Charro Beans (Or Mexican Soup)

I was born and raised in the North of Mexico, Tampico is my hometown and I’ll will always cherish my childhood and youth spent there. However, right when I turned 19 I moved to Monterrey, Mexico. So from 10 good years I studied, lived, worked and ate grilled meat (“carnes asadas”) at the City of Mountains and hard working Mexicans.

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While there I learnt to cook “Frijoles Charros” or as I later called it in NZ “Mexican spicy bean soup”. So, don’t be shy, grab pen and paper and write down the following recipe for some kick ass spicy bean soup that will definitely be the final entrée at your home made BBQ this summer (or Fall… screw it, you know I went on holidays, so this is great for Winter too, ok? just be cool with it). Remember, this is not “Chilli”, this is a Mexican spicy bean soup, alright?

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of Cannellini or Red Kidney beans in brine
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 garlic, chopped
  • 3 stripes of smoked bacon (the real deal, you know what I mean)
  • 1 piece of Spanish chorizo in squares
  • Red, yellow and green capsicums squared (1 each)
  • 1 bratwurst roughly sliced (I do prefer either Argentinian sausage or Polish burst)
  • Fresh cilantro (just a handful)
  • 1 smoked chipotle chilli
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
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These are chipotles 

What to do? 

Use a large and deep pot, add the bacon and chorizo, stir around, let those juices cover the wall of the pot, add the onions, garlic and capsicums, stir-fry. Throw in the bratwurst (no pun intended), stir around again, oh yeah, that’s it, you know it. Finally, add the tomatoes, and after a couple minutes put in the beans, brine and all.

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Finally, put the chipotle and the cilantro in. The idea of using the whole chipotle, without chopping it or slicing it is because you don’t want to make this a hot soup, you just want the flavour of this smoked chilli, that’s it.

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Let all the ingredients mix in the pot, now pour in 3 cups of water, let it boil. Salt and pepper to taste.

This my friends, is a great confort food. You can even not put any extra water in it and it is a great side dish for a roast (like pork or lamb).

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In Mexico we can also just buy these and everybody will be ok with that. Kidding, we are not ok with this, go for the real deal

Ps. The year is almost over and we are soon to know who is going to become president of the USA. Aren’t we all excited? Not really, nor of the two options are great for my neighbours, but that shouldn’t be of my business, right? Now, if you excuse me, I have a wall to build.

 

Spanish Tortilla, Bro!

Usually when I’m bored I go for a cooking sprint, and it gets pretty nasty. How nasty does it get? You might be wondering. Well, I go to my local supermarket and simply “go for it”. A bunch of dishes starts to appear in my head, hence, an imaginary list of ingredients types itself in my mind.

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This is just a wee example of my cooking sprints.

Spanish Tortilla

Pick 3 to 5 good size potatoes, the yellow kind, half an onion, slice thinly these vegetables. In a medium size pot, put a lot of water to boil, add 1 spoon of salt and put the potatoes there. Let them cook until soft but still firm. Drizzle a large size non-stick pan with some extra virgin olive oil, stir-fry the onions and a garlic clove (already cut in brunoise), until soft, don’t let them caramelize, don’t add any salt, just pepper to taste. Get those tatoes out of the water, and put them in the pan, stir gently until brown.

In a metal bowl, crack four or five eggs, whisk, add salt, pepper, 2 spoons of water, 2 spoons of sour cream, a pinch of dried parsley, and keep on whisking, who told you to stop? Now, let the potatoes and onions to cool down a little, integrate to the egg mix.

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Now the fun part, use a much smaller pan, like half the size of the one you used previously, drizzle more olive oil, put the stove to medium heat, ready? Add the mix into the pan. Why are we using a much smaller pan? Simple, this will make a thicker tortilla, easier to handle while cooking, and it’ll look great when plating.

Where was I? Right! Let the mix cook in the smaller pan, you’ll notice when it’s ready to turn when the top isn’t runny anymore. I usually put a lid on to get a firmer tortilla. Now grab a plate larger than the pan, put it on top, and flip it, put the pan back on the stove and carefully return the tortilla from the plate to the pan. Let it cook for 4 to 5 five more minutes in medium-low heat.

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Now plate!

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You can double or triple this recipe in order to make more Spanish tortillas, this dish is a great entrée and will not disappoint.

Ps. Mexico City is currently experiencing its worst environmental crisis in 15 years. The local authorities determined that limiting the amount of cars on the streets seemed the logical first step to solve the problem. I reckon that the pollution comes from the industrial zones located in the states of Puebla, Estado de México and Hidalgo. The authorities have done nothing to regulate these zones; in the meantime, Mexico City’s administration still hasn’t presented a public transport improvement plan, just saying.

Facts-about-Air-Pollution-in-Mexico-City

This is where I “live”… 

Father´s Day Asado

Almost a month ago my dad had a stroke, it was the day after my birthday, as soon as we found out my sisters and I didn´t hesitate to run to our hometown, to be there with him and our mum. So, together, as a family, we made it, my dad has almost fully recovered and he is very keen to take the most out of this second chance life has given him. So, last weekend we came over again to celebrate father´s day with him. Indeed, it was a very meaningful celebration.

For this weekend, one of my sisters decided that we should feast as we always do on special occasions, throwing a massive asado (or “carne asada”, as we know it here in Mexico).

Ribs, picanha, and more meat... plain and simple

Ribs, picanha, and more meat… plain and simple

We used a charcoal grill, medium high heat, only using half of the cooking surface. This turned out to be a great idea as we usually just spread the heat all along the grill, in order to use all the cooking surface. However by doing this we were able to cook perfectly the pieces of meat and the rest of the veggies without burning them. Start by putting some jalapenos and tomatoes on the grill until they burn, later we place them on a mortar and make a salsa out of it. Wrapped in tin foil we placed some potatoes and onions really close to the fire, we want all the heat on them as they take longer to cook.

Let those jalapenos burn,  and destroy in that mortar, add some caramelized onions to the salsa and a splash of lime juice.

Let those jalapenos burn, and destroy in that mortar, add some caramelized onions to the salsa and a splash of lime juice.

Finally, for the “piece de resistance“, this time we had beef ribs, some fillets, and a 1.5 kg piece of picaña (which comes from the top back part of the cow). For the picaña (or picanha), the meat had to be scored first, it has a thick layer of fat, and you want the scoring not to get all the way to the meat but to be slightly deep, as you will be rubbing the whole piece with pepper and salt. Asado 3 My strategy is simple, put it on the fire, and let it cook on the surface, when you reckon it has a nice colour on the outside put the meat away from direct fire and close to grill´s lid, we are going for a medium level of doneness,  lots of juices and a beautiful pink in its core. The whole asado takes around 1.5 hours to 2 hours to cook, including the meat, ribs, vegetables, salsa and sides. Asado 4Indirect grilling turned out to be a fascinating technique, as it allows the meat to cook evenly, but without burning it, giving you more control during the process. Certainly the result was outstanding and it was the best way to celebrate not only Father’s day but also the successful recovery of my dad, he is getting there and we couldn’t be happier.

Beautiful indeed...

Beautiful indeed…

Pork Rib Roast – The Musical

This one isn’t an easy recipe, turns out that for great dishes and outstanding flavours sometimes we have to be patient and take our time.

So, get your oven tray ready, turn on the heat, sharpen your knives and let’s get kraken with this.

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kilograms of Loin rack Joint
  • Half a litre of white wine
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 10 white small potatoes
  • A good bunch of fresh thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

Let’s find the meat. Go to your favourite butcher, I know I have mine, and ask him for a good piece of Loin rack Joint (use the previous image for life changing purposes), tell the lad to leave the fat on, (always leave the fat on), take it to your kitchen counter, ready? Now let the magic begin.

First remove the membrane that comes on top of the ribs, this will make the meat really tender while cooking it. Ready? Sweet, now score the meat on the other side, you want the salt and the pepper to really get into that layer of fat.

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Now place the white potatoes, in halves, the thyme, pepper, salt and the garlic cloves on the cooking tray. This will look like a potatoe bed where you will place the ribs on, fat up.

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Pour 300 ml of the wine on the tray, cover the meat with tin foil, and put that baby inside the preheated oven, now leave it there for 1.5 hours at 180 degrees Celsius.

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1.5 hours are gone, take the tray out of the oven, remove the tin foil and put the pork back in. The meat is now cooked but we want that fat to turn into a beautiful golden crust. Leave it there for 35 more minutes, after that, place the piece of meat on a wooden board and let it rest for good 5 minutes, you want those juices to get evenly distributed. In the meantime, take that tray and pour the rest of the wine, deglaze that bastard, use a whisker to scratch those flavours out the tray.

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Get a good knife, and cut the pork into slices according to each rib, now plate, pour that gravy on and it is done. Enjoy it with a chilled white wine or a really good Pilsner.

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How to Cook an Octopus

To the point, this is one of my favourite things to eat and cook, either in a stew, soup, salad, or grilled, octopus is a very versatile product. As a guy born and raised in the coast, I learnt to eat seafood since I was a wee boy, my mum doesn´t want to tell me the first time I ate octopus, (I´ve told her several times that I´m too old to be taken away from her by social services anyway, but she doesn´t get it), that, along with crabs, ceviche, shrimps, and fish are part of our regular diet.

Anyway, every time I cook octopus my mates ask me how do I know it´s ready to eat. Well, let me tell you how I cook this amazing seafood, while I attempt to post a video of myself putting an octopus into boiling water. (FAIL, I couldn´t upload the video, so, there, have a pic of Mexicans celebrating the CINCO DE MAYO).

What do you mean they don´t look Mexican?

What do you mean they don´t look Mexican?

First, go to your fish market, ready? Good. If you don´t have a fish market, well, so sorry, go to your local supermarket and go to the fish section, I´d rather buy it frozen if you don´t live close to the coast or in the middle of Saskatchewan. If you are buying it fresh, the octopus must have a bright and shiny skin, firm texture from the head to the tip of the tentacles. Now, don´t be shy, grab the octopus, take it closer to your nose and smell it, the scent should be something between salt, the ocean and fishy (and your unfulfilled dreams from high school of becoming a pro soccer player). Have you picked your octopus? Sweet, now ask the lad behind the counter to clean it for you (pretty much taking out the insides and the wee beak it has).

Remember to put the necklace apart and get rid of the double chin

                          Remember to put the necklace apart and get rid of the double chin

Now go to the kitchen, that´s right, take that eight legged bastard to your crib and get things started. Use a medium size pot and pour 2 litres of water, 2 bay leaves, salt, pepper, 1 garlic clove, and 1 quarter of an onion. Put it to boil, now wait patiently until you see the water boiling. Now, as seen in the video, little by little, like if you are testing the water for the octopus, put it inside, this will let the tentacles to take the heat and don´t roll up too much, because this will happen if you place it straight into the pot.

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I once learnt that in order to know how long it takes to cook an octopus, you ought to leave it in boiling water with a potato the same size of the head of the octopus, true story. I´ve tried this several times and turns out that when the potato was ready, the Octopus still needed 20 to 30 more minutes. My standard is an octopus of 500 gr (usually the standard size in Mexico), leave it for 1 to 1.5 hours. Honestly, wait one hour, cut one of the tentacles off and try it. You are looking for a soft, easy to chew texture, slimy outside and well defined inside meat.

When ready, as an easy recipe, cut it into cubes, and stir fry with onions, garlic, paprika, chilies and deglaze with some soy sauce. Serve with some cous-cous or white rice and pair with a Pinot Gris or a nice Rosé.

Or just put it on the grill, beside this nice piece of meat :)

Or just put it on the grill, beside this nice piece of meat 🙂

Roast and Salad for Saturday

Saturday wasn´t any different, we went on the hunt for a good dining table and a washing machine. So my sister and I had the great idea to drive all the way to the East of the city (remember, this is Mexico City, almost 20 million people and more than 5 million cars, pretty much traffic hell everywhere), where several stores could supply our needs.

That´s the Walmart we are looking for!

That´s the Walmart we are looking for!

We were on this for 5 to 6 hours, we found the dining table, not the washing machine, and somehow we ended up in the North part of the city, because we are from out of town we didn´t realize that we suck at calculating time and distance in here.

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Anyway, the point is we were hungry as, bro, so we stopped by a supermarket (aye, it was a Walmart) and we got ourselves enough ingredients to cook what I´ll call: Sirloin and beef short ribs roast with beetroot and arugula salad. (or as my sister called it “just buy that piece of meat and let´s eat it raw on the way home”).

For the roast:

  • 500 grams of sirloin cut (usually known as Picaña, in Latin-America)
  • 500 grams of short beef ribs
  • 2 red capsicums, cut in halves
  • 1 big red onion in quarters
  • 1 small branch of fresh rosemary
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Salt and Pepper
meats

If this isn´t heaven to you, then, bro, you are reading the wrong blog.


For the salad

  • Fresh arugula
  • 1 avocado
  • 30 grams of goat cheese
  • Half a red onion into thin slices.
  • 2 medium size beetroot boiled, and later grilled, then cut in quarters.
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper.

For the roast:

Turn on your oven at 200 Celcius, in the meantime put a large pan on the medium high heat, sprinkle on it some grounded pepper and salt, put the ribs first, let the fat melt while it covers the entire surface of the pan (faaaaaat…mygosh!). Now, grab that beautiful piece of meat and place it fat to the pan and let it freaking cook, I mean, we want to sear the surface of that steak. Do the same with the ribs.

Now put those pieces of meat in an oven tray, sprinkle more sea salt, pepper, put the sliced capsicums and onions around the meats and put into the oven for 45 minutes.

For the greens:

In a big bowl, put all the ingredients together, remember to put the cheese and the sliced avocado at the end, as they ought to be crowning your salad. Mix thoroughly and plate, crown with the avocado, the beetroot and the goat cheese.

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Take the meat out of the oven and let it rest for 2 to 3 minutes, you want those juices to evenly distribute into your cut. Now slice and plate, pour yourself a glass of red and enjoy, you deserve it.

Roast

Home Cooking for the Brave

So, this is my report from last weekend, I was out of town for around a week, you know, work related stuff. Anyway, that´s not the point, as soon as I got back to Mexico City, my sister and I started cooking like maniacs for three days in a row, and it was awesome.

Not actually us... I´m bald, for instance.

Not actually us… I´m bald, for instance.

I´ll go as fast as I can with the dishes we prepared that weekend, full of laughs, adventures and inside jokes.

Friday

I was shattered by the end of  the week, couldn´t be bothered to do anything else, my sis went out and I decided to treat myself with something elegantly delicious. So, I rushed to the supermarket and got myself a neat piece of salmon, 1 kg of clams, spring onions, butter (oh yeah, baby, lots of butter), and a fancy rosé.

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These dishes can be cooked at the same time, so let´s start with the clams:

Put a regular size pot to medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, butter, spring onions, carrots (1 inch slices), sliced garlic, and half a sliced onion, then stir-fry until the onion softens. Now it gets interesting, put half a kilo of the clams in the pot (freaking rinse them, mate, don´t just cook stuff straight from the bag, you are better than that and you know it), now you either pour 1 cup of white wine or 1 cup of water, let it simmer for a while and put the lid on.

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The clams will open nicely, discard those that don´t.

For the salmon, follow these simple instructions:

Put some salt and pepper on the salmon, don´t mind the skin, leave it, it´s important, and if you are into it add some dill weed or smoked paprika to the rub. Turn on the heat to medium on a regular size pan, a table spoon of extra virgin olive oil and butter, let it melt, wait until the fat browns slightly and put the salmon skin down, now let it cook.

There you go, you can see exactly how it is cooking (not my actual kitchen, nor my pan, nor my salmon)

There you go, you can see exactly how it is cooking (not my actual kitchen, nor my pan, nor my salmon)

This technique is super easy, as you don´t need to turn the salmon to finish cooking, just let the heat flow from skin up. This will allow you to cook your meat to perfection.

And that´s it, just plate and enjoy it with a good rosé that you´ve obviously put in the fridge while you were cooking this.

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Digg in, bro, you know you want to.

Ps. What´s the favourite dish you like cooking with your family or friends? Share your stories if you have something to share.

The Kitchen: My Happy Place

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After coming back from awesome New Zealand, I moved to Mexico City, and I´ve been living here for the last two years. I´m loving it so far and I´ve met amazing people in this city, as well as knowing more about my professional capabilities and skills.

But there´s one thing I do miss, either from Aotearoa or my hometown, Tampico, and that is having a decent kitchen. I know what you are thinking, a good cook doesn´t need fancy spaces nor expensive appliances to deliver amazing dishes, however, before this new place, I used to cook in a kitchen only a hobbit could fit in.

My mates and I hanging out, you know, just chilling before going to an adventure, and stuff

My mates and I hanging out, you know, just chilling before going to an adventure, and stuff

Of course, I´m no Jamie Oliver grilling freaking salmon in the middle of the woods, but this kitchen was way too small for me and my usual need to cook for large audiences.

Just recently, I moved in with my youngest sister, we found a flat in one of the most interesting and quiet hoods in town, Colonia Napoles. What about the kitchen? It suffices, and has a nice working oven, pantry, and lots of space to chop, mix, marinate and other regular things I like doing there.

Because "Mise en Place" shall be mandatory in your kitchen, the way Jesus told his disciples back in the day, true story.

Because “Mise en Place” shall be mandatory in your kitchen, the way Jesus told his disciples back in the day, true story.

Oh, and my sister brought a nice size fridge with her! So, all set now.

"... and then I told him that I was just fine, you should have looked as his face, priceless"

“… and then I told him that I was just fine, you should have seen the look on his face, priceless”

My next posts will be about the three awesome dishes we cooked this past weekend, they were legendary, true story. Because for me, as a Mexican, the kitchen isn´t only a room in the house, it is where things happen, stories get told and family bonds in a much stronger way.

The Kitchen is where I used to hang out with mum and dad, where gossips are shared and rivalries settled.

The kitchen is where the magic happens and the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

 So, every time I come home from work exhausted, thirsty and hungry… I go to the kitchen and cook whatever comes to my mind, not whatever suffices, but something that inspires.

The ordinary... extraordinary

The ordinary… extraordinary

Ps.The dress was black and blue, assholes.

Ps2. Have you been following closely Mexican politics lately? No need to say that The Economist, New York Times, El País and more recently Financial Times have charged with all they have against the current administration. And when I said “with all they have” I meant “with all the obvious corruption and violation of human rights that the federal and regional government have allegedly committed against the Mexican citizens”. As they said in one of these media outlets “They don´t get it that they don´t get it”.

Ps3. ISIS is all over the news these days, and without question it´s a matter that should be in the top priorities of the UN Security Council, however, so is Ebola, and without any more American or European infected this disease has become uninteresting to the mainstream media.

My Favourite Salsa

When I was learning how to cook, back in 2004, I was in France as a Mexican Exchange student, and after four months I started  craving some Mexican food. My cooking knowledge wasn´t great but I knew how to mix some ingredients and just went for it.

Because, you  know, even after a couple of hours away from the country Mexicans start to crave salsa and tamales

Because, you know, even after a couple of hours away from the country Mexicans start to crave salsa and tamales

So I bought fresh tomatoes, onions and some “Indian” Chilies, you know, France. I came back to the dorms and started cooking, suddenly I realized I´ve made something that slightly resembled Mexican food, I was so excited I literally ran down the hall with a spoon full of that salsa just to give everybody a wee try. I know, not really that hygienic, but I was thrilled I´ve made something edible.

My first salsa is super easy to make, and it will not disappoint:

 

Ingredients:choppedonions

  • 1 big ass onion
  • 3 fresh tomatoes
  • 3 chilies (serranos, or Indian chilies will do)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 spoons of canola oil

 

First, heat a medium size pot, pour the oil, and place inside the onion, sliced, let it cook. You will notice that the onion will sizzle and then start to caramelize, don´t add any salt yet. Then put in the chopped chilies and chopped garlic, let them integrate with the onions, open your windows if you are not used to this type of cooking, as the smell will make you cough and sneeze, true story.

SerranosRipe Tomatoes on White with Clipping Path

When you notice that everything is well cooked, add the tomatoes, diced; the juices of the tomatoes will put all the flavours together. Finally, add salt and pepper to taste, and half a cup of water. Let it simmer, the salsa isn´t supposed to be runny, you want it thick and with a curry-ish like texture.

I used to put this salsa on nachos or cous-cous, goes amazing with grilled fish and pork, aye, lots of pork.

Ps.  Non related to this culinary post, I do highly recommend this recent article posted on The Economist, titled: “The Feds Ride Out”, which talks about the Mexican government launching this new police force rather than improving the current crime-fighting forces. As said by some analysts, president Enrique Pena Nieto, seems to lack a national security strategy and keeps on denial that Mexico is under control of criminal forces.

http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21613312-mexico-gets-new-police-force-it-needs-new-policing-strategy-feds-ride-out

Credit to: Peter Schrank

 

Mussels and Leffe Blonde

I can´t believe I haven´t told you about my favourite day of the week when I was in New Zealand! It wasn´t Friday, nor Saturday, it was freaking Monday, bro. Monday was the day when my mates and I would take a break and go to De Fontein on Mission Bay. (Wednesday was recycling day and business time, obviously)

Why on Monday? Because if you had your loyalty card you´ll get 2×1 in mussel pots, that meant ordering 1 kilo and you get an extra kilo, served in any of the different sauces they had: White wine and garlic, lobster bisque and brandy, coconut cream and lemongrass curry, blue cheese and spinach, or the chef´s special. My favourite? Coconut cream and lemon grass curry, it was freaking delicious.

Beautiful

This place was/is always hectic, people waited lined up outside to get a decent table and being able to try its spectacular flavours and massive servings, you don´t only get a pot of mussels, you get the french fries and dipping sauces. But wait, no Belgium restaurant will make sense if there isn´t good Belgium beer to wash down these delicacies.

leffe-blond2My recommendation? Leffe Blonde, its taste, body, and freshness is essential to enjoy mussels and fries and the beautiful view that Mission Bay in Auckland presents you.

Remember that mussels are the cheapest source of protein in New Zealand, as you don´t need to pay more than NZ 3 to NZ 4 per kilo at the supermarkets, and that my mates is freaking nothing, even in comparison with Mexican standards.

If there is something I miss from Aotearoa has to be going to De Fontein on a Monday arvo. Trust me, if you have some spare time in Auckland, take a wee break, go to Mission Bay and dig into that bucket of mussels, just marvelous.

Auckland Eastern Bays