When I was in Dublin last week I cooked with Lily Ramirez-Foran. I have known Lily for years online and met her at Electric Picnic, an Irish music festival with a fun food stage, the Theatre of Food. Lily is Mexican, from Monterrey, but based in Ireland with her Irish husband whom she met in Japan. Ireland is very lucky to have her and her gorgeous Mexican shop and kitchen Picado, in Portabello in Dublin. It is a joyful place where Lily serves the best Mexican produce (food and other bits like handmade Mexican pinatas!). She also has supper clubs and cooking classes there on a weekly basis.
I was running a pop up brunch cafe at Electric Picnic, which happily coincided with the launch of my first cookbook, Comfort & Spice and featured recipes from the brunch chapter. Lily was doing a cooking demo showcasing Mexican cuisine as most of Ireland don’t know it. Ditto the UK, and other parts of Europe. What most of us think of as Mexican food is actually Tex Mex, a US interpretation of Mexican and Southern American cuisines found in Texas and surrounds. Good but not the same. Mostly completely different. Lily explained to me that in Tex Mex the flavour tends to be applied to the meat, where in Mexico the flavour is in the salsa, or the sauce.
Lily impressed everyone with her demo at Electric Picnic that day, the food that she cooks is all heart and soul, and naturally, authentic. Her recipes are accessible and packed with flavour. Lily uses local ingredients as much as she can (she raves about Irish dairy, in particular, and loves Irish vine tomatoes too). Last week we cooked entomatadas (read Lily’s thoughts on entomatads vs enchiladas, and get her recipe on her site here). Corn tortillas fried until soft and filled with poached chicken or feta cheese and onion, smothered in a fabulous salsa, and finished with creme fraiche. They were gorgeous, and so speedy. I have been inspired by that cooking session all week. I shared it all by video on snapchat, and I shared this recipe there too. Come follow me on there, it is so much fun and there is a lot of food and recipes.
This is the snippet from Snapchat of my cooking session with Lily in Dublin. On Snapchat I film in profile mode so to get the best of this, look at it on full screen. In Snapchat itself it fills the phone screen, naturally. Enjoy!
Brunch is my favourite meal of the day, and I especially adore it at the weekend. At the moment, my brunch is determined very much by whatever joy I can gather from my kitchen garden. My happy place, my space to exhale. Right now that is mainly courgettes and courgette flowers (and no, I am not sick of them, they have just started!). More on that in detail later this week. Last weekend, I picked my first plucky Roman courgette with flower, and knew that it had to be on my plate for brunch. I had a joyful enormous yellow tomato, larger than a normal beef tomato, mostly flesh and so sweet with an underlying tartness. Chipotle woke it all up in a speedy salsa (and I now know that a salsa is always cooked, what we know as salsa, in Mexico is a salad!). I made some fresh cheese (queso fresco), you can use ricotta or feta here too if you you are not inclined as going as far as fresh cheese. But I urge you to try, fresh cheese is easy and a joy, as well as being so gorgeous. I make it often in the summer heat.
Note on the recipe: source good corn tortillas, they make a big difference.
- 400g tomato(es) - that is what mine weighed!
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 dried chipotle
- 2 courgettes, sliced
- 1 tsp worcester sauce
- (this will make enough salsa for 2)
- oil for frying
- 1 litre full fat milk
- the juice of one lemon (freshly squeezed)
- cheesecloth & a sieve
- (you can substitute this with ricotta, crumbled feta or queso fresco if you can get it
- 1 corn tortilla
- 2 tbsp neutral oil, like rapeseed or groundnut
- 1 egg
- 1 spring onion, finely sliced
Start with your fresh cheese. Bring the milk to before the boil (80 deg C with a thermometer, or when it is steaming but not bubbling, it is important not to boil the milk). Turn the heat off and add the lemon juice, Stir through, and notice the curds and whey separating. Allow to sit for 20 minutes then strain through a cheesecloth / muslin lined sieve into a pot. You can use the whey collected below to make bread, you can use it to marinade chicken as you would with buttermilk, or you can use it to make a gorgeous dal. The cheese will be ready after about half an hour. You can store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Prepare your salsa by boiling the chipotle in water for 10 minutes. Leave it sit until softened, then drain. Remove the stem(s) from the tomatoes and put in the food processor with the chipotle, whizz until fine.
Heat a tablespoon of oil over a medium heat and fry the garlic for one minute. Add the tomato mixture and worcester sauce and cook over a medium heat until it has thickened. Add the courgettes for the final few minutes until soft. Season to taste and add more worcester sauce if you think it needs it.
Add 2 tbsp of oil to a frying pan / skillet. Fry the tortilla for about a minute on each side. Keep it soft, don't crisp it. Remove to a serving plate and fry your egg. Place the egg on top. Serve some of the salsa on the egg and sprinkle with the fresh cheese, spring onions and coriander leaves.
Eat immediately. Enjoy!