The secret to loving lunch

This is a story I wrote about the different types of lunch – those you loathe and love, those you endure and those you relish. it’s partially a story about the corporate grind and part a story of my love of food and cooking.

The story

The rumbling began dull and low, then spun back on itself to a gurgle, before finally resting after a final deep sound that must be what a full stop would sound like if it had a sound. Frank was determined not to look up from his laptop to acknowledge the unsettlingly loud noise that signalled to his entire pod in the open plan office that he had waited far too long to go for his lunch break. Some of his colleagues noticed it, but others were plugged into their headphones and probably wouldn’t have heard the fire alarm if it went off. One that did was Frank’s office confidant, Ashley, who came over to his desk and said, “spare us all your pleas of ignorance Frank and go get something to eat – it’s way past lunchtime and I know that email can wait.”

Read More »

Old el my fajitas

Mmm

I love Mexican food as I think I’ve mentioned before. I guess chicken fajitas live more in the Tex Mex category, but they’re a favourite in my household regardless of their provenance.

The spice blend I use is not set in stone by any means but I think about half a teaspoon of each gives a good flavour – you could throw in some other chilli varieties if you want more of a kick. I don’t marinate this long as it’s more of a quick-ish meal for me, which is why I beat the chicken out as well.

Hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

P.S. I have to say that I still grab an old el paso kit every once and a while for simplicity sake…delicious, they certainly are, but I think I like mine better.

Read More »

Double helping of taco filling

img_0048As previously mentioned, I’m a big fan of Mexican food (I also like Tex Mex, but preference is towards Mexican).  Starting about a year ago, unless I’m in the mood for a naughty, quick and easy Old El Paso taco kit, I make my tortillas from scratch using masa harina.  It takes a bit of extra time, but I think it’s well worth it – particularly if you’re making quesadillas or tostados as the corn base which is masa harina gives the most spectacular crunch when it’s fried.  The basic instructions will be on the back of the pack of masa harina, but essentially you mix the correct amount of masa harina with water, let it rest and then dry fry the little discs that you press out.

I probably make this every four to six weeks, so it’s not super often, but a complete staple of the yearly food routine in the kitchen.  There are so many different variations of fillings that you can do and I haven’t even started to explore the half of them, but here is one new one that I tried and a classic.  One is a vegetarian option and the other is most definitely not.

Pulled smokey jackfruit

I saw an article in the Guardian recently about jackfruit and was completely intrigued.  It’s apparently an absolutely enormous fruit that grows on a tree and the fruit is fibrous, relatively protein rich and is being used as a substitute for pork in any recipe where pork is pulled.  The version that I got was pieces in a small tin from the shop (had to go to Whole Foods for this one as it wasn’t in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose or Co-op) and I have to say that it worked quite well in the tacos, but it didn’t taste as good on its own two days later.  Next time, I’ll probably try a Pibil type version for it.

Ingredients

  • 1 tin jackfruit pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red tomato, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 chipotle chilies
  • 4 chile de arbol
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 3 dl water

Method

  1. Add the red onion and garlic to a medium pot with vegetable oil
  2. When softened, add chillies, herbs and honey
  3. Stir in chopped tomato and jackfruit
  4. Cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer
  5. Cook until jackfruit is soft and then pull apart into threads
  6. Cook until reduced and most of the liquid is absorbed
  7. Serve in tacos with salsa fresca, hot sauce and pickled radishes or red onions

Classic roadside chicken tacos

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs, deboned
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 chipotle chilies
  • 4 chile de arbol
  • 1 ancho chili
  • 3 tsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 limes, squeezed
  • 1 – 1 1/2 dl olive oil
  • 1 tsp allspice

Method

  1. Place everything except for the chicken into a blender and blitz to a fine paste
  2. Marinade the chicken in the mixture for at least an hour in the fridge
  3. Using a cast iron grill (or if possible a BBQ) cook the chicken until the juices run clear
  4. Rest for 10 mins and then chop into cubes or strips as you wish
  5. Serve in tacos with salsa fresca, hot sauce and pickled radishes or red onions

Chilli can be cool too

I love Mexican food and I got very excited when I was able to find more types of chilies at Whole Foods. Your average grocery store in the UK has green and red chilies and nothing in between. Let me tell you though, if you google ‘chilies’ you’ll find a ton more varieties than that. Thanks to the efforts of the Mexican food importer, Cool Chile Company, you can get a whole lot more of those varieties at certain places (I’ve never been, but I think they have a stall in Borough Market).

Anyhow, I now keep up to six varieties of chilies on hand for all my Mexican food needs!

This is a dead easy, slightly non-traditional chilli recipe using the spicy, little chile de arbol and the fleshy, nutty Pasilla chile to make a dark warming chilli with a kick. I don’t much feel the need to add meat to my chilies because honestly I don’t think it adds that much, so all of my chilli recipes just use different types of beans.

Victor chilli variation 1

Ingredients

  • 1 Pasilla chile
  • 5-7 chile de arbol
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • 1 can red kidney beans (400g)
  • 4-5 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, cubed
  • 2 large mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, cubed
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp marjoram
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 shot espresso
  • 1 squeezed lime
  • 1 vegetable stoke cube dissolved in 1dl water

Method

  1. Gently soften garlic and shallots in a medium pot
  2. Add in carrots and mushrooms until softened, then add pepper
  3. Prepare chiles as instructed and then chop finely before adding to the pot
  4. Stir everything together on low-medium heat
  5. Add in tomatoes and beans then stir
  6. Add in squeezed lime, espresso, stock and herbs
  7. Season with salt
  8. Bring to a boil and then simmer for at least 30 mins or until reduced to a thicker consistency
  9. You can top up with water if it gets too concentrated
  10. Serve topped with sour cream and/or cheese