Nopalito: A Midweek Mexican Feast and book review

What I thought was going to be a simple dessert post for my last post from Nopalito for the month has turned into a veritable feast! Our planned dinner got changed, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to cook from the book and then I got hit with a terrible headache and Aaron took over and did an awesome job. I snapped some photos of our dinner served “family” style at our dining table with some whole wheat tortillas, lime wedges, sour cream and Mexican cheese…

Chicken Tinga – we already had toastadas this month, but I was looking for a soft taco filling that would be relatively easy and flavorful and this fit the bill. We bought a $7 Costco chicken and shredded the breast meat which was mixed with tin tomatoes, a chipotle chile, onion, garlic and coriander. Aaron deemed it the nicest Mexican protein we’ve ever made, and he’s not wrong!

Toasted corn – I was looking for a corn alternative to the Mexican corn cake I normally make and this is what I came up with. We used frozen corn kernels and sour cream and crumbled feta and it totally stole the show in my opinion. It only takes 5 minutes as opposed to the hour the corn cake bakes too, which is such a time saver. It has pico de gallo stirred through it to finish it off.

Refried black beans – these were good but I wouldn’t say better than my version. It was dangerous again with the hot smoking oil and  adding the onion and beans and cooking it out. My version stews the beans for longer in stock with some onion and garlic and chilli before blending it with my immersion blender and seasoning with salt. It was still good though.

Mexican Rice – I was keen to try this compared to my version. I’m not really convinced that this is any better to be honest. In our rice cooker we put basmati rice, chopped onion, diced carrot, garlic, tomato paste and water and set it to cook. It was nice, but I thought it was lacking some spice as I normally add a green chilli and some cumin.

Pico de gallo – this was a real hit as well. It’s a simple mixed of diced tomato, jalapeno, red onion, green onion and coriander with some lime juice and salt. I loved the random punch of jalapeno that you’d get every few mouthfuls. Just enough to send your taste buds soaring.

I have been surprisingly impressed with this book over the course of the month. There are certainly a lot more recipes I’d like to try, especially the desserts and the drinks, but also things like tamales and salsas.  They all turned out well, some of the recipes were good while others were great! I’m glad we tried a different cuisine in Food52 Cookbook Club as sometimes it seems like we don’t branch out that much. It’s one of those books that I would definitely recommend checking out from the library before deciding to purchase because you might get some good ideas rather than recipes as such. That being said, I’m glad I found it for $2 on Kindle a few months ago!

To see the other posts I’ve done this month, click on the links below:


Throwback Thursday: French Onion Soup from My Paris Kitchen

My love for My Paris Kitchen endures. I have been wanting to make French Onion soup for ages but Aaron was never super keen. Turns out all he knew of French Onion soup were dry soup packets that his mum would use to flavor chicken or store bought tubs of French Onion dip. I finally convinced him we needed to make it. And he is a changed man!

The soup is fairly basic in its essence, but the flavor packs a punch. It’s all about slow cooking and caramelizing sliced onions and then turning that almost onion jam into a rick broth. We opted for veggie stock in spite of the recipe choosing chicken stock instead of the traditional beef, because if we’re making a vegetable soup it seems wrong to make it a non vegetarian meal when it’s only that one ingredient that makes it not so. The broth also has sherry vinegar and white wine, garlic, salt and pepper. As I said, basic, but all the flavors pack a punch.

The show stopper of French Onion Soup is the soaking cheesy bread that is on top. We used the French bread that I made from Bread Bakers Apprentice, and since we didn’t have any soup crocks that were oven safe, we put slices of bread on a baking sheet, sprinkled the shredded Comte on top and baked it in the oven until the cheese melted.

This soup was so comforting for a cold Canberra night and luckily I had my soux chef available to do all the onion slicing so I wouldn’t be a teary mess. I think this soup will appear on our winter table again, especially seeing as though I now *have* to go find some oven safe soup crocks.

Nopalito: Chips and Guacamole

I held out as long as I could to try to get a sourdough post up this weekend but it’s just going soooo slow. I’ve had to retard the dough twice now because it’s finally reached the proper height right at bedtime, so tomorrow it should be right to be shaped and baked at last!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share my next Nopalito post for the month. It’s been a busy weekend here at Casa de la Rosas and late night simple meals have been our go to. Friday night the older boys were at Youth Group, in the madness or taxiing kids around we got the younger two Happy Meals and Aaron and I had a huge lunch at the Burns Club earlier in the day, so when we finally got home at 9:30 we were all a little hungry but nothing a good bowl of chips and guacamole couldn’t cure!

The guacamole is not dissimilar to our normal guacamole recipe, it was nice but not revolutionary (although if I’d gotten a hold of some tomatillos that all may have changed). It’s simply some onion, green onions, lime juice, avocados, jalapeno, coriander, tomatoes, and salt. The recipe made stacks of guacamole and we enjoyed it Saturday as well alongside some cheese quesadillas (or cheese crisps as we used to call them growing up). The one thing I thought it was missing was some garlic. It really makes the flavors of guacamole sing.

When we used to go out to Mexican restaurants growing up my favorite thing would be the table-side made guacamole and the freshly cooked tortilla chips. I could eat bowl after bowl of those bad boys and there is seriously nothing like them here in Canberra. In Nopalito you are given instructions for making them from scratch, but also how to fry store bought corn tortillas to turn them into chips. So since we don’t have a tortilla press, I thought we should give them a go (especially since I got a deep fryer for my birthday). It really is just a matter of getting canola oil up to temperature, cutting the tortillas into wedges and deep frying them until golden. When they come out of the deep fryer you pat them dry on paper towels and then sprinkle them generously with salt. These were certainly the closest I’ve come to recreating that memory of chips and guacamole but it’s still not quite right. It may come to making the tortillas from scratch if I can find myself a tortilla press. Yes, I need all the gadgets.

The last part of this month is going to be insanely busy so thinking of what I might make next from this book has been challenging, given I haven’t been organized enough to go hunting for some of the more unusual ingredients (chili varieties, tomatillos and corn husks come to mind). I’ll likely reserve my last Nopalito post for some of the desserts as they look like my kind of fast baking. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good Mexican wedding cookie?!!

Throwback Thursday: Made in India Feast #2

A while back now, I posted about a Meatless Monday Indian feast we made using Meera Sodha’s book, Made in India, which Food52 Cookbook Club went through back in October 2017. This book is so good and we cook from it quite often, and we still haven’t come across a recipe we haven’t LOVED.

So today I thought I’d share about another meal that we made recently that was from her book.

Firstly, we made a mint yogurt chutney which is basically yogurt mixed with fresh mint, a green chilli and some lime juice. The recipe says you can use mint jelly if you don’t have fresh mint on hand, and we have resorted to that with success in the past too. I find this goes particularly well with the junjaro curry (kidney beans) and with the lamb curry that we made below. It also pairs nicely with the following…

Ondwa (semolina bread with spiced vegetables) – this intrigued me straight away because Meera says it’s practically expected that when you have guests over there is ondwa available for them in your fridge. It features zucchini, carrot and peas and a plethora of spices and has semolina and yogurt as its base. We can polish off a whole one of these for a savoury afternoon tea any day of the week.

And here we have two curries – Chicken & Fig curry and Howrah Express Cinnamon Lamb curry. For the chicken & fig curry you marinate the chicken in some yogurt with some spices and some rehydrated figs then you fry off some onion, ginger, garlic and a cinnamon stick before you add the chicken mixture and cook for 20 minutes. It’s pretty quick to throw together and I now prefer to pair this with the kidney bean curry as it is quick as well.

The lamb curry takes a much longer time to cook – about 2 hours from start to finish – so is not a good weeknight option. It starts of similarly by frying off an onion and some garlic, then adding some tinned tomatoes and some spices, cooking the lamb and adding some yogurt and water and then letting that simmer for a good 1 1/2 hours until the meat is falling apart. It is a beautiful curry – we were very impressed.

We also made the same naan from this book that we did in my previous post but we’re getting better and the last time we made it we actually brushed on garlic butter to take it up another notch still! Be prepared for more posts about this most awesome book in the future.

Nopalito: Tostadas de Picadillo and Frijoles Pinquitos Refritos

Having grown up in Arizona of course Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines so I am super excited that Food52 Cookbook Club is going through Nopalito by Gonzalo Guzmán and Stacy Adimando this month.

The first recipe (well two) that I thought I’d tackle is the Tostadas de Picadillo (otherwise known as Ground Beef Tostadas) with Refried Pinto Beans (Frijoles Pinquitos Refritos).

This tostada consists of a corn tortilla (which I bought from Woolies – I only found white ones so that’s what we used) that has been made crispy (we did this on our electric skillet but the book recommends frying in oil or baking), smeered with refried bean, then topped with a ground beef mixture and the side fixings (we’ve used lettuce, red onion, coriander, Mexican cheese, sour cream and lime juice).

The ground beef mixture (picadillo) is made by frying off some beef mince that has been generously salted, then cooking with onions, jalapenos, oregano, cumin, tomato paste and chilli powder. Then you add a tin of diced tomatoes and cook the mixture for 20 minutes. Finally you add some diced potato and shredded carrots and cook for a further 20 minutes until the vegetables have cooked.

The picadillo was really yummy, and I could see this being used for more than just tostadas, it would be great on nachos or tacos too. It was relatively easy, but I was suprised by the long cook time and kinda got caught out in the moment and had to come up with a quick dinner for our eldest who had a performance he had to be at well before we were finished cooking. Whoops!

The refried pinto beans were super easy. We halved the recipe because there was no need for 6 cups of beans for this meal, so we used 2 cans of pinto beans, draining one but keeping the liquid in the other. We warmed these up together and put them in a saucepan of hot oil for a couple minutes with some oregano and onion, then once they were cooked we blitzed them with our new stick blender. I thought this recipe was pretty good but was lacking in seasoning and I would definitely add salt next time. They also turned out paler than I imagined they’d be, not sure if that is the type of pinto beans we get here in Australia or if I needed to cook them longer or in a different oil. Normally I use some pinto and some black beans in my version, so it may just be what I’m used to.

Overall I was pretty happy with our first effort and I look forward to exploring this book a bit more over the next few weeks.

Simple Thai Food: Pad Thai with Shrimp and book review

I have been looking forward to making this dish all month. My favorite noodle dish of all time: Pad Thai. And this did not disappoint. We don’t buy seafood that often so our first impression of this recipe was that it was rather expensive to feed our family, but that did not deter us because we don’t do this sort of thing much – usually our meals are very budget friendly.

The first thing you need to do is soak the noodles. This takes around 30-40 minutes which gives you plenty of time to prep the rest of the dish so that it all comes together in about 15 minutes. If only we’d noticed that ahead of time, dinner would have been ready much earlier. Once the noodles have soaked you fry them in some oil and then you add a sauce consisting of fish sauce, tamarind and brown sugar. While the noodles cook in this you shift it over to one side of the pan and put shallot, garlic and tofu on the other and cook it. Then you add the raw shrimp and continue to cook, make a well in the centre of the pan and scramble some eggs. Once all the elements are cooked you stir it together and add some bean sprouts and green onion. Then it’s time to plate up by finishing it off with some more bean sprouts, a lime wedge and some chopped peanuts.

Hectic while in the throws of cooking and multitasking but quite amazing for one pan on the cooktop. I really enjoyed this dish, but like most Pad Thai recipes I prefer it without the “meat” – whether it be chicken or fish. I let Aaron eat all but 3 of my prawns but happily devoured every last piece of tofu. Next time we’re going to try to find a better firmer tofu – that’s my only real disappointment – by the end it kind of scrambled into non existence. The dish still tasted fabulous, but I did miss getting a bite of tofu on its own.

I’m going to leave this book review short and sweet: it has been a fun month cooking through  Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu with Food52 Cookbook Club – the recipes have been relatively simple compared to what I expected from a Thai cookbook and all of them have been delicious. I didn’t feel compelled to buy ingredients that were unfamiliar as many were listed as optional and each meal we’ve made we would make again. I’m glad I stumbled across this book on sale for Kindle because it is definitely worth owning.

To see the other two recipes I’ve tried from this book click on the links below:

Simple Thai Food: Beef Matsaman Curry

This is certainly the closest I’ve come to recreating my favorite Thai curry at home and a second big hit from Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu – the book of the month for the Food52 Cookbook Club. It does take a long time (about 4 hours in total), but most of that is hands off.

To make the dish you cook off some mussaman curry paste with some coconut cream and a little vegetable oil and when it’s fragrant you add the diced beef, some coconut milk and enough water to cover the meat. Once it comes to a boil, you drop it down to a simmer and set it on the back burner for 3 hours. Seriously.

When it was 2 hours into the simmering time, I put the rice in the rice cooker and started it (we used brown jasmine rice so it takes about that long) and then I diced the potatoes and boiled them for 10 minutes. I also prepared the tamarind pulp and quartered 3 small onions and toasted some spices – cinnamon, cardamon and star anise. Then at the 3 hour mark we checked to see if the beef was done and added the onions, tamarind, the spices, a couple of bay leaves, some brown sugar and some fish sauce and let it simmer until the onions were cooked. Then we added the drained potatoes and some chopped peanuts, stirred them through and when the rice was done I fished out the spices and the bay leaves and we dished up.

It was so delicious and I actually never connected it before with Japanese Nikujaga (beef and potato stew) but this was very reminiscent of that with a few different flavor differences. Some of us (I’m not naming names, ahem Aaron) wanted to go back for 4ths! We have plenty of leftovers and I can’t believe the serving suggestion was for 4-6 people – they mustn’t be serving it with rice is the only explanation I have for that.

With two meals under my belt, I can’t wait to try our 3rd recipe for the month which is my absolute favorite Thai dish – Pad Thai!

Throwback Thursday: Chicken with Indian Spices, Mango & Coconut from Simple

Here’s yet another throwback to Simple by Diana Henry. We’ve been making a STACK of the recipes from Made in India over the last couple months (and yet I’ve still only posted about the book once!), but I just had to try this Mango Chicken Curry recipe from Simple because it’s one of my favorite Indian curries.

It was super easy to throw together as all the recipes from this book have been. You cook some chicken thighs in butter and oil then set them aside while you make the sauce – by cooking onions and garlic, adding chopped tomatoes, curry paste, ginger and stock then boiling to reduce the sauce by half. Then you add coconut cream, brown sugar and return the chicken to the pan for another 15 minutes. You add the mango at the last minute so it doesn’t overcook and then finish it with some cream and some lemon or lime juice. We served it with basmati rice and naan and topped it with some fresh coriander.

Sadly, I was disappointed with the end result. The mango flavour was just too muted. It was a really nice curry, but it wasn’t really what I wanted. I’m tempted to try it again since we still have a stack of the Patak’s vindaloo curry paste we bought especially for this recipe and adding extra mango or maybe even some mango nectar in addition to the stock. I’m determined to perfect this favourite meal!



Simple Thai Food: Curry Noodles with Chicken

We are in for a month of awesome eating if tonight’s dinner was any indication of what’s to come. During the month of April, Food52 Cookbook Club is going through Leela Punyaratabandhu’s book Simple Thai Food and one flick through the book and I’ve already dog-eared several recipes (on my kindle version).

I knew I wanted to cook from it at least once this week but due to the busyness of the weekend I didn’t properly menu plan and do a grocery list at home, so I came up with making this recipe as we drove to Woolies while I was madly writing what I could remember we needed to buy on a scratch sheet of paper. This meal appealed to me because it said it could be ready in 30 minutes and it has similar ingredients to Pad Thai (and I will definitely be making that recipe this month). When I looked at the long list of ingredients it didn’t seem too daunting…curry pastes, curry powder, coconut milk/cream, fish sauce, brown sugar, chicken stock, tofu, chicken, rice noodles, peanuts, fried shallots (I’m still working through the humongous bag I bought before Thanksgiving), bean sprouts, coriander, limes and eggs. I opted not to buy the preserved radish because I didn’t have the time to go to a specialty store and Woolies didn’t seem to sell it.

We got home from parent teacher interviews and Aaron and I teamed up to knock out dinner in record time (especially for a first go at a recipe). I put the coconut cream, some vegetable oil and the curry paste in our big skillet and once it started smelling nice and was mixed together I chucked in the chicken that Aaron had diced up to stir fry for a few minutes. Then I added the stock, the coconut milk, the brown sugar and the fish sauce and cooked the chicken through.  Lastly I added the tofu (again diced by Aaron) and the curry powder and set it to simmer while Aaron was boiling a couple of eggs and slicing lime wedges and chopping coriander. I blanched the bean sprouts and then boiled the rice noodles for 15 minutes and we were ready to assemble the dish.

Isn’t it beautiful?!! The book says it serves 4 but they were very generous portions and we still had leftovers. I liken the dish to a Thai Chicken Noodle Soup, it is warm and comforting and delicious. Aaron’s already asking when we’re making this dish again and while our littlest two weren’t that keen to eat it they did sample some and loved sucking on the limes. To each their own…

Throwback Thursday: Bacon & Egg Risotto from Simple

This is another throwback from Simple by Diana Henry that fits firmly into that “brinner” category – ie breakfast for dinner. We made this last month when one of our big boys was away on camp as it serves 2 and we simply doubled it so it would feed the remaining 5 of us. It would’ve been tripled had he been here, but given he’s not too fond of eggs I’m not sure he would’ve eaten it.

It’s a basic risotto making process: heat up some stock in a saucepan and in a skillet melt some butter and cook the bacon and onion. Then toast off the arborio rice until it’s translucent and start incorporating the stock a ladle at a time until the liquid absorbs. Season with salt and pepper and add some parsley and parmesan. And serve with poached eggs on top. No wonder it’s in a book called “Simple”. This barely seems like a recipe!

This is a super comforting mid week meal and it’s rather easy to upscale. It is definitely a recipe I’ll return to when we have bacon that needs to be used up!