Friday, 2 July 2010

Viva Mexico

Now that I'm working over in west London, one of my favourite lunch haunts is Wahaca, the Mexican canteena founded by the lovely Tommi Miers, winner of Masterchef a couple of years back. I knew nothing about real Mexican food (except that I love what Wahaca serve up), so I snapped up Tommi's book when it came out, and I'm now suffering from a severe refried beans addiction. Can't stop making them, can't stop eating them.
Refried beans are actually well cooked beans. Speckled pinto beans are an option, but I adore black turtle beans. I tip the dried beans into a big bowl and cover them with just-boiled water for a couple of hours. Then they go into a saucepan with a halved onion, a couple of bay leaves, four cloves of garlic, a handful of thyme and, if you can get it, some epazote, a Mexican herb that loves beans. After a couple of hours, the beans are soft and starting to shed their skins. At this point, I turn off the heat and add a tablespoonful of salt.
Another way to go is to buy the excellent Cool Chile Company's Black Bean kit, which I tracked down at their Borough market stall, or you can order it online. Cool Chile have epazote and chile de arbol in their kit, and also include the brick-coloured smoked paprika, which has become an essential ingrediant for my refrieds.
Once your beans are soft, it's time to fry some chopped onion and garlic in lard (yes, lard - first time I've bought it in ages), then add the beans and the paprika. Tommi recommends using a stick blender but I go with the more primative potato masher to get the beans into a delicious mashed mush.
Now you're ready to assemble the beans for eating - often in warmed corn tortillas but in this dressed-down version, with crumbled Lancashire cheese, chipoltle salsa, chopped coriander and sour cream.
It looks murky. It tastes delicious. Your refried beans will last for five days in the fridge - perfect for a working week of quick and tasty suppers.
At the front of June, when it was cold and utterly unsummery, I cooked up Tommi's unMexican but delicious chile with meat. Except I used stewing steak from Muck and Magic rather than the larger cut that Tommi recommends. The spice and herb mix is the key here: cumin, allspice, cinnamon, bay and oregano combine with my idiosyncratic addition of a deseeded ancho chile, together with cider vinegar, ketchup and brown sugar to make a stunning sauce for the meat. It went into the oven for a long, slow cook, then I left it for overnight so that the meat was incredibly tender.
Wonderful. Now, where are tonight's refried beans?


Anonymous said...

Mexican food deserves a much big audience and it is great to see we are getting more good Mexican restaurants. I have the Tommi Miers book and you've inspired me to go home and cook refried beans!!

fran39 said...

Cheers Neil - here's to our Mexican resto investigation!

mangocheeks said...

I like the flavours of Mexican food and I live Tommi Miers, she is such an infectious character. I remember watching her on the very first masterchef and winning. Delighted that she has followed her love of Mexican food and shared it with a wider audience. This is one book I keep meaning to buy, but have not got round to. You've reminded me Fran. Envious that you call Wahaca one of your lunch haunts.

fran39 said...

Thanks Mango! It really is a great book, though quite a lot of meat in it. But the puds look good too. When you're in London, I'll treat you to a Wahaca lunch!