Our good friends, who are vegetarians, came to lunch today. I like to theme meals, so having sent the husband to the supermarket to buy a few bottles of Corona, I set about creating a vegetarian Mexican feast, inspired by new favourite cookbook a modern way to eat, by Anna Jones. She worked for Jamie Oliver, but has carved a niche for herself as a food stylist and writer of this brilliant vegetarian cookbook.
One of the many reasons I love her book is because she doesn’t use any fancy ingredients. A lot of her recipes are made with staples that anyone who regularly cooks vegetarian food will have in their cupboard – grains, pulses, that kind of thing – but all her recipes pack a punch and could definitely teach staunch meat-eaters a thing or two about vegetarian cooking. But I digress, back to today’s culinary adventure…
On the menu were the following delicious morsels – all from Anna’s book:
Caramelised corn taken from her popcorn tacos recipe. I adapted it slightly to create more of a sweet corn salsa as the recipe included the addition of natural yoghurt, and the husband has an aversion to anything with yoghurt in it. Anna serves her version warm, but I decided a cold salsa would be much easier to manage.
Lime and chipotle black bean tacos in their entirety; the black beans, salsa, guacamole and crunch salad. This involves a lot of chopping, but it’s definitely worth it. I particularly like Anna’s simple guacamole recipe. She doesn’t mess around with the avocado, instead you simply made mash up the avocado and squeeze the juice of a lime over it. It’s a refreshing change from other guacamole recipes that overpower the avocado with the likes of chilli, tomato, garlic and coriander.
Homemade tortilla chips with charred salsa, although I did cheat and didn’t make homemade tortilla chips as I’m a bit partial to the fancy fire-roasted chilli tortillas from M&S at the moment and couldn’t be bothered to ‘make’ my own when I could send the husband down the road to buy them whilst I got on with making a batch of cumin seed covered sweet potato wedges, to bulk out the meal. This was one of two departures from Anna’s guidance and simply involved wedging the potatoes, rubbing them with oil and cumin seeds and roasting them in the oven at Gas Mark 5 for about 30 minutes.
The second departure from Anna’s book involved these little beauties – Padron peppers.
I’ve never cooked them before and picked them up in Sainsbury’s thinking they were more chilli than pepper and would make a welcome addition to the Mexican feast. They’re actually Spanish peppers that are generally mild in taste, however 10-25% of them have a chilli kick, making eating them a kind of pepper Russian roulette. Unsure of what to do with them – I had thought griddle them because they’d look nice – I Googled how to cook them and it turns out the most popular way to eat them is to fry them in a little oil until they blister and sprinkle with sea salt.
They looked great and tasted wonderful too. I’ve got a feeling this won’t be the last time I cook them. Fortunately, none of the peppers had a chilli kick.
With the adults sorted, I turned my attention to the toddler – there was far too much chilli involved in the menu to even contemplate his sensitive palette, so I put together a Mexican inspired plate of food including corn on the cob, tortilla chips and toddler staples of cucumber and chicken goujon. What it lacked in flavour it made up for in, well nothing really. The toddler was having an off day and refused to eat anything other than tortilla chips, cucumber and dessert! I don’t blame him, the dessert was a bit special.
I stuck with Anna for pudding and plumped for her salted caramel crack brownies. I was a little daunted at the prospect of making these because, as the name suggests, they involved making caramel. My last attempt at a salted caramel torte was less than successful, but I have to say I was quite pleased with my latest effort.
The caramel was pretty straight forward to make (I made it the night before so that I could come up with a back-up plan should it not turn out right – but I shouldn’t have worried) – simply ‘melt’ the sugar, take it off the heat, mix in butter and milk, pour it onto a tin covered in grease proof paper and pop it in the freezer to set. Simples!
I made the rest of the brownie in advance and popped it in the oven while we ate our mains. It takes about 20 minutes to cook, but you have to allow it to cool unless you want to burn you mouth on molten caramel. But the wait was definitely worth it.
While it’s a bit of a chopping-tastic menu, there’s minimal cooking involved in creating this super tasty Mexican feast and I’d definitely recommend all of the recipes above.
The verdict from the dinner guests: ‘It looked like there was far more food than we’d ever be able to eat – but it was just too delicious to leave any. As a consequence, we both felt Christmas Day-full afterwards and had to retire to the sofa for a rest. Our favourites? I loved the coriander sweet potatoes. Tom loved the spicy salsa. Also had to buy the cookbook as soon as we got home. Oh, and dessert is making me reconsider giving up chocolate for Lent this year…’