pretty much there.
First thing I decided to do was to incorporate chilli to the torte as it goes really well with chocolate. Now, contrary to all those crazy chilli-chocolate recipes out there, I do not believe fiery hot Bird's Eye chilli flakes are the best way to go. Bird's Eye chilies contain a lot of heat, but in my opinion, are very one-dimensional in taste. I prefer something fruitier, deeper in flavour and much more mellow... Mexican dried Mulato or Ancho chilies are perfect for the job as they're both sweet with very tame heat and with deep fruity tones that compliment dark chocolate to a T! I had dried Ancho Chillis handy and my favourite Mole uses them too, so I settled for them.
Once I settled on the chilli, I turned my head to the source of moisture in the torte. If you read the blog regularly, you know I'm a big fan of cooking with both Tequila and Mezcal, so, I decided to go for a dash of Mexican Tequila to booze it all up a bit and add moisture to the torte. I know from experience that chocolate tortes can be quite rich and sweet, so to contrarest the sweetness I served the torte with some fresh berries and some cream; you can use raspberries or strawberries. For this recipe, I whipped some double cream with a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar and another dash of Tequila for good measure!
The result was truly spectacular and with Valentine's Day fast approaching, this is really a great dessert for a romantic meal for two! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
The humble and yet gorgeous potato, Ireland's national vegetable, is without a doubt my favourite root vegetable. Mexicans have had a love affair with potatoes for a couple of centuries and potatoes feature in many Mexican dishes. So when the people behind the campaign Potatoes: More than a Bit on the Side asked me a few weeks back to take part on the campaign I was more than happy to come on board.
As many of you know, I adore potatoes; they're not only healthy and nutritious, but also delicious and super versatile. Potatoes are naturally fat-free, low in sugar, high in fibre and potassium and amazingly quick to cook. Like Susan Jane White so perfectly puts it in her foreword to Lucy Madden's wonderful book The Potato Year, 300 Classic Recipes -isn't it great to find a food you love that loves you back?-
So I threw myself to the task with gusto. There are so many great Mexican dishes that showcase potatoes at their best, I particularly love papas con chorizo or my mother's famous pickled potatoes but being January and with all that blues after the Christmas excesses, I wanted something delicious, fast and low in fat that would suit my current clean eating buzz. When I think of potatoes, I think of street tacos immediately. No self-respecting taco stand in Mexico would ignore the deliciousness that potatoes bring to a warm corn tortilla. They're a match made in heaven. So I set to devise a healthy taco recipe that would use my favourite potatoes: the Irish Rooster.
These tacos are truly tasty and quite healthy. They're vegetarian friendly and if you want to make them vegan, just take out the dairy from it. If you have good tolerance for heat, make them a little spicier by adding 2 rather than 1 chipotle chili in adobo. Remember to always start by adding a little bit of chili at a time. You can always add more if you think it's not spicy enough, but you can never go back if you add to much chili from the beginning! My advice is, taste first, add more later!
Also, if you want to go the whole authentic hogs, make some simple red salsa from my recipe here and top your tacos with it. It makes such a difference to make a salsa from scratch instead of using one from a bottle and it will only take you about 15 minutes to make! I hope you enjoy these amazing tacos as much as we did!
To learn more about this awesome campaign and to help us highlight potatoes as the original superfood, go to Potatoes: More than a Bit on the Side for ROI or Potatoes: More than a Bit on the Side for the UK, where you'll find gorgeous recipes, tips and loads of information about potatoes. Also follow the hashtags #TastyPotatoes and #morethanabitontheside on twitter and instagram, some great stuff there!
Today I felt like going back to the keyboard and write something. Ever since the sudden death of my brother, I've been feeling pretty down and uncharacteristically uninspired. Normally, my head is buzzing with ideas, yet for the last couple of months, it's been all slow and fuzzy... I've been doing just the bear minimum and coping the best way I can. A few weeks ago, I went back to the kitchen and forced myself to cook again. Cooking makes me happy and I was desperate for some joy.
I believe things happen for a reason and getting back into the kitchen coincided with an all-too-short-but-meaningful recipe testing internship our friend Emma Clarke, aka @grumbletum on twitter and instagram, did with me. I love Emma's wackiness and her no-nonsense approach. So Wednesdays were set aside to spend them in the shop with Emma, cooking and testing recipes. We always eat what we cooked, which made the day even better.
One of the first recipes we worked on was this Salsa Tatemada or charred salsa and I thought I'll share it here with you. Lovely Emma is now finished her spell with me and she's off to work in one of my favourite shops on the planet (Sheridan's Cheese Mongers), so keep an eye for the gorgeously chatty blond in there. You'll know is Emma when you talk to her, there's something about her witty ways that sets her apart from the crowd.
This a very classic charred salsa, commonly made in most homes in Mexico, where the majority of the population have gas stoves (electricity is quite expensive), so if you have an open flame stove, this salsa will be even better made on it by sticking the ingredients in a skewer and gently roast them on the open flame. My recipe here, requires to char them in a pan because I have to do with what I have, which is an electric hob.
Make sure you use a cast iron pan or skillet, as most other pans will burn badly. If you can't find fresh jalapenos, use any fresh chili you can find. We cannot be choosy with fresh ingredients like chilies in Ireland unfortunately, but we are getting better at sourcing the good stuff. Anyhow, this salsa keeps well in the fridge for about a week in a covered container. I hope you enjoy it as much as Emma and I did!
I know a lot about stress and coping and making the best of what hand is dealt to you.. I learned it at a very young age. When I was seven years old, I went through a very traumatic situation that miraculously only scared me in small ways. I don't talk about it and very few people beside my own family know it... and I'm fine with that. I don't want to remember it, I was immensely lucky and I survived it.
Six years ago, I went through a different and very personal situation, when once again, I had to dig deep and cope. I came out of it with a deep sadness but knowing how strong and resilient I could be. A couple of years later, I lost my dearest of friends to suicide. The pain of his loss was excruciating; I grieved and I missed him and I learned a lot about myself in the process. When I came the other side, I made changes in my life and, selfishly and stupidly, I thought that was it, I thought I had gotten my fair share of trauma...
Until the phone rang at 2:30 am a few days ago and I heard the crying voice of my sister letting me know that my brother Pepillo had passed away. The shock of that phone call will never wear off. My mother's cries in the background, the urging question I had to ask... was it a violent death?... these days Mexico fights a cruel drug war and sadly, violent robberies and kidnappings are at the order of the day. I breathed a sigh of relief when she said it was not. It took a few hours to find out that my barely 53 year old brother, the oldest and only boy in the family, had died of a massive heart attack. Pepillo never smoked, never drank, went to bed early and worked hard, he was never sick, had rarely been in hospital and was, generally speaking, a very healthy man.
The last two weeks have been hell. Nothing, and I stress this again, NOTHING, prepared me for that call. The shock, the pain, the helplessness, the guilt of not being there, the waves of sadness and anger and despite it all, having to function with some sort of normality, grieving at a distance is so tough. Being strong for those in the family who are crumbling under the pain. I hadn't seen my brother in four years, that's the last time I was home. The reasons might sound familiar to those of you who live far from your loved ones: too busy, can't leave work, too expensive, not enough time, somebody else is visiting and all holidays went to that. All valid and all useless when it came to the fact that I did not have a chance to hug my brother one last time while he was alive. That kills me... it eats away at my soul.
I wasn't sure I wanted to write this. I wasn't sure what to say, or how to say it. Where's the lesson to be learned? What's the moral of this story? Ask people to get heart checks regularly? Tell your family you love them every day as you don't know when you'll see them for the last time? All of these things sound so hopelessly corny! And then I realised that there is no need for a moral or a lesson, this is all just coping, venting, sharing the load, it's the way I chose to cope with grief... I will miss my brother, I will be sad for a long time, but I'll slowly come through to the other side with a hole in my heart but knowing he led a good and fulfilled life and he died being loved by many. May he rest in peace.
I don't know about you, but I have A LOT of cookbooks and food related books. I seem to be completely unable to resist them. Naturally, I have a soft spot for Mexican inspired ones. Sadly, good, authentic Mexican cooking books in English are hard to find. A lot of Tex-Mex inspired ones, but very little to excite me. So when I came across this little book called Paletas by Fany Gerson, about three or four years ago, I got very excited. At the time, I was a bit obssesed with ice-cream making, so naturaly, ice-pops came into my radar too. Mexicans eat a lot of icy treats, which is understandable when temperatures soar to 45 Celsius during the summer months. We like cold things, in fact, we love them!
So when my lovely postman arrived with Paletas, I was a very happy Mexican. Ever since, I've used this book many, many times. It's full of delicious summer treats, which are perfect to use some of the fruit and berries I grow in my back garden. The book has recipes for paletas (ice-pops), raspados ( shaved ice) and aguas frescas (fruit juice and iced tea drinks). The recipes are easy to follow and quite simply delicious. It is the perfect summer read.
In my many experimentations throughout the years, I've had pretty bad luck with ice-pop molds, I always end up with broken ice-pops or lose sticks! Last week, I treated myself to a set of Zoku Fish Pop Molds and it so happens that a friend gifted me some more traditional molds too, so it was the perfect time to try the book's recipe for Paletas de Donaji, which is an orange and mezcal ice-pop inspired by a cocktail from Oaxaca made with orange juice and mezcal. I only tweaked the recipe a tiny bit, as I wanted to try and use chilli and lime powder rather than salt and chilli powder as it is suggested in the book.
To make sure I didn't end up with broken pops, I froze them overnight; sadly, my Zoku fish pop molds only partially delivered. Two pops broke while taking them out, yet the ones that did come out clean looked quite cute. Funny enough, I had better luck with the traditional molds, which yielded pretty looking pops. Flavourwise, the results were pretty spectacular, this tangy, vibrant orange pop has a lovely kick from the mezcal and the addition of chili and lime powder worked a treat! Totally recommend them. The book is so worth having and you'll get tons out of it. Great buy.