Monday, 28 January 2008

Mexican Fiesta

Quite often after I eat out, I find myself wanting to cook something similar. This time it's a Mexican/TexMex bug that bit. I'm making a lamb and black bean chilli, a jicama salad, and mango sorbet. All is actually for tomorrow night. Today we're in recovery from the party, and there's been a lot of lolling on the couch attempting to read the entire internet. In between that, I've had a few bouts of pottering in the kitchen on clean up and meal prep.

The lamb chilli is a variant on one by the Frugal Gourmet, a twinkly avuncular seeming gentleman, who hosted a cooking show in the US at the time I was living there. I bought his American cookbook back then. It seems he wasn't as nice a man as his TV persona. It doesn't pay to google celebrities you like; you may discover them embroiled in yet another church-related underage sexual abuse scandal. Oh well. The recipe is still good. It uses commercial chilli powder and is a bit vague on measurements, so I'll post my variant.

Jicama is a very nice vegetable that's not much used or known in Australia. I buy it from Saigon Grocery in Dickson. This is a wonderful shop - it's Vietnamese, but has a wide range of other Asian groceries. I love it especially for the fresh food. There's cakes and puddings up the front - all manner of interesting and colourful coconut and sweet bean concoctions. Fresh noodles and tofu are in the fridge at the back. It's most noteworthy, though, for the fresh vegetables, which arrive on Friday afternoons. They have the best and freshest beansprouts, excellent herbs and greens, Thai white eggplants, green salad papayas, and all sorts of other goodies. They have good fruit, too - this week they had fresh longans, as well as huge mangoes and a few other things. The lady at the counter was nice enough to warn me that the jicama was expensive before I bought it; and she also saved my reading glasses that I lost. I love her very much!

Anyway, jicama, or yam bean, or chinese turnip, is a native Mexican plant. Its root is usually eaten raw, in salads, salsas, or fruit plates. Lime, salt and chilli are the common condiments. It's crisp, slightly sweet, and mild in flavour. I've used three quarters of mine to make a salad, and I'll have the rest for work lunches. The salad is very simple - lime, salt, chilli, coriander and onion.

Finally, for dessert we can have Clothilde's Mango Sorbet. Only one slight variant - I only had 750g of mango flesh. I just went ahead with that, not worrying about the missing 50g of fruit. I haven't frozen it yet, so I'll have to let you know later how that worked. (Wednesday update: it worked perfectly. Very good!)

Recipe 1: Lamb and Black Bean Chilli
350g uncooked black turtle beans
500g minced lamb
1 large onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1 stick cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon loomi - dried lime powder
chilli, to taste
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 large green capsicum
salt, to taste
juice of half a lime

Soak the beans overnight; discard water. Boil gently in fresh water for 2-3 hours, until almost tender. Set aside - they can continue to soak overnight in the cooking water.

Heat the oil in a large pot. Chop the onion, and add it, with the whole cumin seeds to the pan. Fry until onion is softened, than add crushed garlic and minced lamb. Stir well to brown lamb, then add tomatoes, worcestershire sauce and spices (NOT including salt). Add beans, and simmer gently for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. About half an hour before serving, add chopped capsicum, lime juice, and salt to taste.

Notes: Black beans really do take a long time. In this method they are finished off in the chilli, so they soak up a bit of the flavour and meld in well. These are not Chinese black beans, which are actually fermented soybeans, but an American bean. I got mine from the Essential Ingredient in Kingston. This isn't a bright red chilli, especially if you use chopped fresh green chillies for your heat. The lime is more unusual - and that's not from the original recipe. I think I got the idea from a chilli & margarita restaurant in Manhattan, umm 20 years ago (woah, is that the time?). Maybe. Anyway, the lime and black bean combo just seems right.

Serve it with some tortillas (or pita bread), a small dollop of sour cream, and some salad. Makes lots, with plenty of handy to freeze leftovers.

Recipe 2: Jicama Salad
350g jicama
2 long mild green chillies
1 small red onion
1 lime
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaf
De-seed and shred the chillies into fine straws. Slice the onion into fine straws. Peel and slice the jicama into coarser straws. Mix through the salt, and zest and juice of the lime, and leave to settle for a few hours or overnight. Stir through fresh coriander shortly before serving.

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