Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Holy guacamole


There is, quite literally, no end to my talents. First of all, I queued up the other day for a takeaway coffee with my top hanging open too low and my bra popping out. The cashier was too mortified to say anything and I discovered my wardrobe malfunction later on, after I’d spent 30 minutes pushing my trolley round a busy supermarket. An hour or so later, in a fit of recklessness (I get my thrills where I can these days) I thought I’d park the car in our too-narrow driveway. Why? I had never done this before, I always park on the road because the entrance to our drive is just too narrow, and there is a lamppost RIGHT THERE getting in the way…but anyway, the weather was tempestuous and I had tonnes of shopping and a baby to get out of the car and into the house. This resulted in me crashing slowly, but determinedly into the neighbour’s adjoining wall, causing it to cave in slightly, scratching all the paint off one side of the car, denting it in various places and busting the headlamp. Then I burnt dinner.

So, anyway, on that note, I thought I’d give out a relatively foolproof recipe for guacamole, continuing this month’s Mexican theme. Perfect for eating sitting indoors looking out at the endless rain lashing into our gardens, day in and day out. Viva the British summer. I just can’t wait for more rain. And some more. And then some more. It’s making me insane. I want to go out and hairdry the garden – it’s waterlogged. I long to take the so-called jetstream, juddering about in the wrong place above Northern Europe, and give it a good swearing-to.

This recipe will feed around four as a dip, with everyone getting plenty.

You will need:

2 perfectly ripe medium avocados
juice of 1/2 lime
A few fresh coriander stalks, about 10, roughly chopped
1 big handful fresh coriander stalks and leaves, chopped up fine
1/2 tsp habanero chile powder, or 1 fresh birdseye chilli, chopped fine
1 large ripe tomato (or handful of cherry toms) diced
1 clove garlic
Salt to taste

Optional: 1 tsp ground coriander and 1/2 tsp ground cumin (extra nice if you toast the whole spices first, then grind up, but ready-ground is fine too)
You can also substitute the chopped tomatoes for pomegranate seeds or diced red grapes if you fancy something a bit different

To serve – salted tortilla chips

Pound the garlic clove and coriander stalks together with a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar till crushed up, then add your avocado and pound all this together. If your avocado is a tad on the unripe side, you can cheat and use a stick blender to whiz it all up if it won’t mash well. (But to be honest unripe avos will taste a little bitter). Add the chilli, then the lime juice and mix together, and then add the spices if you are using them. Add the chopped tomatoes and chopped coriander, mix together and taste. Add more salt if you think you need it. Remember your tortilla chips that you dip in will be very salty, so don’t overdo it.

You might have noticed that I don’t add raw onion to my guacamole – this is because I absolutely HATE raw onion in any form and find it too overpowering. Yuk! You really don’t need it, the garlic, chilli and spices are enough to give lots of flavour.


Thursday, 12 July 2012

Casa Morita


I think that it’s probably harder to find decent Mexican food in this country than it will be for punters to buy chips on their own at the Olympics. If you live in London, you can brave the queues to eat good street food at Wahaca, but aside from a few other mini-chains doing great burritos, such as Benito’s Hat or Chilangos, most Mexican fare on offer in the UK is of the damp cardboard Tex Mex cheese ‘n nachos variety. How ecstatic was I when Casa Morita opened up in Brixton Market touting its Oaxacan-inspired menu– the food here is so exciting that I will willingly brave the uncomfortable-ness of the chairs to eat here while trying to balance a baby on my knee, it’s that good*.  It’s light, fresh, and tastes really really different – smoky chipotle, fresh lime, crispy tacos, authentic corn tortillas all popping with clean flavours. Double yum. Go, go!

The cheerful interior:


Huevos rancheros – a light, fruity chile/tomato sauce and black beans covering fried eggs and a corn tortilla, totally delicious and a lot lighter and fresher than what you might expect:


Vegetable tostada – guacamole, spicy vegetables, salad and feta cheese sitting atop a crispy corn taco. Vibrant and refreshing:

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Casa Morita’s simple cheese quesadilla:

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A delicious filling of melted cheddar, feta, guacamole, coriander – really fantastic, I could eaten 10 of these.

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Excuse the bad pic – this is Sopa Azteca, a smoky tomato broth containing fresh avocado, feta, strips of tortilla and dried chillies. So good I had to eat half of it before I remembered to take a photo.


A cup of Mexican hot chocolate, aromatic with cinnamon and cloves. Perfect treat for anyone needing a spicy pick-me-up.


The waitress is a little, uh, ‘mellow’ when it comes to speedy service, but the cafe is friendly and relaxed. Nobody batted an eyelid as my baby daughter proceeded to throw most of her lunch all over their floor, furniture and walls. You can buy Mexican produce, such as Ibarra chocolate and tinned black beans, and choose from a vibrant display of Day of the Dead tin wall ornaments to kitsch up your home. I can’t wait to come back when I can drink lots beer, fall over and make a real evening of it.

Casa Morita
Unit 9
Market Row
Brixton Market

*To be honest, I find the most exciting places to eat never have high chairs. Just cause I have a baby doesn’t mean I want to be constricted to bland kid-friendly places like Giraffe! 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner


Once upon a time, we went to eat at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray. The legendary tasting menu blew our heads off – we were so overwhelmed by the meal on every level (speeded along by the addition of matching each psychedelic course to a wine, yikes) that we had to go and lie down on Bray village green afterwards, groaning. Passers-by stared. The meal was an unforgettable experience, and neither me nor my husband have ever quite been the same since. It was like being dragged into the strange world of Alice in Wonderland and having your head turned inside out along with all your preconceptions of food and flavour.

So – now to Dinner, Heston’s new-ish restaurant tucked away in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in London. It’s very different to the Fat Duck – much less of the chilled country vibe, it simply oozes urban adult sophistication from every pore. Think dark woods, leather and glass, gleaming temptingly underneath tasteful lighting. It doesn’t suffer at all from that fustiness which befalls some restaurants located in hotels. A meal here was just what we needed as an antidote to becoming parents last year. We wanted somewhere that was so adult that we wouldn’t remember what a child was by the end of the meal. Ha! (only slightly joking)

Admittedly the meal we had here was several months ago, but it is still most definitely worth mentioning and showing you. Heston has chosen to get inspiration from ancient cookbooks – some as old as 14th century – so your meal is like a journey through history, taking in some truly otherworldly flavours. You can shut your eyes and try to imagine yourself in some ancient royal court, feasting on the unusual flavours in front of you. There are some very weirdly delicious flavour combinations that make you scratch your head and think for a bit, and others that are comforting and familiar. Dinner doesn’t do a tasting menu in the style of the Fat Duck, but no matter – you leave full, content and happy, with historical flavours dancing on your tongue. No need for a lie-down in Hyde Park, either.

The legendary ‘Meat Fruit’ (c.13th – 15th century). It’s a fruit, right?


Not so fast. ‘Tis an orange in appearance but contains the most delicious meat pate, and the citrus ‘peel’ is a tangy fruit jelly, contrasting brilliantly with the richness of the filling. Clever, huh?


Salamagundy (1720 The Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary by John Nott) – chicken oysters, salsify, marrow bone and horseradish cream. Super tender chicken, some very interesting smoky flavours.


Some excellent breads:


Powdered Duck Breast  with smoked confit fennel and umbles (c.1670 The Queene-like Closet or Rich Cabinet by Hannah Wolley): the meat was almost a tad too rare, but delicious nonetheless, and all the flavours on the plate just swam together effortlessly.


Spiced pigeon with ale and artichokes (c.1780 The Ladies’ Assistant and Complete System of Cookery by Charlotte Mason) – super tender pigeon with smoky spices, marrying cleverly with artichoke – who would have thought?


Fries: Heston’s famous triple-cooked ones, delicious!


Buttered carrots with caraway: INSANELY good


Brown bread ice cream (c.1830 – A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Eliza Rundell) – the ice cream was strangely unsweetened and wasn’t quite the bombshell dessert we were expecting. But still pretty good.


Tipsy cake with spit roast pineapple (1810 The English cookery book by J.H. Walsh). Quite literally one of the most delicious things I have ever put in my mouth – the hot, buttery, sugar-encrusted brioche was simply heavenly, and went magically with the caramelly pineapple. Oof!


A lovely free addition – a chocolate pot with a caraway biscuit. Not that we needed it, but clearly the waiter thought we needed to kill a bit more time before we returned to the land of babycare!


Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA