domingo, 28 de febrero de 2010

Dear Cochinita Pibil, I haven't stopped thinking about you since we met...

...there in Yucatan…And since then I always remember you and the nights I spent by your side, sharing the moon and lots of dinners. I love everything about you, your colour, your ingredients, and the way you look at me from the plate, almost challenging me. I pile you up, pick you up and gently let you sit on your tortilla and it’s in that very moment when pointing at my mouth, I prepare myself to enjoy what you kindly offer me, without asking anything in exchange. Thanks Cochinita Pibil, thanks, Yucatán, we’ll meet again, day.

 This is what Cochinita Pibil inspires me, this and much more. This dish is a flavourful representative of the excellent Mexican cuisine. The pork (cochinita or puerco in Spanish) is marinated in Achiote, a native plant from which they obtain a natural dye called Annato. Its flavour is subtle and smoked, spicy yet earthy and it gives the meat an evocative and sublime colour.

Cochinita or Puerco Pibil is a legendary dish, and it’s coked traditionally by wrapping the meat after marinating it for hours, and cooked in a pit on the ground for longer hours, it comes from the Yucatán peninsula, in Mexico. This dish has an important role in Robert Rodriguez’s brilliant movie, Once upon a time in Mexico, where Johnny Depp gets so obsessed with it, that he kills the chefs who cook  it too well. You can view Rodriguez’s recipe here, it´s really worth it.

I have cooked this dish according to the way it was served to me in Yucatán, with plantain, and refried beans,  as a side dish as well as Pico de gallo and salsa verde, two V.I.S (very important salsas). Cochinita pibil can be served with rice, or just lying on a warm tortilla, don’t forget the pickled onion though!


For the cochinita and the marinade

½ Kilo pork fillet or loin

3 tablespoons Seville oranges

3 tablespoons vinegar

½ tablespoon achiote powder or paste

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon Mexican oregano

4 or 5 peppercorns, ground

1 garlic clove

1 or 2 dried pasilla chillies

3 or 4 big Plantain leaves


Toast the chillies, deseed and grind them along with the garlic. Mix the rest of the ingredients except the meat until you get a paste. Add the chilli mix. Prick the meat with a fork and season with salt and pepper.  Toast the plantain leaves over the flame, cover an oven tray with it, and put the meat on top, spread the marinade all over it and wrap the meat with the plantain leave forming a closed package, cover with foil and leave overnight in the fridge. The next day, bake the meat still wrapped in the banana leave, at 150 degrees for 4 hours....yes, 4 hours. Once its cooked shred it with a fork and reserve.

For the pickled onion

1 red onion

½ habanero chilli

2/3 orange juice


Mix all the ingredients and marinade for two hours


For the Salsa verde

2 or 3 green Mexican tomatoes

 1 Serrano chili

2 tablespoon fresh coriander chopped

2 tablespoons onion

1/3 cup water



Blend all the ingredients and reserve.

For  the Pico de gallo

1 red tomato chopped

¼ onion chopped

¼ garlic clove

2 tablespoons fresh chopped coriander

½ jalapeno chilli chopped

1 tablespoon lime juice


Mix all the ingredients and place in a bowl.


For the refried beans


3 cups cooked black beans

2 tablespoon lard or butter

½ cup of the water that was used to cook the beans

Feta cheese (if you can’t find Mexican cheese)



Mash the beans, chopped the onion very finely and heat the butter or lard in a saucepan, add the onion, and when it start changing colour add the mashed beans along with the beans stock and the salt, and stir constantly. The beans are done when they don’t stick to the saucepan. Sprinkle with grated feta cheese and serve.

To serve the rest of the dish: Slice the plantain and grill the slices. Place a portion of the shredded “cochinita” on a square shaped plantain leave. Top with the pickled onion. Serve with the refried beans, the plantain slices, the Salsas and some warm corn tortillas.

domingo, 14 de febrero de 2010

A sponge with everything included, it's more than a sponge

There are wonderful and unexpected flavor combinations in the gastronomic world, and this is one of them. It’s a moist, delicious and custardy sponge wonderfully cooked with a mixture of fresh fruit. The original recipe comes from the excellent The Australian Women’s weekly, and it has rhubarb which is a fruit I first tried when I moved to the UK. And I have to say that it’s not one of my favorites. This is a very easy and rewarding cake as its flavors melt in your mouth and it’s also good for you because of the amount of fresh fruit.  

I used kumquats and cherries as well, because I had them at the moment of the making of this recipe and it run put really well but you can use any fruit combination you want, pear and apple, cherry and orange, strawberry and blackberry, etc.  It keeps really well in the fridge for two to three days, if there is any leftover that is!


125g softened butter

¾ cup caster sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ cups self raising flour

½ cup ground almonds

2 tablespoons custard powder

½ cup milk

3 trimmed stalks rhubarb, sliced

1 or 2 pear, peeled, sliced thinly

100gr kumquats thinly sliced

100gr pitted cherries

½ cup apricot jam, warmed, strained


1 tablespoon water

1cup icing sugar



2 tablespoons custard powder

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

20g butter


Preheat oven to 180 and grease a 22 cm round cake tin.

Firs make the custard. Combine the custard powder and sugar in small saucepan. And gradually stir in the milk. Stir over heat until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat, add vanilla and butter and stir until butter has melted. Cover surface of custard with cling film to prevent skin forming. Cool to room temperature.

For the cake mixture, beat the butter and sugar with n electric mixer until light and fluffy, add eggs one a a time, beating well between well between additions. Using wooden spoon stir in flour, ground almonds, custard powder and milk.

Using metal spatula spread half of the mixture into prepared pan, top with half the fruit and spread the custard on top in a single layer over the fruit. Spread cake mixture over custard top with remaining fruit and bake cake for about an hour. Stand cake for 5 minutes before turning onto a cooling rack, mix the ingredients for the glaze, brush top with warm jam, glaze and serve.

lunes, 1 de febrero de 2010

Gyoza, the truth about the japanese dumpling

I love gyozas. Very much so. Form the first time I tried them here in a restaurant in London, and later in Japan, looking at the chefs and the street food vendors. They come originally from China, the Japanese adopted them, and now along with the ramen they are part of daily life in the land of the rising sun. The dough is thinner in the Japanese version, and the filling is so versatile, but the most typical is the one with minced pork. They freeze really well.

This is my friend´s Noriko´s recipe, and the only tricky thing is the way to seal the gyozas, but as they say: Practice makes perfect, and after three or four fiascos, you will be making them with your eyes closed. I love the way they are cooked, grilling them on a hot pan with little oil, and then steaming them with water. Brilliant!


1 packet prepared gyoza skins

250g minced pork

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 garlic clove finely chopped

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons finely chopped Chinese chives (or normal)

3 0r 4 Chinese cabbage leaves or Savoy cabbage

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Salt and pepper

For the sauce

Soy sauce

A little chilli oil or rice vinegar


Boil the cabbage leaves for 4 minutes. Drain and chop finely. Mix with the pork, the sesame oil, the garlic, the water, the flour, the soy sauce the chives and the salt and pepper. Place one gyoza skin in one hand and pt one teaspoon of the filling in the middle, brush half the edge with water and seal trying to follow the pattern, and keeping the folds.

To cook the gyozas, put a tablespoon of vegetable or sunflower oil in a pan, place the gyozas and grill only on one side for 3 to 4 minutes, then add a splash of water and cover the pan, so they cook in the steam. Leave them for 3 or 4 more minutes. For the sauce, mix the soy sauce and the chilli oil or rice vinegar and serve wit the hot gyozas. (One bite)