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.

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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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Hot Wings and Beer

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That’s, I reckon, the best title I’ve ever come up with for any of my posts in this blog. The reason for today’s topic is plain and simple, Hot Wings and Beer are awesome (it’s in the bible, look it up)

Beautiful

Beautiful

Here in Mexico City we tend to go for wings every other Wednesday, and when I say “we”, I mean my mates from my hometown who live here and sometimes we bring a special guest. This sort of tradition began with my friends up north in Monterrey, most of them from my hometown, Tampico, used to get together every Wednesday. The day was chosen not because we love Wednesdays, but because of the specials they have that day at this restaurant (Wings Army), you order 20 hot wings they bring you 30. This place, Wings Army, besides serving great wings, also has a wide variety of national and international beers, which is awesome. From the local brews, to artisan beer, all the way to Cuban or great German beer. The place has it all.

Literally, from everywhere, except, you know... North Korea

Literally, from everywhere, except, you know… North Korea

I must admit I don´t really know how they do it, how they cook these wings to perfection, I’ve tried at home and the result is not disappointing but just “not the same”. I’m not going to explain how to cook the perfect wings, or what to look in a hot wings joint. This is just a reminder that there are some things that other do better, and we should appreciate them and munch our way through.

What other dishes you’d love to cook at home but just don’t turn out as good as your favourite food joint cooks them?

Ps, Oh, by the way, do you know that this guy in Guadalajara registered the “Duff Beer” and branded the bottles to commercialize this brew.

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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

 

#100HappyDays Conclusion

What have this experiment taught me? Let me recap on how I learnt something amazing about life, the universe and everything.

At the beginning I didn´t know what to expect from this, I mean, clearly I had to register and post those moments that made my day amazing, happy, significant or special. This became a conscious habit, sometimes frustrating when a day was about to end and I had to lurk into my head and find that special moment. At first it was annoying and irritating, as I felt obliged to do it, kind of forced, you know?

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Later on I started looking for that happy moment among others that I´ve experienced throughout the day, that happened around day 40 or 50. It became easier to find that wee happy place that I will post on my Instagram account. Honestly, I thought that all my happy moments will be about food, because, well, food is awesome. Then, almost at the last third of the experiment I realized that happiness was all around, you don´t need to wait for it to happen, or to consciously look for it, nor force it, it became a state of mind.

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Even during some bad days I didn´t struggle to find whatever made that day special, it could have been a friend, a phone call, a memory or a thought, happiness and goodness were all around, all the time. Finally, I started to let things flow, to let life affect me positively, to let others influence me with their optimism, this way happy thoughts and good memories arose more easily by the end of the experiment, I had no trouble to modify my state of mind in a positive way.

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Clearly, by the end of #100HappyDays I realized that happiness lies within us, it is our own decision to be happy or not. On my first post I mentioned some of the benefits, but one of the results they don´t tell you is that you become kinder, and not afraid of showing affection to your loved ones. I´m proud to say that I´m part of the 29% who has completed this challenge, because it seems like a challenge at the beginning.

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My happy days were filled with awesome things, from a good dinner or a wee chat with an old friend, from attending an amazing musical with that special someone to meeting up with your siblings, from having breakfast with your auntie to spending time with the nephew, or just enjoying a beautiful morning view of Mexico City . Finally it became just a simple task to reverse a sad state of mind by just remembering about the great things this Mexican has experienced throughout his life. #100HappyDays turned out to be surprisingly inspiring and revealing, something worth sharing with you all.

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Don´t mind if I insist, but you ought to give this a try (it´s not a cult, don´t worry), in the end, this #100HappyDays showed me that I´m capable of positively modifying my day by focusing on the great things in life, and to be grateful and to feel blessed of the life I was given.

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Ps. She is my mum, up there, in the last picture of this post. Sometimes, when things don´t seem right I look at this picture, which reminds me that there´s always someone there to encourage me to get back on the saddle and conquer my fears.

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.

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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

Mexico City: One Year After

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Well, not really, I´ve been in Mexico City for over a year already and honestly I´m loving it. This city is amazing, so alive, so busy, vibrant and full of surprises. Living here was one of my goals in life, regardless of how the rest of the country sees the capital city, the Federal District (or DF as it is known in Mexico) is one of the most amazing urban centres of Latin America.

Just don´t mind this… I mean, sometimes it gets pretty casual.

I got here around the end of January last year, I didn´t know what to expect, but now I can say that this is a great city to visit, live and do pretty much whatever you want (legally, obviously, this isn´t bloody Amsterdam, you know, we are Catholics and stuff).

I still have that crazy bird in my head telling me to do other stuff and fly away, but for now, this place is pretty awesome.

Last weekend I noticed how lucky I am, I went to Reforma Avenue on Sunday. This is perhaps the most important avenue in the country, which on Sundays becomes a pedestrian-only road. On this day you can find people riding their bicycles, practicing yoga or just hanging out around freaking old monuments. 

Pretty awesome day, right?

Pretty awesome day, right?

After wandering around for a while I went for some churros with hot chocolate close to the main square (known as Zocalo) of the city. This place is pretty famous and old, it is called “El Moro” and it is just delicious, for USD$4 you get hot chocolate and 4 large churros, fantastic.

These are the bomb!

These are the bomb!

As well, every Sunday, but in the my neighborhood, the Colonia Napoles, a street market makes this “hood” a literal food parade, where fresh veggies and fruits can be found. Also, taco places and Mexican food stands sell their products to the general public.

These are deep fried quesadillas filled with cheese and pork crackling - Pure love

These are deep fried quesadillas filled with cheese and pork crackling – Pure love

My favourite stand, and I reckon they might know who I am by now is a “carnitas” stand, where they offer amazing pork crackling, pork meat and pork… and more pork, it is just heaven (I love pork).

The heart of Mexico: El Zocalo

The heart of Mexico: El Zocalo

Anyway, the point here is, Mexico City is freaking awesome, give it a chance, and if you are ever around do not hesitate to give me a call, I might even take you to my favourite “carnitas” stand and share a taco or two with you. 

The Soumaya Museum, for example, has one of the largest Rodin´s collection in the world.

The Soumaya Museum, for example, has one of the largest Rodin´s collection in the world.

Ps1. Honestly, that #100HappyDays thingy is really working, I do feel more optimistic and enjoying the simple things in life.

Ps2. Did I mention last time that I found this ubber delicious coffee place just around the corner from my flat? It´s an original concept and the way they prepare coffee is very traditional, not more Starbucks for me on the weekends. The place? El Guapo Café 

Ps3. Wanna see more pics of how is life in Mexico, go for a wee visit to the following link. 

#100HappyDays

I know what you are thinking, “Really? Are you honestly going to follow one of these obnoxious trends on the internet? Are you willing to keep track of 100 happy moments in your life for 100 days?”…

Seriously, I know this is weird, but when a friend told me she was doing this I got sort of excited about it; not because she is doing it, but the fact that she presents herself to others as a bitter-grinchy-realistic person. Although we all know she is a freaking cotton ball, nice and with a kind heart, however, the fact that she was into it, looking for that happy moment of her day for a 100 days, got my attention.

As explained on the website: http://100happydays.com/ this activity is simple, you just go looking for that happy moment every day, post it online, either using Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (these are the ones I´ve chosen), with the hashtag #100HappyDays and the day you are posting from the challenge. It isn´t that hard really, and is fun! 

I´ve always considered my self an optimistic person, and I reckon that the reason others are pessimistic or always feeling blue is because they look at life from the wrong angle. Happiness is all around us, and if you are reading this you have a lot to be grateful (Unless you are a gay person living in Uganda, an unhappy Venezuelan in Venezuela, or a revolutionary chap in Ukraine… Hey, at least you have wifi).

The website starts with this great sentence: “Can you be happy for a 100 days in a row?” It later says that 71% of people didn´t complete the challenge arguing that they didn´t have enough time and they were “super” busy.

The website says it all if you are smart enough to notice what it implies. What they are really saying is: “Happiness depends on you, and in order to be happy you ought to give yourself some time to… well, to make yourself happy”.

Why would I do that? People successfully completing the challenge claimed to:

  •  Start noticing what makes them happy every day;
  •  Be in a better mood every day;
  •  Start receiving more compliments from other people;
  •  Realize how lucky they are to have the life they have;
  •  Become more optimistic;
  •  Fall in love during the challenge.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go for it, you have nothing to lose, unless you don´t have a smartphone or a digital camera or… well you know, “some time”.

Every time I need to put a smile on my face, I just look at this picture for a couple of minutes 🙂

Ps. My boss recently lent me a cooking book, like a really Mexican traditional dishes cooking book, she said “There you go, have it for a couple of weeks and cook something from the book”. So, I´ll be posting one of its recipes this weekend, wait for it.

 

Mexican Satay

This is one my favourite recipes of all, it´s simple, just requires a few ingredients, time, and it goes well with pretty much anything. It must be said that no one taught me how to cook it, I just learnt to make it myself after tasting it throughout my life in its different versions.

That´s right, I´m talking about peanut and dried chillies salsa, or as my Kiwi friends told me once, “Satay”. This recipe was later renamed “Mexican Satay”, for obvious reasons.

 

 
 

Ingredients:

  • 1 garlic clove chile-de-arbol-pepper-1
  • 2 red tomatoes
  • 4 to 6 dried chillies (known as “chile de arbol”, just look at the pic, bro)
  • Half an onion
  • 1 handful of regular peanuts, unsalted.
  • 4 spoons of canola oil
  • Salt and pepper

Get a good frying pan, put the oil, medium heat, place the onions, now the garlic, wait until the onion sort of sizzles and softens; and you want that garlic a little bit burnt, let the aromas fill your kitchen. Add the peanuts, they will cook really fast, let them brown, now the chillies, you just need to heat them up a little, and as the peanuts, let them brown as well. Finally, add the tomatoes, they must be cut in quarters, you want their juices to deglaze the pan (those sexy sons of bitches juices…).

Oh yeah…. let them drip…

Now the fun part, get that freaking blender of yours, put all the ingredients inside and add maybe half a cup of water, now blend the shit out of it! Remember the salt and the pepper? Well, on the same frying pan, put a spoon of canola oil, salt and pepper, heat it up for a minute and then add the stuff you just blended.

It will be bubbly for a while, lower the flame and let it cook for 5 minutes. Be sure that it has been salted to taste, and serve.

This is what you are looking for… not those droids

This “salsa/satay” goes fantastic as an entrée, with tapas, or just as a regular salsa for your tacos. I once used it to marinate a whole chicken (I know, a whole chicken!), later I put it on the grill, it was delicious!

Ps. Happy non-denominational holidays everyone!

That´s right… now try to get this mental image off your head today