Monday, September 22, 2014

Simple but spectacular Mexican dinner

One of the many wonderful things about Mexican food is its combination of simplicity and rich flavour, and this was very much key to the meal I made for a family dinner the other day. The centrepiece was delicious pressure-cooked adobo chicken interpreted in my way, surrounded by various side dishes and a pile of warm white corn tortillas, so each person could make their own individual servings. Not only did it taste and look fantastic, but it was also easy to prepare. And it went down a treat!
For the adobo chicken: (I made dinner for seven, but am noting here quantities for 4, to make it simple. Pressure-cooking it is simplest, fastest and best but if you don't have a pressure-cooker, use a normal pot and cook for up to 2 hours)
4 chicken thigh fillets, or 2 chicken breast fillets--no need to cut them up.
one medium tomato, whole
one red capsicum,chopped into pieces
pinch cumin seeds
4 garlic cloves, whole
chopped fresh coriander(keep some back for adding at serving time)
1/4 cup wine or cider vinegar
3 tbsps honey
chilli to your taste(don't overdo it!)
1/4 cup water.
Put all the ingredients in the pressure-cooker, add the water, and cook for 20-25 mins from the time  the cooker starts steaming. Let out steam and open cooker, then, using a fork, scrape the meat until it goes into strings or strands(as pictured), which gives the chicken its characteristic look. The sauce created from all the other ingredients will mix in with the strands and make a lovely moist mixture. Sprinkle reserved fresh chopped coriander on top to serve.
While the chicken is cooking, you can prepare the side dishes:
Guacamole made from two avocadoes, crushed and mixed with some chopped onion, garlic, tomato, salt, pepper, a smidgen of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon; mushrooms stir-fried in olive oil, with preserved capsicums and garlic chives; tomato and capsicum sauce made from mixed chopped tomato and capsicum, cooked slowly in olive oil with chopped garlic and some chilli; mayonnaise sauce consisting of mayonnaise mixed with a little yoghurt; sour cream; and green salad dressed with vinaigrette.
The tortillas should also be warmed ahead of time--I do this in a non-stick frying pan, with no oil added. Can also be done on grill.
Put in dishes and relax--everyone makes their own mix.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Delicious axoa--Basque veal stew

We brought back some powdered 'piment d'Espelette', or Espelette chilli pepper from the Basque country--in fact, from the small town of Espelette itself--and this week we had the first dish flavoured with it: a deliciously tender and flavourful axoa, or Basque veal stew. The piment d'Espelette powder, with its rich, full flavour, like the very best paprika ever, really comes into its own in a dish like this, which is cooked slowly and is most satisfying in winter.
And it's pretty easy too!Watch out though you don't overdo the piment d'Espelette--it's best enjoyed in sparing amounts, to get the full flavour and just a hint of heat.
You need: veal steaks or roast, cut into pieces--quantity depends on how many people will eat it! Chopped onions. Capsicums(red peppers) either fresh or chargrilled preserves in olive oil. (We used the latter, as it is even more delicious than with the fresh ones). If you like, you can use green capsicums too. One half teaspoon of powdered piment d'Espelette--(there are places you can get it from in Australia, such as Herbie's Spices online) or you can also use good paprika. Olive oil. Chicken stock. Salt, pepper.
Fry the pieces of meat gently on both sides. Remove from pan and keep on a plate. Fry the chopped onions and the capsicum till the onion is golden and the capsicum if fresh, is soft(you only need to do this a bit if using the preserved kind.)Then put the meat back in. Stir well together. Add salt and pepper. Add the piment d'Espelette/paprika. Stir well, and cook for a few minutes before adding the chicken stock to cover. Simmer over low heat for about an hour, or till the meat is tender. You can also add parboiled potatoes and carrots to the dish if you like. Axoa is also often traditionally served with rice.