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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?
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?
Never underestimate the power of terroir, or how food tastes in its own setting.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
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?
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)?
Good music, a keen understanding, a meeting of minds, a spark of recognition.  A cocktail.
Last meal?
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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The Delicacy of the Hand

Chef Nuno Mendes and Designer Julia Muggenburg Concoct a Surreal Shoot for The Gourmand Journal

Translucent potato noodles, rich purple beetroot and cured salmon sushi mingle with delectable accessories in this preview from the culinary title The Gourmand’s second issue, due out later this month. The vibrant shoot took place at the London home of German-born jewelry designer and Julia Muggenburg, who in addition to modeling and providing the rings for the composition, raided her wardrobe for brightly colored, multi-textured clothing with which to compliment the dishes, devised by Michelin-starred chef Nuno Mendes. “Sushi often has this quite surreal and shiny surface texture, so to have this crazy leather jacket with it was just something that immediately worked,” says Belmacz founder Muggenburg. The concept was a shared passion between her, stylist Annette Masterman and the photographer Amber Rowlands, with the trio enlisting Mendes, followed by the Cowshed who provided the nail art. In the back of their minds was the infamous “Chicken and Jewelry” shoot that Helmut Newton did for Paris Vogue in the 90s, when a model pulled apart a chicken while wearing couture baubles.  “Here, you see only hands,” Muggenberg explains. “But they say so much.” We caught up with Nuno Mendes to hear his thoughts on preparing food fit for a fashion shoot.

How did you take a culinary approach to a style shoot?
I wanted to both mimic and contrast with Julia’s incredible wardrobe and jewelry. For me it is a delicate and beautiful thing—it is dainty and I wanted to showcase food in the same way. Like food, it is a garnish that we apply to the body in the same way that we use ingredients to decorate dishes and so we wanted to continue with this same idea—we garnish to extend its value. 

How much preparation did it take?
It is easy to get carried away but we quickly realised that less was definitely more. I chose simple yet strong ingredients either in shape, texture or color and used these striking yet natural elements to do the talking.  Because of the visual nature, everything had to be perfect, so each ingredient had to be as vibrant and fresh as possible.

Do you feel like an artist, as well as a chef?
Yes I do. We also try to create a singular experience, one is that reflective of who we are and one that inspires. Of course, cooking starts with technique and the knowledge of the ingredients you are working with—but it is also a very creative medium. We want to make something unique that people can’t find anywhere else.

The Gourmand will hit newsstands internationally on December 18.

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