Raspberry & Mexican Vanilla Tequila Liqueur

Monday, 31 August 2020

As August comes to a close and autumn descended on us all like a ton of bricks (I don't know you, but I had the heat on since Friday!) I came to the realisation that 2020 will be a write off in so many ways: environmental disasters of apocalyptic proportions, financial stress on the business side of things, health worries, mental strain, the societal descent into anarchy, the polarisation of masses, the end of democracies as we knew them, the loss of so many precious lives... it is all too much some days... but rather than getting bogged down on the horrid details, I've decided to officially declared 2020 void and start preparing for the celebrations I'll have kissing this bastard of a year good bye from the comfort of my own home with the other half and the nephew who lives with us.

I've recently become obsessed by infusing things: sugars, salts, ice-cream custards and of course, spirits, particularly Tequila & Mezcal. In April, our friends, Catherine & Fionnula gifted us a bag of freshly foraged elderflowers and I came running back home and made a litre of Elderflower Tequila Liqueur... It's just about ready now and I'm telling you, it's da bomb! - This got me thinking what else I could be doing with my blanco tequilas, which I often get gifts of and I don't drink, as I much prefer anejos or reposados, which are aged properly and have smoother taste. A batch of fresh raspberries was gotten and off I went into a world of joy and anticipation making this gorgeous Raspberry and Mexican Vanilla Tequila Liqueur. It takes no time and very little preparation to make it, but it must age in a dark, cool place for at least two months, but it's much better if you age it for three or four. 

It's a perfect homemade gift for a special friend, it keeps for zonkers, there is no waste as when the liqueur is ready, you strain the fruit and the vanilla pod can be both used in other stuff, like a boozy raspberry jam, or a raspberry coulli, you can freeze the boozy berries and make an adult sorbet for a fancy occasion and the vanilla pod is perfectly usable as it is preserved in alcohol.

Since the liqueur is already sweeten, it's great to make instant cocktails: a good splash of this on a glass, top with some good quality tonic water, like , which is not only delicious but also Irish, and a few ice cubes and off you go! It is also great to add over ice-cream, or to flavour home-made ice-cream, or to make sorbets... the downside, you must be patient and allow it to age and matured well before you drink it, but hey, it's something to look forward to in this awful, awful times!

Finally, the corona virus is real, please don't be using this recipe to host a house party, it's bollox of the highest order and plain irresponsible. Also, don't be an ass and wear a mask, you might be ok if you catch it, but others aren't as lucky as you. Some of us have underlined conditions and won't do well if we catch it. Stay home, take personal responsibility and save the world while watching Netflix and sipping on homemade cocktail, it is the simplest of things to do.

Tamarind & De Arbol Pork Roast

Saturday, 20 June 2020

This recipe combines two of my favourite ingredients: Tamarind and De Arbol Chillies. Tamarind is very prevalent in Mexican sweets and in the cooking of the pacific regions in Mexico; it arrived during Colonial times and soon established itself as an easy crop that required little or no work. The bittersweet and tangy taste is a favourite of most Mexicans. You can buy the fresh pods, or buy the pulp with or without seeds; mixed with sugar or with sugar and chilli. It makes delicious 'aguas frescas' (a cold drink), sweets and snacks. My mother loves making this with a whole leg of pork, but I much prefer shoulder of pork.

I personally love tamarind in any shape or form, but this sauce is truly out of this world. I always cook it with pork, there's some amazing chemistry between the sweet fattiness of the meat and the spicy tanginess of the sauce that just sends ripples of joy through the mouth. I like the sauce pretty hot (life's for living, right?!), but if you are of a more tender disposition, maybe reduce the amount of chillies by half. Taste the sauce and decide if you want more heat, it only takes a few minutes to roast extra chillies if you want more, just remember there's no way back with heat, once you add it, you can't take it away. I have used this sauce on chicken and pork ribs too. I totally see if working on a rack of lamb too. I hope you like this as much as we do.

I love making this on a Sunday morning, just in time for Sunday lunch, I carve the shoulder in bite size chunks, baste them with leftover sauce, which is thick and delicious and serve this in the middle of the table with warm tortillas and a few toppings to make tacos. Any leftovers are amazing for tortas too! So, delicious!

Banana & Peanut Butter Ice-Cream

Friday, 5 June 2020

During early lockdown, my timeline on social media was loaded with sourdough starters and banana bread loaves. It was everywhere! People were stuck at home, unable to go anywhere, so they turned to the kitchen to find comfort and reassurance. Ireland ran out of flour and yeast was like gold dust! Seriously, the first thing I cooked were chocolate, chilli, booze laced cookies! I called them dooms day cookies! I think I cooked more comfort food those first few weeks than I did in my entire time in Ireland!

After about 3 weeks, I sort of went back to normal, but I remember seeing the prominent Irish food critic Lucinda O'Sullivan posting on twitter two almost rotten bananas and asking for anything other than banana bread. My answer was simple: ice-cream! Ever since I was a little kid, I have been fascinated by ice-cream. When you think about it, it is magic, flavoursome, evocative, sentimental, daring, adventurous, but most of all, it is bloody delicious!

I can basically make ice-cream out of almost anything and contrary to what many people think, it is relatively easy to make. When it comes to flavours, the world is your oyster. A couple of days after, I myself found a bottle of double cream and three overly ripped bananas in my kitchen, and naturally, I went for it. Here are the results, hope you like this recipe as much as I do!

I make my ice-cream with an ice-cream machine, but you don't have to, I'll give you instructions in the steps to make it without one; however, let me play the devil's advocate for one second and tell you it is totally worth it to get one. The first ice-cream machine I bought was the Kenwood Ice-Cream maker from Argos for 30 quid, and believe you me, it is the best ice-cream maker I've ever had, compact and powerful and it lasted for years; the only drawback is that you have to pre-freeze the bowl, but I always kept the bowl in the freezer so when I fancy ice-cream, the bowl was ready. Eventually, I bought a more professional machine that had a condenser so no need to pre-freeze the bowl, but believe you me, until last week, I still had my Kenwood ice-cream maker as backup; during lockdown, I decided to send it to a home with two little boys who love making ice-cream and now, they get to discover the joys of watching it churn a couple of simple wholesome ingredients into summer bliss.

Guayaba & Cheese Flan

Sunday, 3 May 2020

This recipe has been a long time on the making. I've had a tin of guayabas in syrup in the pantry since last year as I wanted to develop a recipe to show people in Ireland how delicious they are, something tasty and easy enough that showcases this gorgeous tropical fruit that has a ton of vitamin C. So this was on the back of my mind for a while. As you can imagine, life has been incredibly busy lately. While most people are at home during the lockdown, myself and Alan are both working longer hours than we ever did, he has been switching all his academic work into online lectures that are accessible to his students around the world, while I've been working 24/7 at Picado.

While all the classes at Picado had to be cancelled and the shop closed to the public, we are still working the online shop, which has seen a huge increase in orders and has me working 7 days weeks for the past month and a half. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to make sure to take Sundays off as I was wearing myself sick with worry and too much work. Running a small business at this crazy times is such a stressful thing. Noone knows what's going to happen, or what the future will look like. All big plans abandoned and switching to survival mode.

Although I'm not physically working the shop on Sundays, I still have a ton of admin work to do, but I'm making sure Sundays are also used to tend to my raise bed (we're learning to grow food in our back garden), and I also do some cooking and some writing. It relaxes me and it adds an anchor to my day off. So yesterday I looked again into the cover and saw the tin of guayabas and I immediately set to make this. It's a very popular dessert in Mexico and I love its silky texture, a cross between a flan and a cheesecake.

Guayabas, or Guavas as they're known in many parts of the world, are native to Mexico and some parts of central and south America; they are fragrant, tropical fruit, with a sweet and tangy pulp and tons of hard seeds. The variety I grew up eating at home had yellow skin and a very pale yellow pulp. In Mexico we make juice, candies, Christmas punch, or we eat them just as a fruit. The pulp makes amazing flavour for chilli based sweets and guayaba pate is just amazing. This flan, however, is my favourite way to eat them. Enjoy the recipe!

Doomsday Pecan, Mezcal & Chilli Cookies

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Two weeks ago (was it really only two weeks?!), life as we knew it was sent packing and most people were sent home for a series of measures to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID19 virus that's causing havoc all over the world. For a couple of days, I went into free-fall and full on panic, thinking what was going to happen to my business, my staff and myself. That day, we cancelled all classes for the foreseeable future, my anxiety levels went through the roof.

I found myself with no late nights that weekend and with far too much time in my hands and a heart full of doom and gloom; unable to control anything that was going on around me, I turned to the kitchen to calm myself down. The kitchen is my safe space. When I get anxious, I bake; it calms me down and so I took to the kitchen to organise my pantry and see if I could make something tasty. I found a large quantity of chocolate chips and a giant jar of pecan nuts and because pecan nuts don't stay fresh for long, I decided to make a few cookies to use them up.

I took a basic pecan and chocolate chip cookie recipe and make a few tweaks on it to produce what I now called my Doomsday cookies! They have Mezcal, not vanilla essence; smokey chipotle chillies, instead of cinnamon & nutmeg; Mexican piloncillo, as suppose to brown sugar. The result was spectacular! These cookies are smokey as the chipotle chilli powder and the mezcal are both smoked. The chilli gives it just a hint of heat and it adds a great savoury twang to a rather sweet cookie otherwise. The Piloncillo has so many layer of flavour is unreal.

We all love them and have made them three times already in the two weeks since I tried the recipe for the first time! - We live in scary and uncertain times and I hope this recipe brings some much needed cheer to your home. Stay safe and let's all do our bit to flatten the curve and stop the spread! Together we can do it! - When all this is over, I'm going to make a large batch of these and gift them to every frontline worker in the health service that I know. They deserve them much more than I do.