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

Fine de Cognac

Acclaimed Filmmaker Fabienne Berthaud’s Magical Homage Distills the Heritage of Hennessy's Golden Spirit

A sunlit field provides a filmic take on pastoral impressionist painting in director Fabienne Berthaud’s visual collage devoted to the bucolic origins of Hennessy Fine de Cognac. Set in the idyllic countryside of western France, the filmmaker brings what she describes as her own brand of “cinematic magic realism” to this sensual take that mirrors the process behind the making and sipping of the cognac itself, starting with the vineyards and ending in the glass. The result uncovers a completely new way to experience the drink, emphasizing the fruits, flowers and subtle ageing that go into the creation of the iconic elixir. The nature-infused style typifies Berthaud’s lauded approach to filmmaking, which has included the 2010 film Lily Sometimes (Pieds Nus Sur Les Limaces), a Cannes Art Cinema Award-winning feature starring Diane Kruger. “I wanted to make an organic, sensory film that felt close to the elements and what nature represents,” explains Berthaud. “I wanted to convey the delicacy, the details and the subtlety of spring.”

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