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Tommi pays a visit to Ednica, our street project in Mexico City

Earlier this year, our co-founder and executive chef, Tommi went along to see the great work that gets done by Ednica, the Unesco backed charity that we have chosen to support.

Check out this interview that Tommi filmed with Violaine Dulin who has helped us set up the fundraising partnership we have going on. We think it gives a nice feel for the amazing work they are doing.

Next time you’re in the restaurant spend some time perusing the “Street food special” section of the menu and you’ll see that every time you order one of these dishes 20p is given to Ednica to help educate and feed kids who work on the streets of Mexico City. At the momement we have the huarrache and a cactus queso fundido on offer, which are totally-knock-your-socks-off-delicious so you can have a extra big smile on your face when it comes to ordering.

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Puerto Nuevo, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Baja California, and just had to tell you all about a wonderful cantina on the outskirts of Cabo San Lucas that I was taken to called Puerto Nuevo. It is a total favourite with all the chefs who I met out there. Antonio de Livier from La Frida described it as the best fish place in Los Cabos. So obviously I was very keen to try it out.

The entrance entranced me. All those bottles of salsas. I do love a hot sauce. The more the merrier. This is just what I love about eating in Mexico.

The first thing we had to try was the fish tostada. I don’t have a very pretty picture of it here. Just a close up of the chopped onion, white flesh of the sea bass and snapper and the layer of mayonnaise that was utterly delicious spread over the crisp tostada. Man, I can’t tell you how fresh it tasted! Yummy, yummy, yummy. This was one of the highlights.

Next up was the aguachile. Aguachile means chilli water and it made by whizzing up green Serrano chillies, masses of fresh lime juice and plenty of coriander leaf until you get a lovely vivid green dressing which you dress your seafood with. I normally add raw scallops or mackerel, but here they had tossed in fat, juicy prawns and amazingly tender pieces of octopus along with lovely half-moon slices of cucumber and thin slithers of sweet, red onion. If only we could get a good sweet onion here like the ones in Mexico….

These are the cheerful chefs, cooking in blistering heat. Although the cantina is literally on the side of the road, open to the elements with the tables on sand, the kitchen, as you can see, is spotlessly clean. I love eating in places like this. Places where the locals go. So much more fun than some of the swankier restaurants that are full of tourists, and the food costs a fortune. This is the real Mexico.

This was our last dish, after the lobster quesadillas which I didn’t photograph as I am not entirely sure about fish in a quesadilla. Once they put this down I started smelling a rat. This looked distinctly Veracruzan to me. I can remember eating a jaiba enchipotlada in Veracruz and not being able to stop eating until every morsel had been finished. I asked the waiters about it and it turns out that the owners of this place are indeed from Veracruz. Sadly this jaiba was not quite up to the one I had all those years ago on my roadtrip to Veracruz. The sauces should be smoky, garlicky and sweet from the crab flesh. It certainly wasn’t bad though, just not quite to the par of their delicious tostadas, the yummy aguachile and the pulsating raw clams that they presented to me as a kinda amuse-bouche. This was a lunch to remember.

Tommi xx

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Steve Gale on Tommi's Book Launch (Guest Post)

This is a guest post by Steve Gale who is the winner of Tommi’s Mexican Recipe Competition. Steve’s brilliant recipe for a refreshing salad made with watermelon and a dusting of sugar, salt and chilli can be found in Tommi’s new book, Mexican Cooking Made Simple. Over to Steve for an insight into where his idea came from and what he thought of the book launch…

I first sampled Thomasina’s cooking at the Covent Garden branch of Wahaca and remember being blown away by the authenticity of the food. It was a really fun place to eat and there was the all important buzz of people enjoying fantastic food with friends. So many times I have eaten in other Mexican restaurants and have been disappointed with the standard nacho and fajita fare. So when I saw the competition to submit a recipe for possible inclusion into Thomasina’s new book, I leapt at the chance.

Over the past 10 years I have travelled extensively in Europe, India, Asia, Mexico, Central and South America. I feel I am uniquely strange in that as a bloke I don’t watch the footie, I travel and write down recipes of blinding meals I have eaten in unusual places. I trawled back through my note books and remembered a great Mexican street food trend of serving chilled fruit with a chilli, salt & sugar sprinkle. The cold juicy fruit works really well with a salty chilli hit – just what you need on a blisteringly hot Mexican day. I adapted this into a light salad with some fresh cheese and a crispy tortilla and was extremely lucky to win the competition.

Thomasina was kind enough to invite me to the book launch in her new Wahaca restaurant in west London. It was quite a star studded affair and a little intimidating for one not used to media events. However a few (strong) margaritas later and I was feeling much more comfortable, if a little drunk. I think the key to a good margarita is not to let any one element overpower the drink and these ones slipped down a treat! The canapés were great – a selection of delicious dishes in miniature from the main menu. Potato and chorizo tacos, lime and coriander braised beef tostadas, crispy fried chicken tacos… I could go on….

I had a really good chat to Rachel Allen and Matt Tebbut and then stalked the other celebs for a photo opportunity before finally catching up with Thomasina (and her Mum). Thomasina is clearly passionate about Mexican food and is trying to show people that the food of this region is not a one trick piñata. Yes, tortillas play a big role in Mexican food but this is the carbohydrate staple of the nation. Imagine suggesting that the cuisine of Italy is dull because they eat a lot of pasta! The food of Mexico is as exciting and diverse as any I have eaten. From fish tacos in Baja California to the seven famous moles (sauces) of Oaxaca, great smoky chilli rubs on barbequed meats to delicate marinated fish dishes. I really hope that Thomasina succeeds and inspires more people to cook and eat real Mexican food.

You can read more of Steve’s culinary adventures on his website: www.gapyeargourmet.com and find out more about his recipe in Tommi’s new book: Mexican Cooking Made Simple.

Congratulation Steve and thanks for sharing such a great recipe.

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Molletes by Matty Teran

Matty’s contribution to my recipe competition is a Mexican teatime classic. Kids would come home from school craving this cheap, delicious treat, kind of like the best of beans on toast and cheese on toast all wrapped up in one. It should be in everyone’s repertoire. The hollowed out middle means this recipe has far more to it than meets the eye.

This is another very typical Mexican recipe. Simple and delicious! You have to have frijoles which you can make according to this recipe. You will also need ‘pico de gallo’ salsa, which you can find out more about here. Over to Matty…

Ingredients:

4 rolls or bolillos (but 2 fresh baguettes cut in half will do the trick)
Frijoles (about a cup)
Lancashire or mozzarella cheese according to your taste
Butter
‘Pico de gallo’ salsa (recipe link)

Method:

1. Cut the rolls in half and remove the softy middle part; we call it ‘migajon’.

2. Spread with butter and then with the frijoles.
3. Sprinkle with cheese and bake about 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted.
4. Serve with ‘pico de gallo’ salsa.

Thanks Matty for a great recipe. It just goes to show that some simple pleasures transcend international boundaries.

Stay tuned for more contributions to my Mexican recipe competition. And if you make this dish please let us know how you get on by leaving a comment.

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Smoked Haddock Ceviche with Corn & Sweet Potato Pancakes by Alicia Fourie

Alicia’s recipe is a deliciously alternative idea for Pancake Day. Using smoked fish is inspired and goes beautifully with the sweet potato and corn pancakes which might be a little too sweet for normal ceviche. The pancakes are also outrageously good with streaky bacon and slow-cooked tomatoes for breakfast. You can use either smoked pollock or coley for a more sustainable option.

Feeds 4 as a light main meal

Ingredients:

For the ceviche:

300g undyed smoked haddock fillets
1 serrano chilli
1 red shallot
Juice of a lime
Tabasco (optional)

For the pancakes:

120g coarse cornmeal
1 red shallot
1 serrano chilli, grated
Zest of a lime
Kernels cut from 2 cobs of corn
200g sweet potato, grated
2 whole eggs
About 100ml milk
2 egg whites
Stems from a big bunch of coriander
Salt & pepper
Sunflower oil for frying

To finish:

Juice of half a lime
Splash of olive oil
1 ripe avocado
Leaves from a big bunch of coriander

Method:

Remove the skin from the smoked haddock and cut it into thin slices, across the grain. Place the sliced chilli, sliced shallot and slices of fish in a non-reactive dish and pour over the lime juice. Sprinkle on a little Tabasco if you like it really hot. Leave for 45 minutes to cure.

In a large bowl combine the cornmeal, diced shallot, diced chilli, lime zest, corn and sweet potato.. Stir through the whole eggs and the finely chopped coriander stems. Add enough milk to make a thick batter. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and fold through the corn and sweet potato mixture. Season with salt & pepper.

Fry pancakes gently in oil (about 4 minutes a side – the first one inevitably falls apart and it takes a long time to cook out the sweet potato) and keep them warm.

When ready to serve, drain the fish from the marinade (discarding the juices but retaining the sliced shallot and some of the chilli slices) and combine with the coriander leaves and scoops of avocado. Dress with the lime juice and a splash of olive oil. Correct the seasoning.

Serve the hot pancakes topped with cool, fresh ceviche.

Alicia’s recipe is very special indeed. The contrast of textures, temperatures and acidity make this a real joy. The corn and sweet potato pancakes are so good that you should make a large batch so they you can enjoy them for lunch the next day with a zesty topping of prawns and guacamole.

Thanks to everyone who entered my competition. For more Mexican recipes, including the winning recipe from Steve Gale you’ll have to buy my book – Mexican Cooking Made Simple!

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Huevos Borrachos by Gicela Morales

Heuvos Borrachos

One of the star recipes submitted for my Recipe Competition was by Gicela Morales a wonderful Mexican woman who is fiendishly good with salsas. Eggs are a staple in Mexico and there is nowhere that you will eat a better breakfast. The green sauce on these eggs is as fiery as they come and perfect for blowing through the steamiest of hangovers. It is also incredibly good for you, a properly healthy start to the day. If you are looking for a way to blow away some cobwebs then look no further. Over to Gicela:

This is a hot green salsa with eggs for anyone with a hangover. It’s very easy to make and only requires very basic ingredients and a few green chilles.

You can make it as hot or as mild as you wish, but the idea is to make it as hot as you can stand it! Also makes a good brunch.

Ingredients (serves 2)

For the eggs

5 free range eggs
1 small onion
2 table spoons of good frying oil
Salt to taste

For the salsa

3 to 5 green chilles
1 small clove of garlic
1 cup of water

Method

1. Seed the chilles and roast them with the chopped garlic. Remove any burnt skin and put them in a food processor with the water until chopped roughly.

2. Chop the onion. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion. Saute the onion and add the eggs; mix until scrambled.

3. Add the green salsa to the egg and mix it gently. Bring it to to boil and add salt to taste.

Serve and eat with fresh bread, a roll or on a taco with a strong mug of coffee. Depending on the extent of your hangover, you may not even feel the heat!

Enjoy!

This is a great dish for blasting away a hangover. Thank you Gicela for sharing it.

Stay tuned for more contribution to my Mexican recipe competition. And if you make this dish please let us know how you get on by leaving a comment.

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Blaggers' Auction

Blaggers' Goodie Bags by Food by Mark
Blaggers' Goodie Bags by Food by Mark

Cecilia and Mark had a fantastic time at the Blaggers’ Banquet. By all accounts it was a sensational success, with over £6,000 being raised for Action Against Hunger. If you want to read more about the event from a variety of perspectives then have a look at…

The early stages…

and this post by Gin and Crumpets about the initial get together at the Draft House

The frantic preparations… by Princess and the Pea and Scandilicious

The view from the pass… by Gourmet Chick and Kavey Eats

The wine experts’ perspective… by Fiona Beckett and The Wine Sleuth

A photographer’s snapshot by Food by Mark whose image is at the top of this post

And most importantly devour Niamh’s amazingly moving post

But the fun hasn’t stopped. And neither has the fund-raising. If you visit the Blaggers’ Banquet eBay store you can bid on the first batch of lots including:

An Interflora “Hamper for Him”
An awesome Kitchenaid Artisan Stand Mixer
A visit for two to Artisan du Chocolat Atelier
Afternoon Tea for Two at the Ritz
A White Christmas Tea Collection from the White Tea Company

And look out for your chance to bid on Mexican cookery lessons from none other than our very own Tommi!

Thanks to Food by Mark for the image – have a look at the rest of his fantastic images here.

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Master Chef Live – This weekend

If you’re looking for this weekend’s biggest head to head, then look no further than The Cookery Experience cook-offs at Master Chef Live, Kensington Olympia.

MASTERCHEF-LIVE

Come down and cheer on Tommi as she battles it out live against James Nathan and Nadia Sawalha on Friday, under the watchful eyes of John Torode and Gregg Wallace. The whole event looks like it will be a feast of culinary delights with plenty going on from Friday to Sunday. And if all of that leaves you feeling hungry, then come and gorge yourself on some of Tommi’s recipes at Wahaca Westfield, just a stones throw away.

Good Luck Tommi!

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Channel 4 Investigates Food Waste

Channel 4 logo

Charlie Cottrell from Channel 4 has just published an article about the amount of food waste that restaurants in the UK are producing. She interviewed Tommi about the lenghts Wahaca goes to in order to keep the amount of waste to a minimum. Here’s a brief excerpt from Charlie’s article:

What sort of food waste does Wahaca produce?

Tommi: A lot is off-cuts, so, if you’re using a cauliflower, you’ve got all the stems and that; some is what people don’t finish on their plates, but we use small plates so it’s easy for people to order the amount they want, from a snack to a whole meal. I’d say our food waste is about 2 per cent of cost.

What procedures do you have in place to deal with food waste?

Tommi: We’ve been recycling our food waste since the day we opened. We use a company called Aardvark and they make compost from our food waste. Occasionally they send us back soil and we give that away. We give away chilli seeds at the restaurant and when kids come in we make plant pots out of our old menus and put a bit of soil in and the chilli seeds and give them to the children. It’s quite a fun circle!

How easy is it to implement the system?

Tommi: We just separate everything straight away in the kitchen. It’s like anything – if you train your staff to do something from the very start, it becomes second nature. If you say, ‘This is a serious issue for your children’, if you make it personal to them, that’s when they take is seriously.

What changes could the industry make to deal with food waste?

Tommi: Catering and events need to tackled. The amount that gets wasted is outrageous. Ooh and use doggy bags! My husband hates it but I’m all for saying, ‘Can I take that home?’ if I haven’t finished what I ordered. I love cooking with leftovers.”

To read the rest of the article which goes into more detail about other restaurants in the UK click here.

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Qype Autumn Menu Tasting

We invited Qype’s top reviewers to sample our new menu that we’ve put together for the cold months and this is what they thought, in bite sized chunks:

SMOKED HERRING TOSTADAS by Alex Sheppard

Herring Tostada

Photo by @kelsiemortimer on Flickr

The smoked herring tostada is something that I’d probably never have tried – I wouldn’t have thought fish and tacos would work well together. But I’m glad I did as it will be the main (but certainly not only) reason why I’ll be coming back to Wahaca. Not only is the fish MSC-certified and sourced from Hastings, they were delicious. The smokeyflavour stayed in the mouth long after they’d been eaten, but it wasn’t too overpowering. For me, they were the highlight of the evening.

PORK PIBIL TACOS by Almost Witty (Andrew Wong)

Pork Pibil Tacos

The pork pibils – from memory I think that was Johnny Depp’s dish of choice in Once Upon A Time In Mexico – and definitely the best. They dripped off the tongue as they should.

MUSHROOM AND HUITLACOCHE QUESADILLAS by Kate Matlock

Quesadilla with Huitlacoche and Mushrooms

The quesadillas…oh good golly… the crazy mushroom quesadilla that was creamy and gooey and unpronounceable. It’s a fungus (called huitlacoche) that grows on corn. Seriously. Can I just say it’s the best damn fungus I’ve ever tried because I will be back for more.

BLACK BEAN SOUP by Qyper ‘ShakinSwedens’

Black Bean Soup

The black bean soup which was so full of surprises it almost deserves a review of it’s own. The bowl was filled with goodies like avocado and roasted chillies and then the black bean soup poured over by the waiter. Each mouthful was different with a burst of fresh coriander in one or the piquant chilli in another.

MOLE ENCHILADA
by Jenny from The Red Mangetout

Mole Enchilada

Photo by @tikichris for Qype on Flickr

The mole enchiladas initially looked like more black bean soup, except this time it was topped with crema and rice. Digging in, it became apparent that underneath the sauce lay an enchilada stuffed with tender chicken and vegetables. The mole sauce was rich and spicy, with a good hint of chocolate. This was one of the stand out dishes for me, and a good introduction to Mexican flavours, without being too scary for the British palate. My only regret was that by this point I was getting too full to manage more than a mouthful!

FISH A LA VERACRUZANA
by Su-Lin from Tamarind and Thyme

 Fish a la Veracruzana

Photo by @Kelsiemortimer on Flickr

The Fish a la Veracruzana was a large piece of pollack with tomatoes, olives and capers, all baked in a foil parcel. The perfectly cooked fish broke off easily into large moist flakes at the touch of a fork and its lightness was complemented perfectly by the freshness from the tomatoes. However, as well as rice, this was accompanied by a salad whose toppings I found a little too punchy and acidic for the delicate fish.

SEASONAL VEGETABLE BURRITO
by Simon Doggett

Mixed Vegetable Burrito

Photo by Su-Lin on Flickr

The burrito caused a bit of a stir round the room with one particular controversial ingredient. The cabbage. Now, it’s a veggie burrito. Of course we expected veggies. But cabbage? Turns out this has been a bit of a talking point over the years between owners, chefs and us lot – it’s prevalent in a certain area of Mexico, but we really weren’t sure. Then again, those of them on the other side of the table were excited about something a bit different. I guess we’re waiting to see if it actually makes a reappearance! Before the tasting I was pretty clueless about ‘proper’ Mexican street food, and nine times out of ten would have plumped for the burrito option. But now, ya know, having been presented with the excitement beyond burritos, I’m not so sure about that.

WINTER BUERZA SALAD by Jess

Salad

Photo by @kelsiemortimer on Flickr

So perhaps I wouldn’t have normally ordered a dish like this at Wahaca. Firstly, it’s a salad, and secondly, it’s chocka with what might appear menu-wise to be too many ingredients, ending up as one confused salad amongst loads of hearty Mexicana goodness. But oh, what a revelation to have been fed this little beauty! It’s bursting with surprises – from the delicately deep fried anchochilli pieces giving the crunch to the fresh orange and pickled hibiscus over the feta and butternut squash, right down to the spelt hiding underneath it all.

BAJA CALIFORNIA TACOS by Mel fromTravels with My Fork

The absolute hit of the evening was next: a classic Baja-California Fish Taco – crispy fried fish with just the right kick of chipotle mayonaise served in a soft taco. I could have eaten a whole tray of these alone and am now contemplating throwing a fish taco party in the near future. High marks for this one.

CHURROS Y CHOCOLATE
by Gail

Churros and Chocolate

When we reached the meal’s finale, a platter of golden churros arrived on the table – infuriatingly out of reach, initially. Once the people at the other end of the table realised that our conversation had died and we were all staring at them with intent – ok, at the churros – they surrendered them to us. Almost without a fight. Beautifully light cinnamon-dusted horseshoes of crisp batter, with a dribbly dark chocolate sauce – they were never going to last long. They’re better than any others I’ve tried, probably because they were obviously fresh and quickly fried. The perfect sharing dish for the end of the evening – as long as you get in fast, they won’t last long.

TEQUILA by Epicurienne

Tequila

Photo by @kelsiemortimer on Flickr

Under Mark’s guidance, we tasted three tequilas from the Wahaca stable: a Blanco (white), served cold, a Reposado (rested) served at room temperature and an Añejo (aged), also served at room temperature, with a lovely, caramelly tang. As many will confide, I, too, have had the occasional clash with tequila, but the selection we enjoyed last night was an utterly different sensory experience to student union layback sessions in a vintage dentist’s chair. This was refined, smooth, flavoursome liquid, to be sipped and savoured, not consumed in one swallow. This was tequila for grown ups and it was better than good.

And… the last word from Qype Guru Tikichris who helped to set this all up

By inviting us twenty or so lucky Qypers along last Thursday for a sample of their new “cold months” menu at their stylish Westfield location, the good folks behind sensational Mexican street food restaurant Wahaca succeeded not only in delighting our appreciative taste buds and filling our bellies with more than ample amounts of their flavourful Latin dishes but in raising the bar for future Qype events as well. Really, I can’t even remember the last time I saw so much food laid out in front of me. That so much of it was incredibly delicious left me a bit dumbfounded (or was that the cumulative effect of all that lovely, free flowing Tequila Corralejo?)

Thank you Qype for making the evening so much fun, for providing so much valuable feedback and for all your kind words. And thanks for your great reviews which you can read in more depth here:

Tamarind and Thyme
Ravenous Libby
Epicurienne
Travels with My Fork
Qype Blog