God, Saturday’s weather was rubbish, wasn’t it? In fact, it was so rubbish, we got back from food shopping and were faced with something of a dilemma. MCD Jr was fast asleep in the back of the car; the rain was lashing down; we were shattered. We just couldn’t face getting out of the car; in fact we argued over who was going to get out and take the shopping in and who got to stay in to watch MCD Jr/snooze. In the end, we both decided passivity was the way forward and we all had a refreshing 45 minute snooze in the car - in the rain - on our drive. When we woke up it was still raining. But at least we could face the walk up the garden path.
We had planned a picnic in a local park for the weekend (more of which later), but for Saturday night I wanted to cook something a bit different. I had caught a glimpse of Tommi Miers’ Channel 5 show in Mexico where she put together a take on prawn cocktail and the idea inspired a complete Mexican feast. The recipe ideas are all taken from her book, so don’t think I’m suddenly revealing some authentic Mexican ancestry – I’m just copying.
We started with the prawn cocktail and this was sheer genius. One packet of cooked tiger prawns and one packet of those tiny queen scallops would probably feed 4, so I made this over two nights because it was so damn good.
Firstly make the sauce. It’s a bit like a Mexican Bloody Mary and is considerably enlivened by alcohol. (What isn’t, I ask myself?) Pour 250ml good –quality tomato juice into a measuring jug. Add the juice of 2 limes and 1 mandarin (or orange), a few good shakes Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco, a good squeeze of ketchup, salt and pepper and a shot of Tequila or vodka. Taste and adjust as you see fit, then refrigerate for at least one hour.
In little tumblers, arrange some diced cucumber, diced avocado and shredded Little Gem lettuce. Top with the prawns. Quickly fry off the scallops in a little olive oil for two minutes, tops then add to the cocktail. Pour over the tomato sauce and eat.
We ate this alongside guacamole, salsa and nachos – just a light starter. We followed with a derivation of Tommi’s chilli and tamarind-infused pork belly, only I used ribs, stuffed courgette flowers and a quick version of her smoky stuffed peppers. Here we go again.
Get the ribs going first. I tend to cook them in a 150C oven for 2-3 hours so they are meltingly tender before the final baste. Make a marinade for them by combining 4 smashed garlic cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp allspice berries, 1 tbsp tamarind paste, 1 heaped tbsp chipotle puree (I happened to have some chipotle relish in the cupboard so I used that), 3 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp brown sugar, salt and pepper. Coat the ribs thoroughly and cook as above, covering the roasting tin with foil and check them from time to time to turn.
While they’re cooking, make the peppers. Tommi makes a no-doubt delicious but slightly more time-consuming potato-based filling for this, but I frankly couldn’t be arsed so here’s my quick version:
Halve red or yellow peppers and de-seed. Place in a roasting tray. In a bowl combine: the chopped flesh of a ripe mango, 100g goats cheese, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, small handful oregano leaves, 1 crushed garlic clove. I stuffed the pepper halves with this and drizzled with oil, then baked for about 25-30 minutes until the peppers are soft.
The courgette flowers I have described before so just repeat. In fact, this time I didn’t even make a batter; I just separated the courgettes from the flour and finely sliced, then sautéed them both in a little oil.
We ate this with mucho Margaritas and followed with chocolate tiramisu from Gu to which I might be a little bit addicted. Even though I don’t actually like chocolate very much. Go figure.