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?
Aphrodisiac (edible or not)?
TM: Good music, a keen understanding, a meeting of minds, a spark of recognition. A cocktail.
TM: The best steak, the best chips, the best mayo, a delicious salad. Some very good wine. Great company.