Category Archives: Mexican

Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Festival (1 Sept – 4 Oct 2011)

Saturday, 10 September at 11:55am

In typical fashion, I’ve accidentally found myself in Brighton during a food festival…and with no camera.

I have, however, brought my notepad and a pen, so I’ve perched myself in a sunny spot under a palm tree behind the royal pavilion and its here that I’m eating a blueberry muffin and drinking my very belated morning coffee.

So far today I’ve wandered the Lanes (lusting over all the lovely antique diamonds) and I’ve perused the offerings at the food festival (which I also lust over) on New Road and Regent Street, narrowly avoiding a rather dangerous encounter with a Cypriot food stall selling only four types of pastries; the savoury options being spinach & feta and halloumi & onion, and the sweet options being a sort of almond custard with cinnamon and an anari filled empanada-like pastry, drizzled with honey and sesame seeds.  (I love anari – it should be an incredibly dull cheese, but it makes everything you serve it with, feel special.)  All of them were very tempting and oddly enough, they were gluten free as well.  There are dozens of stands selling American style cupcakes, old fashioned English tea cakes, freshly spun cotton candy (the staff wear massive bright pink wigs), local cheeses (including some Sussex Charmer, which I’ve bought to take home) and there’s also a man selling organic, biodynamic English fruit wines.

By the way, as I write this, I’ve been eavesdropping on an elderly Australian family who have accidentally made their way to this quiet end of the garden and have been deciding whether or not to negotiate jumping the 6-ft high fence that separates the Royal Pavilion grounds from the art deco bus stop at Old Steine.  Thankfully they have reconsidered and have taken my recommendation of walking to the other side of the garden and taking the exit onto Church St.  I love how Australians behave like 25 year olds, even when they’re 65!

Many of my favourite pleasures of Brighton are food-based; Montezuma’s chocolates, the fudge cake at Chockywockydoodah, the mountain-sized summer salad and the eaton mess at Bill’s on North Road and fish & chips with a can of coke on the pier.  As I’m here on my own today, its unfortunate that I’ll  probably avoid indulging myself with a single one of these decadences, but I may wander my way back up to Regent Street to buy one of those beautiful Cypriot pastries.

Saturday, 10 September at 2:35pm

I’m sitting in Pavilion Gardens, at the front of the palace, rather than the back this time, nibbling on my spinach & feta pastry and listening to the electric sitar player.  At one point, I thought it would be terribly romantic if I fell in love with the sitar player and lived with him in a ramshackle flat in Brighton while he busked & gigged and I ran a yoga commune or taught at a Waldorf school or something, but this fantasy stopped the moment he stopped for a smoke break with his friend the Rastafarian (who you also sometimes see playing his steel drums in the Pavilion Gardens) and started whinging about the Council in the truly whiniest voice you’ve ever heard.  Love is a fickle thing, and my loyalties immediately returned to my lovely boyfriend…even if he does work in insurance.

Sunday, 11 September at 12:10pm

The Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Festival continues until 4 October and there are plenty of foodie events between now and then, although the Big Sussex Market, which I’ve been at, will finish on Sunday 11 September at 6pm.  Its a beautiful autumn day and all the major Brighton restaurants have food stalls, there are loads of local suppliers of food and drink, and there’s a whole pavilion for Mexican Independence Day.  So, eat & drink your way to Jubilee Square and then watch some Mexican dancing or wander into the Pavilion Gardens and listen to the brass band (or the electric sitar player!) whilst enjoying a glass of prosecco from the Hotel Du Vin stand.  Just hurry up and go…now!

Guacamole

Guacamole

Guacamole

There are as many ways to make guacamole as there are Mexicans to make it.  Everyone (and their mother and their dog, etc) has their own way of making it, which of course, is the best way.

Some guacamoles are runny, green and whizzed through the blender, so they’re smooth and pourable.  Others are chunky, with roughly mashed hass avocados and juicy, ripe chopped tomatoes studding it like jewels.

Some have white onions, cilantro (fresh coriander for those in the UK), parsley, jalapenos, garlic or lime juice.

I’m a fickle guacamole maker.  I’ll use whatever I happen to have that’s delicious and fresh…and happens to be in the house.  The only essentials as far as I’m concerned, are a really nice ripe buttery hass avocado and a fresh plump jalapeno.  If I happen to have cilantro and juicy baby plum tomatoes hanging about in the fridge, then that’s all the better.

Avocados are brilliantly good for you. They’re packed with all kinds of healthy stuff:

Beta-sitosterol:  This inhibits the absorption of cholesterol and promotes lower blood cholesterol levels.
Folate:  Promotes healthy cell and tissue development, so it reduces the risk of birth defects if you’re pregnant.
Potassium:  Helps balance the body’s electrolytes. Ounce per ounce, avocados contain 60% more potassium than bananas.
Vitamin E:  An antioxidant which slows down aging and protects against heart disease and various forms of cancer.
Glutathione:  Acts as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals that can cause cell damage and lead to disease.
Lutein:  This protects against prostate cancer and eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
Magnesium:  Helps produce energy and is important for muscle contraction and relaxation.

Here’s how I made the guacamole I ate for my supper tonight:

Ingredients:
1 ripe medium hass avocado
1 small handful of cilantro*, finely chopped
pinch sea salt
pinch coarsely ground pepper
4 or 5 baby plum, cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1/4 key lime

Method:  Cut the avocado in half and scoop out the buttery flesh. Roughly mash it with a fork, or if you’re lucky enough to have a molcajete**, give it a gentle mash with with the chopped cilatro, sea salt, pepper, and jalapenos.  At the very end, gently fold in the tomatoes and squeeze the lime over the top.  I’m not too keen on a lot of lime in guacamole, but a little bit cuts through the fattiness quite nicely.

Guacamole

Guacamole

You can eat this with tortilla chips, but its even better scooped up into little tacos with soft corn tortillas. Londoners can buy these fresh from the Cool Chile Company at Borough Market by London Bridge or you can get them frozen from the little Latin American food shop on Old Kent Road, near East Street. (Don’t ask me the name of it, because I have no idea if it even has one!)

*In Canada and the US, we call this fresh herb cilantro, for the Spanish name, but in UK its called fresh coriander.
**A molcajete is a Mexican mortar & pestle made from lava stone.

My Sweet Tamal

Finished Tamale

Finished Tamal

I have a million memories of eating tamales.  From the first suspicious bite when I tasted the pink and greyish mass of lumpy, raisin-speckled dough, to every time after that when I would run out into the street after the tamal man on his tricycle, pushing along a vat of steaming tamales or on Sundays when I would buy them from the old Zapotec lady in front of La Merced church in Oaxaca and eat them with a mug of hot and frothy chocolate con leche.

I had always intended to return to Oaxaca; if not permanently, then at least on a regular basis.  But after eight years, I had still not returned, and felt deprived of these sweet steamed envelopes from the city which had taught me how to taste food.  Finally I decided to do my research and learn to make them myself.

None of my Mexican cookbooks seemed to have a recipe, and none of the ones I found online were the same as the Oaxacan ones I remembered.  Obviously I was going to have to roll up my sleeves and develop the recipe from scratch.  A great resource was a clip from the Miami-based morning breakfast show, Despierta América and I was able to adapt it for my purposes.

My tamales turned out perfectly – exactly the way I remembered them, but without the splodge of pink food colouring the Oaxacan ones would have so the sellers could identify them from the savoury flavours. My boyfriend had never eaten tamales, and soon he had eaten at least half a dozen of them.  And so had I.  Before we managed to eat all 24 of them, I quickly packed some of the tamales up in a Tupperware and froze them – they can be thawed again and re-steamed.

For the recipe click here:  My Bermondsey Kitchen – Tamales Dulces