Thursday, November 17, 2011

Make. This. NOW!

Up until this point I would definitely have said that I love Mexican food, but I would not have known how very limited my experience of Mexican food actually was. My experiences of the genre until very recently would have leaned more in the direction of the watered-dow Tex-Mex type of dishes that have adapted/travelled from that country to many, many others around the world. All, in themselves, decent representations of that particular food culture, but offerings really don't do it justice, not when you begin to delve a little further into a rich and frequently healthy food tradition. Thomasina Miers was the first winner of British Masterchef, and a spell in Mexico fostered a great love and enthusiasm for Mexican food. Her restaurant, Wahaca, brings the joys of Mexican market food to London, and her bright, inviting book Mexican Food Made Simple was a little present from me to me on a recent mooch through TK Maxx. And, guess what? It features recipes using ingredients other than minced beef and tortillas! I KNOW - crazy!!!!! From soups to sweets, it has a ton of fruit n veg-loaded delights inside. But, of course, the first recipe that my greedy little eyes zoned in on was probably the least healthy one in the book. A no-hassle, Sunday night plate of perfection that uses black pudding in the way that you might ordinarily use minced beef - a new one to me, and a meaty revelation. Black pudding polenta is a flavoursome comfort food that won't be making it into the Weight Watchers cook book any time soon, but once you taste it you really won't give a fiddlers.

Let the joy begin with one chopped onion on the pan. Now, Thomasina says to use dripping, bacon fat or lard to fry it up. I reckoned that plain old butter was lardy enough and settled for that, though I suspect the other options add a more meaty, salty flavour, so the next time one of those happens to cross my path I'll use it as an excuse to make this again. Sweat the onion in a substance of your own choosing for ten minutes. Then add two chopped cloves of garlic for another few minutes.

So, the black pudding end of things starts off sliced...

...pop it on the pan...

...and then break it up so that it is crumbled like mince, and cook it like that for five minutes.

Next, add to that depth with one tin of tomatoes, one cinnamon stick broken in two, a pinch of ground allspice and one tablespoon of chipoles in adobo. Now, I moaned and groaned and huffed and puffed over my inability to source this magic ingredient when I was making veggie chilli and I made do with some hot n spicy alternatives, but when I got my hands on the real deal I really got the whole deep smoky buzz and it is worth going that extra mile to find. I came across it on a greedy Saturday stomp around the Temple Bar food market when I was mulling over the options at a burrito stand. Alternatively, this book actually has a recipe for chipotles en adobo, so DIY is another option. Finally, season it all with salt, pepper, a small handful of chopped tarragon leaves and a pinch of sugar. 

While that little lot is buzzing away merrily on a low heat for about ten minutes, get the chorizo crisping -  nice fat discs, it's not rocket science, you'll know when it's good to go.

Polenta needs to be on the go as well, though that takes mere minutes.

When it's done, grate in a load of pecorino cheese (I'm leaving quantities out of this because I think that it's fairly easy to gauge what you like/want/need in terms of flavours and portion sizes), a lump of butter and a dollop of olive oil. 

Final step is assembly: scoop out some polenta, plop on a dollop of the black pudding concoction and crown it all with the chorizo. Prepare to return for seconds, thirds and, even if it means scraping the sides of your pots, fourths. 

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