Thursday, 12 December 2013

Xmas Vacation and MexiGoals Review

Once again it's 12 December: the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico's Patron Saint).

Which means it's time for MexiGeek to go on Christmas Vacation.

2013 was quite a year for MexiGeek. Early on I set myself a some goals to try to accomplish by the end of this year. It feels like I did that yesterday, and here I am signing off until 2014!

Anyway I wanted to:
  • Make another mole.

This is kind of cheating, because mole verde is the easiest of the seven moles. But it still counts.

Also I haven't actually cooked with it yet. The whole batch is sitting in my freezer, waiting to be unleashed on pato en pipian and pozole verde. Having two kids has actually put the kibosh on most of my cooking for the foreseeable future. Sad but true.
  • Put up an ofrenda for Day of the Dead.
Nope. I still didn't get around to this. This Autumn has been nothing but hectic. I was lucky I got to cook something for Day of the Dead.

Maybe next year.
  • Cook for someone else.
Nope. Not unless you count my kids. Our home schedule has still not reached a level of stability where we can "entertain", so this too will have to wait until 2014 at the earliest.
  • Do restaurant reviews.
Does this count?

I have also visited another, more permanent restaurant in Edinburgh, but I haven't written up the review yet. It was part of the Summer of MexiGeek (where I did loads of cooking and eating and yet have not posted about at all).
Well, I have t-shirts (and other branded products) for sale. Whether anyone buys them is kind of out of my hands.

When I added this goal in January, I still hadn't created the products. They've been live for most of this year, so I'm going to call this a win.
  • Shoot a video

It's a pretty simple recipe (atole blanco), but it was fun to shoot and edit and it actually turned out quite well.
It was a slow-burner in terms of success, but it has now topped 900 views, 3 likes, and the feedback I have got from it is mostly positive.

I'd like to shoot more videos of course but I'm not rushing into it.

So that's 3.5 out of 6 goals accomplished.

That ain't great.h

On the other hand, here are some things I did that I hadn't planned on doing.

My blog reached 10,000 pageviews, compared with around 4,000 this time last year.

Also, while my cooking regime has shrunk, my networking has exploded. I have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, and through them I have learned about a host of new and old suppliers of Mexican food and ingredients, and they have learned about me.

In addition to some old friends like Lupe Pinto's, The Cool Chile Company, and Gran Luchito, this year I've enjoyed connecting with:

All Things Mexico: a meetup group in London for people who love Mexico. 

Though I've never been able to attend this group, being way up here in Edinburgh, the group's founder, Laura, has shared some of my posts with the group, and from her I got an amazing recipe for pollo en salsa de cacahuates.

Gringa Dairy: the UK's first producer of Mexican style cheese.

Seriously, I cannot overstate how much I love this cheese. I was also honoured to work with the dairy's founder, Kristen, on some classic recipes that use her cheeses.

Queso fundido

Habanero Cafe: a Mexican restaurant in Birmingham that makes their own delicious habanero salsa in house.

KANKUN: the difference between KANKUN's chipotle salsa and pretty much everyone else's is that KANKUN's is what a real Mexican chipotle salsa tastes like.

I've been after a bottle of KANKUN since I first heard of them and I finally got hold of it this year. At first taste I knew it was something special.

Later I was honoured to submit two recipes using their salsas for their blog, and to meet the salsa's creator, Rolando Cardenas, at Lupe Pinto's annual Chilli Cook-Off.

I'm still putting their new habanero sauce on just about everything I eat. 

La Costeña UK: I've been a fan of La Costeña for years. An actual Mexican company, they're pretty much the leading supplier of Mexican ingredients and products in North America.

That they have been expanding their market in the UK is a welcome and exciting development.

They recently sent me some cuitlacoche (and other things), which I haven't cooked yet, but I'm hoping to get some time over the holidays. I already have a recipe in mind. a well-established supplier of quality Mexican products. I got some blue Maseca from them and made some homemade blue tortillas!

They also supply the piloncillo I use for sweet tamales and atole, though I technically bought this at Lupe Pinto's. 

Mexico Retold: an amazing blog written by an expat living in Oaxaca (I need her life!).

Her love of Mexico comes through in everything she writes. Plus there are amazing photos so you can see just how beautiful it all really is. This is a must-read! which sells authentic tamales made here in the UK via the internet!

I love tamales, but I know a lot of people are unfamiliar with them.

Well, visit for delicious, authentic tamales, which are after all one of the greatest of all traditional Mexican dishes.

I also got to try some excellent new products, including blue tortillas and "mini" 10 cm tortillas from Cool Chile Company and new salsa from Gran Luchito.

And last but not least I became a dad again: 

This is what he looks like now: 

With his big sister

So that about wraps it up for this amazing year. 2014 is going to have to work pretty hard to top this.

I won't be posting again until January, but I plan to make more sweet tamales, possibly some turkey pozole, tacos de cuitlacoche in a pasilla chile sauce with toasted walnuts and tarragon, and maybe have another go at sopaipillas, because they actually were pretty amazing.

In the meantime I will be launching my Christmas blogs, The Twelve Days of Crap-mas and the Twelve Days of Rock-mas, which count down the 12 worst and best Christmas songs, in my opinion at least. This all kicks off today.

Nothing Mexican in these blogs, but stop by if you want a good laugh.

¡Feliz navidad y próspero año nuevo a todos!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Leftover turkey, Mexican style: enchiladas (with La Costeña Doña Chonita mole)

So a couple weeks ago it was Thanksgiving, and since I'm American I basically force my Scottish family to eat a big-ass traditional turkey dinner with me, even though we're going to have another one in less than a month.

(To be fair, I've never heard anyone in Scotland complain about getting two turkey dinners a year.)

But what do you do with your leftovers when you're also MexiGeek?

Well, for me, leftover turkey means only one thing: enmoladas!

Most Americans have heard of enchiladas. Even a fair few Brits have heard the word, though I have yet to see a proper enchilada served in the UK.

Well, "enchilada" means "(tortilla) smothered in chile sauce". But in Mexico you can smother a filled tortilla in anything.

If you smother it in bean sauce it's an enfrijolada. If you smother it in tomato sauce it's an entomatada. And if you smother it in mole it's an enmolada.

Of course, the purpose of a leftover dish is too be quick and easy. It should be pieced together with stuff you already have lying around.

In Mexico, you would always have tortillas to use up (enchiladas and their variations are usually made with stale tortillas briefly fried to "revive" them), and if it's the day after a holiday, there's a good chance you have some mole in the fridge as well.

This ain't necessarily the case outside Mexico.

One of the things I never shit like shut up about is how I made my own mole poblano one year. And I definitely did use the leftovers to make enmoladas.

But this year I had a little help from my friends at La Costeña, who sent me loads of awesome products from their Doña Chonita range, including mole poblano.

La Costeña is a well-known brand of Mexican food and ingredients. Unlike some brands, they are actually a Mexican company, and their core costumer base comprises Mexicans cooking in Mexico.

However, they have been expanding their international market, which is a great windfall for all of us, because of the high quality and authenticity of their products.

Two things from La Costeña I find indispensable throughout the year are their tinned tomatillos (essential when fresh ones are out of season) and their chipotles en adobo (my favourite brand; I cook with these a lot).

Their Doña Chonita range are ready-to-serve salsas, moles, etc, that you can just pour into a saucepan, heat up, and use.

So this mole, a leftover pack of tortillas and some shredded Thanksgiving turkey made for about the quickest enmoladas ever.

Seriously, this was the first time I ever plated up a Mexican dish less than 30 minutes after starting the prep.

I put the oven on to 160° C fan, then opened the mole and began heating it over medium.

You want it warm, but don't burn this beautiful sauce. Keep an eye on it and stir frequently.

Then I shredded the turkey by hand and fried it in about 10 g of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil.

When the turkey read warm through I added just enough mole to the pan to coat the turkey completely.

Then I filled some tortillas with the turkey, rolled them up, put them in an oven-safe dish and covered with the rest of the mole.

Ten minutes in the oven and they were done. I topped them with crumbled queso fresco from Gringa Dairy before serving.

This is gringo-style cooking, but delicious none the less. (In Mexico you would fry corn tortillas, then dip them in mole before folding them around the turkey.)

The mole, which after all was the star of the dish, was excellent. It had a real depth of flavour that you could only really top by spending four days making your own from scratch.

A lot of non-Mexicans are unsure about mole because it famously contains chocolate (as well as 23 or more other ingredients).

Of course, mole looks like chocolate sauce because of its rich brown colour, but this mole doesn't taste overpoweringly of chocolate because it has such a good balance of its many ingredients. 

It also has a noticeable chile zing, which is important because the real stars of mole are the Holy Trinity of Chiles: anchos, mulatos, and pasillas.

I'm always an advocate of making your own mole, if you have four days and 23 ingredients handy, but most of us don't, besides which it's a good idea to try products like these so you can get an idea of what mole is supposed to taste like.

Anyway, although I made this after Thanksgiving, Christmas is coming up, and I reckon we're all getting pretty tired of turkey curry. Trust me, there's no substitute for turkey enmoladas