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April 5, 2014

Preserving Chilies with Thomasina Miers

The Wahaca Restaurateur Pickles Peppers and Reminisces to Tarajia Morrell

Thomasina Miers has championed Mexican cuisine in Britain since she fell in love with the sights and smells of the country at age 18. In the last of our Preserving miniseries, the chef leads us through her early enchantment with Mexico’s flavors and the vigor that those peppers impart. Co-founder of Wahaca restaurants, author of Mexican Food Made Simple and the imminent Chilli Notes: Recipes to Warm the Heart (Not Burn the Tongue), Miers lovingly riffs on the range of possibilities of the ‘chili effect’ and how her zeal for spice and zeal for life are one in the same.
 
What is it about preserving that appeals to you?
Thomasina Miers:
Often the process improves the flavor of the food we are preserving. So cured ham, particularly when acorn fed, is an astonishingly delicious food; a marmalade or jam sometimes better than the original product—helped along by a little sugar. A pickle heightens the flavor of the vegetable with its acidity and also can lend other flavors through the spicing you use.
 
What is it you find so inspiring about Mexican food?
TM:
It is a cuisine of contrasting textures and temperatures, of the diversity of different food from different regions. Most of all it is fresh with bright, vivid tastes.
 
What's the most important lesson from your time in Mexico?
TM:
Never underestimate the power of terroir, or how food tastes in its own setting.
 
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
TM:
I would have loved to have danced. Or written more, if I had the patience. I’d have loved to have painted if I’d had the talent, or sung if I’d had the voice….
 
When you’re feeling lazy, what’s the simple, comforting but delicious meal you might make yourself to enjoy alone?
TM:
Welsh rarebit, or cheese on toast or sautéed greens on toast with chilli and garlic and a fried egg on top.
 
Guilty pleasure after a long shift?
TM:
Whiskey!
 
Aphrodisiac (edible or not)?
TM:
Good music, a keen understanding, a meeting of minds, a spark of recognition.  A cocktail.
 
Last meal?
TM:
The best steak, the best chips, the best mayo, a delicious salad. Some very good wine. Great company.

Preserving part one: Squash with Skye Gyngell; Preserving part two: Lemons with Angela Hartnett.

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Immortal Venice: Harry’s Bar

Five Days of Food, Final Part: The Cipriani Legacy Thrives in the Floating City with Cocktails Fit for Hemingway and Capote

Arrigo Cipriani unravels the rich Venetian history and patronage of his father Guiseppe’s fabled Harry’s Bar, in this short from writer, director and NOWNESS regular Alison Chernick. One of the most celebrated restaurants in the world, and home to some of its driest martinis, the locale has been a favorite among Hollywood celebrities and literary notables since opening in 1931. Today the Ciprianis helm a veritable empire of clubs and restaurants across the globe, and the family's original venue was declared a national landmark by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Affairs in 2001. Yet Harry's Bar may be most widely known as the birthplace of two culinary treasures: beef Carpaccio, and the Bellini cocktail, both named after 15th century Italian painters. Shot one afternoon during the Venice Film Festival last September, Cipriani recalled the many eating—and drinking—habits of luminaires such as Orson Welles, Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway, whose 1948 novel Across The River and Into The Trees contains scenes set in the famed watering hole. Despite the establishment's lofty international appeal, the “Senator’s Table” is always reserved for long-time local patrons, recalling the heyday of European cafe society. “You feel as if you are a special guest in your own home,” says Chernick of the bar’s classic atmosphere. “The history just seeps through it.”

To view Arrigo Cipriani’s guide to making the perfect Bellini, visit our Facebook page here.

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Spotlight

Predictions Week 2013: Ingredients of Tomorrow

Three Leading Chefs Weigh in On the Foods Bound for Next Year’s Hottest Menus

Asked to nominate singular ingredients, culinary wizards Craig Thornton, Magnus Nilsson and Yotam Ottolenghi said they look forward to playing around in their kitchens with South American Surinam cherries, barley, and lemon geranium water, respectively. Thornton was recently the subject of a major profile in The New Yorker that cited his underground supper club, Wolvesmouth, as the hardest reservation to come by in L.A. Israeli-born, London-based restaurateur and cookbook sensation Yotam Ottolenghi has been at the center of the British food scene since opening his eponymous eatery in 2002. Swedish sensation Magnus Nilsson meanwhile rules the roost at Fäviken Magasinet, a rustic critics’ favorite situated on 24,000 acres of remote farmland in Järpen, 750 kilometers north of Stockholm. Here the gastro pioneers expand on their select future palate-pleasers. 

Craig Thornton: I’m always most excited about the new vegetables and fruits at the farms or farmers markets. Lately, I've been excited about Surinam cherries.

Yotam Ottolenghi: I am excited about the finds and rediscoveries I made on my recent journey around the Med: lemon geranium water and various types of flaked chilies such as urfa and aleppo. The geranium blossom is so fresh and wonderfully scented that I can see using it in many desserts and cakes but also in vegetable salads and white meat marinades. The chilies are smoky and mysterious and open up a whole range of options in both slow-cooked stews and freshly grilled vegetables and salsas.

Magnus Nilsson: Barley! We are going to brew our own beer!

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