gastronomy

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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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Spotlight

Swallow: Mexico City

The “Anti-Foodie Food Magazine” Presents Sought-After Recipes from the Vibrant Central American Metropolis

Hearty pork stew, Veracruz-style snapper and a fresh take on the ultimate Mexican comfort food sopa de fideo seco are some of the first recipes ever to be published in Swallow Magazine, the gastronomy title with an aversion to all that is predictable in food coverage, and a taste for all that is avant-garde and under-documented. The dishes featured in this special preview from the latest Mexico City-themed issue pay homage to the inimitable flavor and energy of the Distrito Federal’s culinary microcosm. “The city itself is a glorious combination of both the high and the low, the old and the new,” says Swallow Creative Director James Casey. “On one hand you have rarefied beaux art mansions and streets that look like turn of the century Vienna, and on the other you have a city full of chaos, color and clashing sensibilities.” Casey highlights the acclaimed fish restaurant Contramar which "serves some of the most amazing seafood I’ve encountered. It’s all super simple, with light Mexican flavoring—lots of lime, chilies, amazing tortillas all washed down with bottles of white wine.”

Ceviche Contramar

Serves four

½ small red onion, thinly sliced
Juice of 4 limes plus juice of 15 additional for the mackerel
½ cup white wine vinegar
4 skinned fillets of mackerel, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 serrano chilies
2 tablespoons coriander
Salt 
Pepper
1 habanero chili, thinly sliced

Marinate sliced red onion in lime juice and white vinegar for about three hours to lightly pickle. Set aside then combine mackerel, serrano chilies, celery, and coriander in a large bowl and mix well. Add the lime juice and let sit for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in the pickled red onion and top with rounds of habanero chilies. 

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Spotlight

Takeru Kobayashi: Hunger

Five Days of Food, Part Two: The World Champion Eater Devours Grapes in Artist Item Idem's Dionysian New Short

A conceptual artist, a film director, a competitive eating champion with four Guinness World Records and 25 bunches of grapes collide in Item Idem’s experimental film Hunger. The Paris-born, New York-based artist Cyril Duval teamed up with fashion film director CyCy Sanders to direct this faux-cinematic trailer conceived for new-to-the-scene food magazine White Zinfandel starring Japan’s infamously voracious competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi. Beginning with a rapid montage of Kobayashi's greatest triumphs devouring such American classics as hotdogs and bowls of spaghetti, the work parodies the high-octane feel of American sports television, piggy-backing on Hollywood themes found in campaigns for blockbusters like Gladiator and The Hunger Games. As Kobayashi devours clusters of grapes while reclining in a tunic and laurel wreath, the Greco-Roman-inspired scene typifies the notorious pop sensibility of Item Idem, who has exhibited at Design Miami and collaborated with the likes of Comme des Garçons, Bernard Willhelm and Colette. “I had been toying with the idea of using him as my muse for quite some time,” says Duval of the eating legend. “Kobayashi exists as a superstar in his own parallel world and I wanted to bring his stature as a celebrity athlete into different spheres.”

Kobayashi's World Records 

August 26, 2012: Hot Dogs
World Record: 110 hot dogs (without buns) in 10 minutes at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York.

March 25, 2011: Spaghetti
Guinness World Record: 100g (3.53oz) in 45 seconds at the Lo Show Dei Record, Milan. 

August 29, 2010: Hamburgers
Guinness World Record: 10 hamburgers in three minutes on the set of Bikkuri Chojin 100 Special #4 (Fuji TV), New York. 

March 8, 2010: Meatballs
Guinness World Record: 29 meatballs in one minute on the set of Bikkuri Chojin 100 Special #3 (Fuji TV), New York. 

The third issue of White Zinfandel, “Food Fights”, will be launched at NADA Miami on 6 December.

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