Sadly I’ve never been to Mexico but it’s right up there near the top of my bucket list. When I make it there, this is the kind of food I picture myself eating, washed down of course with a bottle of ice cold cerveza.
This black bean soup and chilli baked feta were two of the recipes I discovered through Kitchen Nomad, which unfortunately is no longer operating. I really rather liked this food box scheme, where each month ingredients from another mystery location would arrive on your doorstep along with recipe cards created by a well-known chef.
Thomasina Miers provided the recipes for the Mexican month and these two dishes were our favourites, although my husband and I enjoyed them sin niños as the chilli would undoubtedly have proven a little two much for them both, even with their adventurous palates.
The baked cheese should really feature a Mexican queso fresco but Miers recommends feta as a good alternative for this classic dish. The feta tastes amazing melted into the olive oil and is brought alive by the flavours of garlic, lime, chilli and oregano.
The black bean soup is sumptuously comforting, with a subtle and smoky warmth from the chipotle and ancho chillies, and it tastes extremely good with a dollop of soured cream and some of the chilli baked feta on top. Comer con gusto!
Chilli baked feta
500g feta cheese
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
half tsp dried oregano
10 sprigs fresh thyme
2 chillies de arbol, chopped
juice and zest of 1 lime
120ml extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180 C / gas mark 4.
Drain and slice the feta and place in an earthenware dish large enough to take the cheese in a single layer.
Sprinkle the garlic, herbs and chillies over the top of the feta, together with the lime juice and zest. Then pour over the olive oil.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is soft and squishy and smelling heavenly. Serve with crusty bread and black bean soup.
Black bean soup
1 tbsp olive oil
half an onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 tsp chipotle sauce
500g tin cooked black beans
salt and pepper
1 litre vegetable stock
juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp ancho chillies, crumbled
small bunch of coriander, chopped
150ml sour cream
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and when it starts to foam add the onion and herbs. Sweat gently for 10 minutes until the onion is soft.
Add the tomatoes, garlic and chipotle sauce and cook gently for 5 minutes before adding the black beans. Cook for a few minutes before adding the stock and lime juice. Then simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes.
When cooked, whiz it up with a stick blender. Don’t go at it for too long as you want this soup to have a bit of texture.
In a small frying pan, dry roast the ancho chillies for a few minutes until they start to smoke and then remove from the heat.
Pour the soup into six warmed bowls and scatter over a little of your chilli baked feta with some chopped coriander, crumbled ancho chillies and a spoonful of soured cream.
I’m entering these dishes into my Spice Trail challenge, which this month is heading to Mexico in search of delicious delights, and also into Cooking With Herbs hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage as they feature fresh coriander and dried oregano.
Well, I have to say, if you’re looking for a new chilli recipe, this surely has to be the place to come.
When I first launched The Spice Trail challenge, I wasn’t sure what take-up would be like. I know how much I adore cooking with spices, but what about the rest of the blogosphere? The answer, it seems, is just as much as me. If not more.
This round-up of the first challenge in The Spice Trail is an incredible celebration of cooking with chilli, taking us all over the globe. From tagines and tarts, pies and pasta, to sweets, soups and salads – it’s all here.
So let’s hit the road on this month’s Spice Trail…
A fresh and tasty oriental salad featuring chicken thighs, fish sauce, garlic, chilli and lime, plus lots of crunch raw veggies, peanuts and coriander. A wonderful combination of flavours and textures.
According to Deena, her dipping sauce is as good with chips as it is spring rolls and “carries an exotic aroma, has a zesty and hot kick and is cheekily sticky.” If you like it hot and sweet, this is the sauce for you.
So what’s a chilli oil with an Indian accent? Think garam masala and you’ve got the spice mix right there, giving this oil a wonderful aroma and gentle heat with just the right level of sweetness. Truly inspired.
This tasty slow cooked tagine is perfect for cheaper cuts of meat and a great way to ‘sneak’ vegetables passed unsuspecting little ones. And what’s more, it’s absolutely packed full of rich, intense flavours for a different take on the traditional Sunday lunch.
Harissa is a versatile chilli and garlic paste originating from North America, ideal for spicing up soups, stews, cous cous and rice dishes. When you’ve seen Chef Mireille’s homemade version, you won’t want to buy shop-bought again!
Having never eaten persimmons, I am intrigued by these beautiful tarts, particularly as they also feature white chocolate flavoured with naga chilli. I am a big fan of chilli chocolate but generally find the flavouring is a little on the timid side. Naga chilli chocolate sounds right up my street, providing the perfect foil for the gingery persimmon custard in these tarts.
When you take a look at this curry, you just know it’s going to taste good and make you feel good. Simple lentils with exciting flavours: coconut, garam masala, curry powder, ginger, garlic and, of course, chilli. Plus it’s so incredibly easy to make; it’s one of those pop everything in the slow cooker numbers and simply leave for a few hours. “Now repeat after me,” Bintu instructs us. “I will go shove everything into my slow cooker and then make time for me, four whole hours for me, me, me…” You have been told!
Here’s a gorgeous “no-nonsense” lamb curry originating from South Africa, just like its creator Angela from The Golden Pear. It’s a sweet and spicy combination of punchy flavours – garlic, ginger, curry powder, chilli, apricot and cinnamon. Lamb with fruit and cinnamon is a fantastic combination – I really look forward to trying this one out on my family.
This soup has gone right to the top of my ‘must make’ list. It originates from Africa and wherever African slaves were transported, you’ll find a version of this peanut soup. As well as plantain, it also features okra and green beans and a whole heap of tasty spices, and looks like the perfect dish to warm you up on a chilly night.
How about this for a hearty pasta supper, with big chunks of tender, melt-in-the-mouth beef and packed full of spicy flavours? An easy-to-cook, one pot wonder you can stick in the slow cooker in the morning for a wonderfully satisfying meal all ready and waiting for you when you get back from work in the evening. Sounds good to me!
Here’s my mum’s take on a Spanish paella. It’s incredibly moreish and very, very tasty with an extra kick from some fiery red chilli. It’s not exactly a traditional paella, but completely gorgeous nonetheless.
While I’ve seen chocolate and chilli come together in all kinds of dishes, I’ve never seen them together in a bread, and a savoury bread and that. But I am completely intrigued by the idea and will definitely have to give this bread recipe from Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes a whirl very soon.
If you ask me, parsnips and spices are a match made in heaven, and these cute little samosa pies look absolutely heavenly. These would be lovely for lunchboxes or picnics (dreaming of warmer weather) and I think they’d make a splendid addition to any buffet table this Christmas time.
Pasta with meatballs is my idea of the perfect comfort food, especially with the addition of a little chilli to heat things up a bit. And this entry from Corina at Searching for Spice looks like just the kind of bowl of meatball loveliness I could dive straight into.
Here’s another beautifully spiced soup, this time from Chef Mireille in New York. It’s a delicious way to use up vegetables lurking in the fridge, and using crispy fried slices of sweet potato as a garnish is an excellent finishing touch.
My next offering is another spicy pasta dish, which I came up with for the £3 Cooking Challenge in support of the food charity The Trussell Trust. Chillies are a great way to add flavour to a dish when you’re on a tight budget.
This is such a fantastically evocative entry, with its talk of campfires and cowboys. While I’m not much of a camper, I can quite easily imagine sitting beneath the stars beside a roaring bonfire, tucking into this scrummy, cheesy cornbread as someone serenades me on a ukulele!
I was hoping someone would enter a chilli con carne this month, as it’s one of my all-time favourite chilli dishes, and Ness from Jibber Jabber UK has come up trumps. She describes it as the perfect Friday night meal for sharing with friends and family: “big bowls and happy memories.” Serve me a big bowlful of this chilli con carne and I’d be very happy indeed.
There is something just so satisfying about baking and glazing your own ham, and the idea of using a chilli-flavoured honey for the glaze has me practically drooling. I tried Luchito Honey recently in a fruit crumble and can vouch for the fact it is quite delicious. This would be a great way to prepare your ham this Christmas.
Stacey’s spicy soup looks like a hug in a bowl but it is the spiced tadka, with caraway, paprika, garlic, parsley and chilli, that I really want to try. Next time I make a soup, I’ll definitely be preparing some tadka to drizzle on top. Oh yes!
I recently got my mitts on a copy of the Higgidy Cookbook and this chilli beef pie was the first recipe I tried. It is absolutely delicious and the idea of topping a stew with crispy wedges is truly inspired. I can’t wait to work my way through the other dishes in this book.
Don’t you think these wholesome baked beans, flavoured with honey and a generous pinch of chilli flakes, would make a marvellous accompaniment to Fromage Homage’s cornbread above? I’ve wanted to make my own baked beans for ages, and now I think I’ve found the perfect recipe.
Here’s another take on one of my favourite dishes. Keith, aka the Reluctant Housedad, has come up with not one, not two but three twists on the classic chilli con carne. He has used chunks of meat instead of the more familiar mince, a spiced butter at the end of cooking, and the unusual addition of Chinese black bean sauce; not an ingredient I’d have thought of using myself but I can imagine it works well. Very well indeed.
Every food fair I go to I seem to end up with another bottle of chilli sauce to add to my ever-expanding collection at home. But no more. I have decided the next bottle of chilli sauce that makes it into my kitchen will be the homemade variety, and I now have two very tempting recipes to test out, starting with this vibrant peri peri sauce from My Golden Pear featuring no less than 20 hot chillies. My tongue is tingling in anticipation!
And here’s the other chilli sauce I can’t wait to cook up myself – this time a scotch bonnet sauce from Sarah’s Kitchen Shed, which she made with her own homegrown chillies. My husband is also a keen chilli grower so we have a regular stock of chillies here at Chez Bangers, and what better way to make the most of a chilli glut? Sarah used to sell her sauces to a local Mexican restaurant, so her recipe comes highly recommended!
And the winner is…
I have been enormously impressed by the sheer range and diversity of chilli recipes entered into this first month of The Spice Trail, providing so many hot and spicy dishes to satisfy my chilli addiction for quite some time to come. But there can be only one winner, and I’m very glad it’s not down to me to choose. That unenviable task went to Bryn Davies, one of the directors of Kitchen Nomad.
So congratulations to Angela at My Golden Pear for winning the inaugural Spice Trail challenge. Drop me a line as soon as you can so we can arrange for your fantastic prize of a Mexican Kitchen Nomad recipe box to be sent out to you. And congratulations also to Lou at Eat Your Veg for coming in a very close second.
Thank you to everyone that took part this month in the chilli challenge. The theme for December’s Spice Trail challenge will be announced very soon so watch this space!
Celebrate cooking with spices and win a Mexican recipe box
This month a new challenge comes to Bangers & Mash: The Spice Trail – a monthly food bloggers’ event, showcasing dishes from all around the world that celebrate cooking with spices. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m ever so slightly partial to cooking with spices myself. Being a family cook with two daughters (aged five and eight), some people are surprised at how much spice features in my food and I’m often asked how I persuade my children to eat spicy food or whether I have to prepare them separate meals in order to satisfy my personal spice cravings. Thankfully my girls are pretty adventurous most of the time. They were introduced to spices when I was weaning them onto solid foods, and possibly even earlier – when they were in the womb. (Both babies were overdue and I consumed an awful lot of spicy curries in those final days of pregnancy hoping to bring on labour!) Jess and Mia might not always be up for hotter, pungent spices but they’re more than happy to tuck into foods flavoured with spices like coriander, cumin, paprika, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon – the list goes on. Family food doesn’t have to be bland food. So through this new challenge, I plan to offer you some of the beautifully spiced foods I like to feed my family – and I hope you will join in and share your favourite spicy foods too. Every month there will be a different theme; sometimes a specific spice, other times a particular world cuisine or type of food.
November’s challenge: cooking with chillies
To launch The Spice Trail, our first month’s theme is Cooking with Chillies and I’m really excited to see what delicious chilli recipes you have up your sleeves. My husband and I are both self-confessed chilli-heads and it’ll be fantastic for us to have a stock of new chilli recipes to work our way through. Technically, chillies are only classed as a spice when they are dried or powdered, but I’m more than happy to accept recipes this month featuring fresh chillies as well. Quite simply, I love chilli in any form!
Win a Kitchen Nomad Mexican recipe box
Think of chilli and probably one of the first cuisines that comes to mind will be Mexican. That’s why I’ve teamed up with Kitchen Nomad for the winning prize for this first challenge, as their recipe box this month is full of the hot and spicy flavours of Mexico. The recipes in Kitchen Nomad’s Mexican box are from Thomasina Miers, an English cook, writer and television presenter. In 2005 she won the BBC cookery competition MasterChef, and she is founder of the Wahaca chain of Mexican street food restaurants. Dishes include stuffed chillies, black bean soup, rajas tacos and chilli honey crumble. I subscribe to Kitchen Nomad’s boxes and I am thoroughly enjoying working my way thorugh this month’s recipes and ingredients.
How to enter The Spice Trail
Display the The Spice Trail badge (on the left and also available here) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post. You may enter as many recipe links as you like, so long as they feature this month’s key ingredient – chilli (fresh, dried or powdered). Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Thursday 28 November 2013. If you tweet your post, please mention #TheSpiceTrail and me @BangerMashChat in your tweet and I’ll retweet each one I see. Feel free to republish old recipe posts, but please add the information about this challenge and The Spice Trail badge. As entries come in, links to these will be added to this page. At the end of the month a guest judge will choose a winning recipe and the winner this month will receive a fabulous Mexican-themed food box from the good people at Kitchen Nomad. The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries. All entries will be added to The Spice Trail Pinterest Board. I can’t wait to see what dishes you come up with for The Spice Trail. Any questions, please tweet or email me.
Maxine will be the very lucky recipient of a delicious Greek hamper full of authentic ingredients to get her started on a wonderful Greek food frenzy, including dolmades, youvetsi, olive and tomato tart and baked figs. My mouth is watering remembering all those fabulous dishes!
Maxine, you’re a very lucky woman – I hope you enjoy your food box!
The weather has been so wonderful here for the last couple of weeks. It really has felt like we’ve been on holiday in our own home – spoiled only by the annoying need to go into work. Even so, with beautifully warm and balmy evenings, I haven’t really felt like I’ve been missing out. Much.
Last weekend, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine ourselves on holiday on some stunning Greek island. There is something very special about being in the UK and being able to spend all day long outdoors, especially eating al fresco. OK, we had to make do with a paddling pool instead of clear turquoise seas and we drank Somerset cider in place of retsina. But at least the food was authentic. I was lucky enough to have been sent a delicious food box from Kitchen Nomad to review, full of carefully selected, speciality Greek products providing the basis for five inspiring recipes developed by Tonia Buxton of My Greek Kitchen.
Kitchen Nomad is a new subscription food box service offering the best in world cuisine delivered monthly. It’s the brain child of three friends, Clara, Fanny and Bryn. Each month, they select a different country of the world, carefully source authentic products and typical recipes of that country, pack it all up in a beautiful box and deliver it right to your door. It’s an ingenious way to discover world cuisine and cook new recipes in your own kitchen.
I was intrigued as to how the three of them came up with the concept of Kitchen Nomad and this is what Clara told me:
Fanny and I are really close friends. We met in Lille, France, seven years ago while studying at Business School. We travelled a lot together and were always excited about discovering new cultures and …. new food! After graduation, Fanny went to London and I went to Paris to start our careers. In London, Fanny met Bryn (they worked at the same place) and they quickly realised how much they had in common, especially food and travel!
Bryn and Fanny currently work as project managers in banking in London, and I live in Paris, working in marketing for a company dedicated to sustainable development services.
So here you have three young entrepreneurs, passionate about travelling the world and experiencing new culinary discoveries.
When returning home after travelling, we noticed how difficult it is to find all the products and recipes we need to cook some of the amazing meals ourselves that we tasted on our travels. Also we wanted to share all the delightful things we have experienced on our travels, and that’s how Kitchen Nomad was born!
So what did we receive in the first Kitchen Nomad food box?
Dukkah spice mix – a tasty spice dip perfect with a little olive oil for dipping big chunks of bread. Originally from Egypt, this is the Greek version, as adapted by the Real Greek Restaurant.
Kalamata extra virgin olive oil – an award-winning oil with a beautifully robust peppery flavour
Vine leaves in brine – the must-have ingredient for making authentic dolmades from the Athenian Grocery
Kalamata black olives – gorgeously dark, plump and juicy
Pickled capers – intense and mustardy, I had to lay down the law with my oldest daughter Jessie to stop her from eating the whole lot straight from the jar!
Orzo pasta – a short-cut macaroni, shaped like a large grain of rice, perfect in stews
Organic pressed tomato sauce – produced on a family farm in central Greece
Cassia bark – a lovely aromatic spice, like a subtler form of cinnamon stick
Dried Greek figs – while I love fresh figs, I’ve never really been one for the dried variety, but I had to lay down the law with myself to stop me eating all of these sticky, chewy bad boys before they made it into pudding!
What makes the food box so special are the recipe cards to accompany the intriguing ingredients. And the recipes were all very easy to follow, although the preparations time given were slightly misleading – or perhaps I’m just a little slow in the kitchen? Over the course of the weekend, I cooked up most of the recipes provided:
While I know I love dolmades, I really wasn’t sure how the children would take to them. I was rather surprised to discover they loved them too. Perhaps it’s because they’re such neat little bite size parcels – perfect finger food for little ones. Admittedly they take a little time to prepare, but they’re not difficult and it’s really quite a tranquil, almost meditative activity, particularly since the children scarpered super quick from the kitchen when I suggested they lend a hand.
This one pot dish is something I’m going to cook again and again. And again. It’s just so good. The whole family wolfed down the slow cooked Youvetsi. The cassia bark gives it such a warm, slightly sweet and aromatic flavour, it’s really hard to say no to seconds. Or thirds.
Incredibly easy to make, my children took to calling this tart a “Greek pizza” but without the cheese. The Kalamata black olives really were the making of this tart. We’re enjoying working our way through the remainder of the tin.
And another ridiculously easy dish, this fig and walnut bake is perfumed with a light syrup flavoured again with cassia bark, and it is just downright gorgeous served with a big dollop of creamy Greek yoghurt. We’d have enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast the following morning, but there weren’t any.
So what’s my verdict on the Kitchen Nomad food box? Well, quite simply, I love it. At first I thought it might be a little on the expensive side, since you have to shop for all the additional fresh ingredients. But these dishes could easily have provided us with three or four days worth of meals – we were just greedy and went for it over one weekend. Each box costs £22 (plus delivery), but if you sign up for a minimum of six months it drops to £21 a month, and for a year it goes down to £20 a month.
It’s about more than the produce you actually receive. It’s about the thought that goes into the boxes, the recipes you’re supplied with and the knowledge and passion that goes into them, and the tips that are passed on. And it’s about the adventure and excitement and mystery too, because you have no idea where in the world you are going next. I’m sold and I’m signing up. Especially since I’ve seen the next box has a Vietnamese theme – a cuisine I’m not all that familiar with but am keen to try.
If you’d like to try a Kitchen Nomad food box yourself, here’s your chance. Clara at Kitchen Nomad has very kindly offered one Bangers & Mash reader the opportunity to win a box. Simply leave a comment below by Saturday 3 August letting me know why you’d like to receive a Kitchen Nomad box and you could be in with a chance of winning. Good luck!
Disclosure: Kitchen Nomad sent me a complimentary Greek food box for review purposes. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.