Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Dave's improvised veggie chile

I made this killer veggie chile tonight and just had to write down the recipe for future reference.

The sauce is the key; it's a red sauce a la Rick Bayless, but with my own twist.

The sauce:

4 - 5 dried ancho and/or guajillo chiles
2 cans tomatillos
1 can crushed tomatoes

Stem and de-seed the dried chiles.  Get a cast iron skillet really hot then press pieces of the chiles on the hot skillet, about 10 seconds 'til they change color and maybe smoke a bit.  Then re-hydrate them in 1 or 2 cups of very hot water.  Let them soak for 15 or 20 minutes.  Then take about half the liquid and pour it into a blender, then process the re-hydrated chiles in the blender.  Strain it through a sieve into a bowl.  It should be the consistency of tomato paste.

Then I deviated from the Bayless (traditional Mexican) recipe.  This particular batch was really spicy so I cut it with two cans of tomatillos and a can of regular crushed tomatoes.  Sacrilege, I know.  It still had a nice kick but was made reasonably mild for those who aren't into super spicy chile like I am.

So now I've got this fairly sizeable bowl of chile sauce; it was probably still a good 3 cups by the time I made this veggie chile recipe that happened two or three days later.  I pulled the sauce out of the fridge and proceeded as follows.

The veggie chile:

One medium onion, diced small
Two carrots, peeled & sliced thin
One sweet potato, peeled & sliced thin
1/3 of a large head of green cabbage
A cup of chicken stock (or veggie stock)
2 - 3 cups of the chile sauce (see above)
One yellow bell pepper, diced
Two cloves garlic, diced
One large zucchini (courgette), diced
One large tomato, diced
Kernels from one ear of sweet corn (use a serrated knife to get 'em off easily)
A handful of cilantro (coriander), chopped roughly
A can of black beans
Dried mixed herbs, salt & ground pepper

Fry the onion, carrots, sweet potato and cabbage in olive oil in a big dutch oven (a le creuset cast iron pot is ideal), 5 - 8 minutes.  Pour in the stock and the chile sauce.  Let simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients.  Season with herbs, salt & pepper.  Let simmer, covered, for another 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Serve with sour cream, over white rice, with some nice hot corn tortillas on the side.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Great Mexican food in London...

For a long time I was lamenting the fact that it's hard to find good Mexican food in London.  My favorite places so far had been Wahaca (excellent), and Tortilla (decent imitation of a San Francisco burrito place).

But my new favorite is Mestizo.  We've been there a couple times and I must say it's very authentic, great food and drinks, nice atmosphere and good service.  What's not to like?

Best Full English Breakfast in the UK...

In 4 years of living in the UK I've never tasted anything like it.  The Lamb Inn, in Wartling, has by far the best full English I've ever had.

We stayed at this pub for some friends' wedding and it also has lovely accommodations.

Highly recommended!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

South of the Border...

Here's a little menu I whipped up the other night for my dear wife and me...

Ay que linda es mi esposa... 

The main course I got from a great cookbook called The South American Table ... it's a Chilean dish called "Pechugas de Pollo al Cilantro" (i.e., Chicken Breasts with Cilantro Sauce).  Cilantro is also known as Coriander in the U.K. and elsewhere.  Anyway this dish is super tasty.  

I'll let you buy the book for the details, but the gist of it is...

Put the chicken in some plastic wrap and pound it with a meat hammer; then marinate it with lemon, salt & pepper & stick it in the fridge for an hour.  Then dry the breasts with paper towels & fry 'em in oil, 3 mins per side.  Set aside.

Fry onions, scallions, garlic, oregano and cumin in a skillet for about 5 minutes.

Throw the veggies in a blender with some chicken stock and a bunch of cilantro.  Liquefy.

Then cook the breasts in the sauce for another 10 minutes until cooked through.  Toss in some chile powder, salt & pepper to taste.

I served that with some, as they say over here, "rice with bits," that I got out of the Rick Bayless book, "Mexico One Plate at a Time", which he calls "Arroz Mexicano a la Mexicana", i.e., Mexican Rice cooked the Mexican way.  He goes for some elaborate steps but it seems a fairly standard approach where you essentially fry the rice in oil, then set aside, then fry onions and garlic in the oil, then throw it all back in together and cover it with chicken stock, and cook it down.  The whole thing takes around 20 minutes.  I vary it by frying some bell pepper and fresh chiles with the onion & garlic.

Then, the piéce de resistance is the salad, which I learned from mi amigo querido Quique Cruz, who in addition to being a multi-talented musician / composer, is also a fantastic cook.  But as I recall he told me, like the pollo al cilantro above, this is a fairly typical Chilean dish.  What I love about it is that it's so incredibly simple.  I guess you'd call it "Ojas Romanas al Limón y Ajo en Aceite de Oliva" or something like that... i.e., "Romaine Leaves with Lemon Juice and Garlic Fried in Olive Oil".  Which is exactly that.  Wash leaves of Romaine Lettuce.  Chop some garlic and fry it in olive oil, until just brown and slightly crunchy.  Squeeze lemon juice on and pour the garlic with olive oil over eat.  Salt to taste.  Pop the leaves into your mouth, eating them with your hands like a snack.

Goes nicely with some Mexican beer!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Rinoko's Corn Bread

Our friend Rinoko Asami made this delicious corn bread for us on New Years Eve.  You can make it with meat or skip the meat and make it vegetarian.

I don't know where she got this recipe but if I find out, I'll give credit where credit is due.

Corn potato cheese (and meat) bread

1 large onion, diced
4 sprigs of spring onion, chopped
A pinch of salt 1 tbsp olive oil
★A packet (175 g) of Smash (instant mashed potato flakes)
★200 g cornmeal
★100 g plain flour
★20 g baking powder

●4 medium to large eggs, 5 if small
●4 heaped tbsp yoghurt
●3 heaped tbsp mayo
●100 mil olive oil
●300mil milk
●2 tbsp vege bouillon powder (Marigold Swiss Vegetable bouillon Powder)
●1/2 tsp black pepper
●1/2 tsp cayenne pepper 350g cheese (eg. cheddar, Gruyere, Emmental, whatever)

 1. Sauté onion and spring onion, with a pinch of salt, in a frying pan over a medium – low heat for about15 min, and set aside to cool.

2. In a large bowl, mix ★ well using a whisk. In other bowl or a jug, mix ● well using a whisk.

3. Grate cheese. Heat oven to 190 C or 170 C if heat assist oven.

4. Stir in cooled onion/spring onion into the bowl of ★ using a wooden spatula. Then, pour in the content of other bowl and mix well using wooden spatula. As mashed potato flakes absorb liquid quickly, try and mix as quickly as you can here.

 5. Transfer the mixture into 2 non-stick loaf tins or a 20cmx30cm baking dish (as in picture) and bake for 40 min.

Add bacon or skinned sausage meat or Turkish sausage or cooked ham when you sauté onion/spring onion. Make sure to mop up the excessive oil from meat using kitchen paper before adding. It will keep in the fridge for about a week.

Saturday, 1 December 2012


The way I do enchiladas (and most other Mexican dishes I've learned how to make) are mainly inspired by Rick Bayless, who I worship like a god.  Okay not really.  But I do think his books are fantastic and I've thrown many a nice Mexican food party based on his ideas.  

Anyway I've got my own variations on his enchiladas.

Sorry this picture is a little fuzzy.  But this batch was pretty good.  Even though this was done "the easy way" 'cause that night I didn't feel like doing it "the hard way" (see below).

Dave Barrows rendition of Enchiladas.

Enchiladas:  the hard way (but the good way)

Making the sauce the proper way is a lot of work but well worth it when people fall off their chairs, start speaking in tongues and doing other unspeakable things.  :-)  

I'm not gonna give exact proportions here.  You can improvise and find your own version.  Basically in the picture above, it's a roasting pan which is about 10 inches square and 3 or 4 inches deep.  I used a pack of 13 soft corn tortillas.  

The ingredients:

Soft corn tortillas
Fresh vegetables (chiles, peppers, onions, garlic)
Dried red chiles (preferably New Mexico, Ancho, etc)
Olive Oil
Sharp English Cheddar Cheese
A jar of good salsa (like the ones on this page)
New Mexico Chile Powder
Cumin, Salt, Pepper
A can of tomatillos (if you're doing green chicken enchiladas)

Update:  After I wrote this, I realized the term "corn tortillas" is ambiguous if you live in the UK.  There's a misconception of what a "corn tortilla" is because of the so-called "Mexican" food section (which is mainly an outlet for the "El Paso" brand) that you find in most supermarkets like Tesco or Sainsburys.  

Let me be clear:  THIS is NOT a corn tortilla.  Yes I know it says corn tortilla on the package.  But it's really a FLOUR tortilla with a tiny bit of corn flour in it.  If you try to make these enchiladas with that crap, you will end up with a soggy mess.  (Full disclosure:  I've never actually tried it, but that's what I imagine would happen if you tried to make enchiladas with flour tortillas).

Now THIS is a corn tortilla.  If you live in London you can get them at the Cool Chile Company's stall in Borough Market or the Whole Foods in Stoke Newington (for example).  

So.  On to the enchiladas...

The sauce:  part 1

First you've got to do Rick Bayless's trick of the authentic Mexican red sauce, which is to take dried chiles, grill them on a cast iron skillet with a metal spatula until they're slightly smoking, then re-hydrate them in hot water.  You've got to get the amount of water right for that part of the recipe, because if it's too watery it's not good.  I'm not gonna tell you what the right amount is!  I think it's about a cup to two or three large dried chiles.  Anyway then you let it sit for awhile, then process it in a blender or food processor, then run it through a strainer.  It's a bit of work but you get this red paste that's just incredibly tasty.  The best chiles to use here are New Mexico red chiles, or ancho chiles, etc.  If you're in California, or anywhere in the Southwest, you can find those everywhere, especially at good Mexican grocery stores.  If you're in London, your best bet is to get it from the Cool Chile Co.  Otherwise search the web.  And you might as well buy one of Bayless's books while you're at it... try "Mexico One Plate at a Time".  Some killer recipes in there.

The sauce:  part 2

Here's what I think lifts my version up a notch!

You (ideally) fire roast vegetables.  If you can't fire roast them (i.e. if you've got an electric oven instead of a gas oven) just grill 'em close to the heat element.  I like to do red and yellow bell peppers, fresh red chiles, onion, garlic, etc.  Whatever you like, along those lines.  Blacken the skins against the fire.  Then you chop up the fire roasted veggies and you then fry them in olive oil.  Are we having fun yet?  :-D

Once they're fried, and you've got your nice pasty red sauce from part 1, then you throw it all together and mix it.  I've got one of those little hand mixers; you could do it in a blender or food processor, but you want to liquefy it until its the consistency of... well... enchilada sauce.  Or, say, a thick ketchup.  With my version it's gonna be slightly chunkier than the normal smooth red enchilada sauce.

If you're going green (i.e., you're making chicken enchiladas), you can get a can of tomatillos and a nice jar of green salsa and throw that in there as well.  

Put it in a big bowl or container and have it handy for when you are ready to assemble.

The meat:

If you're doing beef enchiladas, then fry some onion, green onion, garlic, and a small red and a small green chile in oil (olive or other vegetable oil).  Throw in a pound of ground (minced) beef.  Fry it all up nicely until the meat is browned.  Douse it with a shake of pure New Mexico chile powder and some cumin, salt and pepper.

If you're doing chicken, then I just boil up some chicken stock and throw some chicken breasts in there and cook them in the stock, then chop them fine once they're cooked.

The cheese:

I love a sharp English cheddar on these babies.  Oh yeah.  Get your cheese grater out.

The assembly:

Grease your 10x10 roasting pan with some olive oil on a paper towel.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200C (350F).

Now you want that cast iron skillet again.  Heat the corn tortillas one by one.  As you pull one off, put one in the roasting pan.  Spoon some meat onto it, and grate some cheese.  Then pour some of that lovely sauce in.  Now roll the whole thing up and push it against the side of the pan to make room for the others.  Repeat the process until the whole pan is filled with your nice little rolled up enchiladas, all filled with meat, cheese and sauce.

Then, pour more sauce over the top of the whole thing, and then grate some more cheese on top.

Now cover the whole thing in foil and stick it in the oven for 20 or 30 minutes or so.  (20 is probably fine).

Serve it with a nice salad and some guacamole and corn chips.  And a nice Mexican beer or a Spanish Rioja or a Californian or Chilean Pinot.

Then say:

Ai por Dios!  


"Dude... that sh-t is good."

The easy way:

If you're in a hurry you can skip the whole hassle of the sauce above and just use two jars of this stuff.