Monday, 20 August 2012

Wahaca Mexican Food at Home by Thomasina Miers

Thomasina Miers is arguably the most successful winner of Masterchef. She has made TV shows, written cookbooks and opened restaurants all since she triumphed on the first series of the cooking competition. Her award winning Mexican street food restaurant chain, Wahaca, has caught Londoners attention and may have even started the trend for no-reservations, speedy, small plates eateries that are spreading like wildfire across the capital. Wahaca's fresh and vibrant dishes were a new way to experience Mexican food in London far removed from the dull tex-mex chain muck. Ever since trying the tacos, quaesadillas, tostadas and the famous pork pibil, we have been itching to learn some of the recipe secrets. The recently published cookbook Wahaca Mexican food at home means the scratch can finally be itched.

The book is very much in the Wahaca style with the illustrations and themes matching the menus and newsletters from the restaurants. The chatty introduction and descriptions of the food make it a pleasure to dip into to plan a mexican feast or a pick out a quick snack. The book is laid out with this in mind with sections for Breakfast, Market food, In the Cantina and Fiesta.

Even in bad weather it doesn't take much for me to pull my barbecue from the shed, so when I saw the "Smoky, tender pork ribs" it was all the excuse I needed. It is nice to see in a British cookbook that the recipe instructs you to soak the ribs in what is effectively a spicy brine for a couple of hours before cooking. It has taken a while for the British to catch up with the technique of brining meat, which is the best way to get flavours into it whilst ensuring a moist result after barbecuing. The ribs are then roasted and steamed in the oven, before glazing with a chipotle sauce and finishing on the barbecue. The result was moist and tender ribs with a spicy coating which can be difficult to achieve if you were to cook them completely on the barbecue.   

Not wanting to waste the charcoal I tested the Chilli-Spiked Grilled Corn recipe at the same time. Barbecuing corn on the cob is the best way to cook it, and always results in a beautifully sweet and charred flavour. Here the corn is slathered in olive oil and lime juice, grilled and then sprinkled with cayenne and cumin. Sweet, juicy and lip-stingingly spicy, they were the perfect accompaniment for the ribs.

The book has plenty of interesting salads including this refreshing cucumber, beetroot and chilli salad with ricotta. This recipe typifies the theme of the book where difficult to find Mexican ingredients are replaced with easier to find ones. In this case ricotta replaces the Mexican curd cheese, requesón, and adds a creamy relief to the chilli. 

There are a good number of desserts in the book, many of which are European style puddings with Mexican flavours. This vanilla, lime and ricotta cake is creamy and rich with the lime juice lifting it from being too heavy. Perfect for an afternoon tea or a picnic.

Overall we were impressed with the ease of cooking and the results of the recipes from the book. The combination of old favourite Wahaca dishes and home style cooking make it both inspiring and accessible. It is a great introduction to Mexican food and a great addition to the cookbook shelf

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