This month I have a treat for you – I have the recipes for some Mexican inspired snacks from Thomasina Miers book, Mexican Food Made Simple, to share with you. I decided to host a house warming party; it was very informal and was really an excuse to catch up with good friends and solve the world’s problems (alcohol tends to do that, you know, make you a philosophical genius!).
I bought this book at the Langham Melbourne Masterclasses during the Food and Wine Festival back in 2010. I loved Thomasina’s masterclass and was truly inspired to give the ancient food of the Aztecs a place in my repoirtore. I was also lucky enough to make her book signing on the day and she inscribed my copy with ‘Cook like a Mexican!!’.
I served these Mexican snacks with drinks and they were a big hit – there wasn’t much, if anything, left on the plates at the end of the night. I was busy throughout the week preparing these dishes so that on the day I could just finish off the last steps before I served them. Personally I wasn’t a fan of the spicy nuts or cheese and chilli bites but you should try them out as they may just be to your liking. Stand outs for me were the Pork Scratchings, Herby Ricotta Dip and the Ham and Cheese Emapanadas (as an aside I also like saying empanandas, it’s a roll off the tongue kind of word!)
Spicy Nuts & Herby Ricotta Dip
Cheese and Chilli Bites
This photo displays the ones I did not top with a slice of green chilli. Some of my friends don’t like chilli so I try to accommodate their tastes.
Classic Guacamole & Pork Scratchings
Ham and Cheese Empanadas
You wil have to excuse this photo. I was a bit tipsy by this stage of the night and I swear it looked in focus when I took the photo!
Before I give you the recipes I thought it only appropriate that I give you an informative spoonful of Thomasina Miers, the woman behind this great cookbook and this month’s featured recipes:
- Thomasina “Tommi” Miers is an English cook, writer and television presenter. She is the founder of the Wahaca chain of Mexican street food restaurants.
- In 2005 she won the BBC TV cookery competition Master Chef and has made two series of cookery programmes for Channel 4 with co-presenter Guy Grieve: Wild Gourmet in 2007 and A Cook’s Tour of Spain in 2008. In 2011, she presented Mexican Food Made Simple for Channel 5.
- She is co-editor with Annabel Buckingham of the cookbook Soup Kitchen and has also written Cook: Smart Seasonal Recipes for Hungry People, The Wild Gourmets: Adventures in Food and Freedom, with Guy Grieve and Mexican Food Made Simple.
If you want to know more about Thomasina Miers check out these websites:
Spicy Nuts by Thomasina Miers
Why didn’t I like this dish? I didn’t think the flavours infused enough. This could have been an error on my part in the cooking process but they weren’t moorish. The lime juice and salt mix were good but I did not feel like I missed out by not having them during the night. It was the item most untouched by my guests.
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1-2 tablespoons dried chilli flakes
- 500g raw peanuts, in their skins
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 head of garlic, broken up but with skin still on
- 5-6 sprigs of thyme leaves
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 tablespoons extra fine sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 150oC/300 oF/gas 2. Gently warm the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan, then grind them together with the chilli in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder.
- Toss the peanuts in the oil and roast for 30 minutes before adding the garlic cloves, thyme leave and spice mix. Roast for a further 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. By this time the peanuts should be crunchy and toasted, but sometimes they need a little longer, so don’t be afraid to cook them for up to 30 minutes more.
- The second you have taken the nuts out of the oven, sprinkle them with the lime juice and most of the salt. Leave them spread out to cool (if you store them immediately they will go soggy). Check the seasoning after about 10 minutes and add the rest of the salt if you think they need it.
Makes: 2 cups
Complexity Rating: – Basically child’s play.
Herby Ricotta Dip by Thomasina Miers
I would gladly coat myself in this dip and lick it off! Or someone else could do the honours – he, he.
100g goat’s cheese (I used a soft goat’s cheese)
30g Parmesan cheese, grated
zest of 1 lemon
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chervil
1 tablespoon chopped chives
sea salt and black pepper
- Whip the ricotta and goat’s cheese together until soft and creamy.
- Mix in the Parmesan, lemon zest, olive oil and herbs.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with summer vegetables or corn chips.
Complexity Rating: – Easy Peasy!
Cheese and Chilli Bites by Thomasina Miers
Due to a lack of time I didn’t fry the corn tortillas and used a store bought corn tortilla biscuits. This may have been my first mistake but the goat’s cheese topped with the quince jam and a slice of chilli is not unlike last minute things I chuck toghether to serve at work morning teas – taste’s good but it is nothing I would write home about (Sorry Thomasina). Despite my opinion, there were none left on the plate at the end of the night.
At least a litre of vegetable oil
a packet of corn tortillas, cut into bite-size pieces
2-3 Serrano chillies (or any fresh green chillies)
150g hard goat’s or sheep’s cheese (like Ticklemore or Berkswell)
150g quince jam
- Heat the oil until shimmering hot. If the oil bubbles up vigorously, then it is up to temperature. If the oil doesn’t move very much, wait for the temperature to rise further.
- Fry the corn discs in batches until they are golden and crisp. Fish them out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
- Alternatively, preheat the oven to 200oC/400 oF/gas 6, brush the corn tortilla rounds on both sides with oil and bake until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.
- Slice the chillies into wafer-thin rounds.
- Put a small slice of goat’s cheese on each disc and smear with a little of the quince jam. Top with a slice of green chilli and serve before dinner (maybe with some guacamole and chips).
Serves: 6-10 for a starter or nibbles.
Complexity Rating: – You can do this blindfolded!
A Classic Guacamole by Thomasina Miers
I believe the key to a great guacamole is in the quality of the avocados. Good avocados combined with Thomasina’s suggestion of Serrano chilies, spanish onion, lime and coriander is just blissful! This is a guacamole recipe I will make again and again.
½ red onion, very finely chopped
1-2 Serrano or other fresh green chillies, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons sea salt
3 ripe Hass avocados
juice of 1-2 limes
a small handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Put a quarter of the onion and half the chilli and salt in a pestle and mortar and mash to a rough paste.
Cut open the avocados, remove the stones and scoop out the flesh into the mortar (or into a large bowl if your mortar is small).
Roughly mash the flesh with a fork, adding half the lime juice as you go. When you have a rough guacamole, stir in the rest of the lime juice, red onion and chilli and the coriander.
Season with plenty of black pepper and more salt if you think it needs it. If it doesn’t taste delicious by this stage, think whether it might need more lime juice or coriander.
Serve the guacamole with corn chips.
Complexity Rating: – Simple dimples!
Pork Scratchings by Thomasina Miers
You know the television add by Rocher Ferrero where they claim their chocolates are the gift from the gods? Well they are wrong – these pork scratchings are THE gift from the Gods and I am sure a war ensued when the recipe was leaked to the human race (in particular Thomasina Miers). When I placed these out I got nothing but compliments and many were dissapointed when they were gone. I should have made more than one batch (I suggest you make two batches when you cook these).
Please note: these are not attractive (and this might be why Thomasina didn’t accompany the recipe with a photo) but they are worth putting in your mouth.
a large piece of pork skin from your butcher (weighing about 600g)
For the seasoning salt:
- 1 heaped teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon allspice berries
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped sage leaves
- zest of an orange
- 2 heaped tablespoons sea salt
Grind the pepper, allspice and fennel in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and mix with the sage, orange zest and salt.
Cut the pork skin into pieces roughly the size of a credit card. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, drop in the rinds and simmer for 10 minutes, Drain the pieces, pat them dry and allow to cool. Rub the spiced salt into the pork skin well and leave out on a rack, either in the fridge or over old newspaper in the airing cupboard for at least 4 hours, or until the skin is dry.
Preheat the oven to its highest setting and place the rinds in a single layer on two baking trays. Put the rinds in the oven and roast the skin for about 10 minutes, then immediately turn the oven down to 170oC/325 oF/gas 3.
Roast the rinds for 30 minutes to 1½ hours, draining off the fat every so often into a ceramic dish. you can keep this fat in the fridge for cooking with and add to it every time you cook bacon.
When they are done, the rinds should be puffed up and golden, but not burnt. When they are looking good enough to eat, you should do so at once with plenty of guacamole (see previous recipe) and a glass of fine ale or tequila.
Makes: a large bowl of scratchings
Complexity Rating: – Time is required.
Ham and Cheese Empanadas by Thomasina Miers
Empanadas, empanandas, empanadas – hmmmm, mmmmmm. Flaky pastry that is puffed up, golden and crispy with a cheddar and ham filling and a sweet bite of green chilli. I thought these were excellent and so did my guests.
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1-2 green chillies, finely diced
- a little splash of Tabasco sauce
- sea salt and black pepper
- 200g Cheddar cheese, grated
- 150g ham, roughly chopped or torn into strips
- 1 packet of puff pastry
- 1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 200oC/400 oF/gas 6. Line a couple of baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Mix the mayonnaise with the mustard, chillies and Tabasco and season to taste. Stir in the Cheddar and ham.
Flour a surface and roll out the pastry to about a 3-4mm thickness. Cut out eight circles, 12cm wide. Spread a small teaspoonful of the ham mixture on the base of each circle, making sure you leave a 1cm border. Lightly brush the edges with a little of the beaten egg, fold over the empty half of the circle and, with a fork, crimp the edge of each empanada to secure and seal them. Brush the empanadas with beaten egg and gently make a few air holes in each one with a sharp knife or fork.
Place on the baking trays and cook for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 180 oC/350 oF/gas 4 and cook for a further 10 minutes or until golden. Eat at once!
Makes: 8-10 empanadas
Complexity Rating: – Sweet as!