Mariachi Madness and the Majestic Cactus

mexicanaAs members of the human race we are constantly searching for new distractions. Art can take you places. Music can lift your soul. A good book can be liberating, capable of opening up a whole new world of possibilities – whether it be a world of magic and the epic struggle between good and evil or merely a world of gratuitous S&M as portrayed in the undisputed masterpiece Fifty Shades of Grey. In a similar manner some foods just transcend their own foody limitations. They have a story to tell, a new world to show us. This soup is one. Imagine, ladies and gentlemen, the edible equivalent to a one night stand with a Mexican millionaire; the setting sun pouring in through the windows (through which you can see the silhouette of a mighty cactus), the smoky taste of tequila on his mustachioed lips. This soup is hot, spicy, luxurious and undoubtedly over much sooner than one would like.

RECIPE: (serves 2)

Soup

  • 250g cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1tbsp tomato paste
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 1tsp cayenne pepper
  • a sprinkling of dried chillies
  • 250ml hot vegetable stock
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Salsa and Croutons

  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • handful fresh coriander
  • handful fresh mint
  • a couple of pickled jalapenos
  • squirt of lime juice
  • 2 slices bread, diced
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat your oven to 200’C. Put the cherry tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put them in the oven for about 15/20 minutes or until they are splitting and blistering.

Cue a gratuitous and utterly unnecessary close-up of some tomatoes. Your welcome.

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Put them in a food processor with the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar, spices and stock and blend them together until they are smooth and a colour Duluxe would probably term something ridiculous like Terracotta Daydreams. Trust me on the sugar, in really brings out the taste of the tomatoes and the smokiness of the paprika. Pour this into a saucepan and add the rice, letting it cook at a gentle (but tremulously passionate) simmer.

Meanwhile, make the salsa by putting the coriander, mint, jalapenos, lime juice and olive oil in the blender. Pulse until smooth-ish. I call this colour Intense Swamp.

When the rice has absorbed the soup and is cooked but still slightly al dente (this means not rice crispies but not porridge either, a happy medium) make the croutons. Heat some olive oil in a small frying pan and add the bread. Season with salt and pepper and turn until they are golden-brown and crunchy. Take them off the heat and then add the grated cheese, allowing it to melt all over them in a sensuous manner.

Pour the soup into bowls and swirl over the salsa and top with the croutons. This soup is genuinely the dogs bollocks. The spicy, acidic salsa cuts through the smoky, sweetness of the soup. Intense flavour bomb. It would also really, really work with tortillas instead of croutons. Put some tortillas topped with the grated cheese under the grill. When the cheese is melted and bubbling put them on the soup and your ready to go…

100_0652Arriba!

footermex

Falafels: An Incoherent Truth

 

falafalThere are, on this planet, only a couple of truths that are universally acknowledged. One of these is that drunk people make a mess. To progress this idea could be to argue that drunk people will make a spectacular mess, merrily, and often in record time. It’s inescapable, and therefore should be embraced whole-heartedly. The fact that drunk people enjoy making a mess is, in fact, the sole reason behind the existence of many of our most celebrated dishes. Do you really think the Mexicans would have invented nachos if they hadn’t invented tequila first? What other purpose does a kebab actually have? Do you think chips and cheese would even exist without drunk people?

And so I bring you falafel wraps. These are the perfect drunken food. DIY wrap-making can be messy at the best of times, even when your sobriety is not actually in question. So you have the added bonus of watching your friends trying to navigate a cheesy, leaking wrap into their silly drunk faces. It’s pretty much the equivalent of giving them a hair-trigger Super Soaker full of hot sauce. Amazing.

RECIPE: (serves 3-4)

Falafel

  • 1 x 400g tin of mixed beans
  • 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 lemon
  • 1tbsp harrissa
  • 1tsp allspice
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • olive oil

Sides

  • 2 bell peppers, roughly chopped
  • 4 spring onions, as above
  • 8 small tortillas
  • 2tbsp mango chutney
  • 250g cottage cheese
  • cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1 lime
  • sweetcorn

Drain the chickpeas and the mixed beans in a colander. Make sure all the gunk from the tin has come off, or your falafels will end up smooshy. Nobody wants a smooshy falafel. Put them in the food processor, grate in the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Add the harrissa, allspice, flour and coriander and blitz everything together. It doesn’t matter if it it doesn’t have a perfectly smooth consistency, the falafel are actually nicer with a bit of texture, and besides, your drunk, so what do you care?

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Scrape out the mixture and (with slightly wet hands) shape it into 8 to 10 balls. Squish them flat, heat a tbsp of oil in a frying pan and cook the falafel on both sides turning them when they are nice and crispy.

Fry up the bell peppers with the spring onions. It’s alright if the peppers go a little black, they’ll be sweeter that way, so you can let your drunken mind wander… just not too far. Put them in a bowl.

Put the tomatoes, chilli, garlic and some more coriander in the processor with the lime juice. Whiz it up till it’s smooth and salsa-y, season and put it in a serving dish. Mix the cottage cheese with the mango chutney or sweet chilli sauce – both is good trust me, I know it sounds bizarre – and put it into another bowl. Other nice bowls of stuff could be sweetcorn, some chopped cherry tomatoes and grated cheese. I know this already sounds washing up heavy, it’s worth it, I just hope you have polite friends.

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Put the tortillas in a microwave for about 45 seconds, or warm them in the oven. Pop them on a plate and let battle commence.

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I will warn you: Do not serve this to your in-laws unless they are either forgiving, like-minded or suitably plied with alcohol. You are going to end up looking like a toddler with problematic motor skills.

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