Friday, 8 September 2017

Cookery Calendar Challenge

It's Friday! We did it, we got through the first week back at school and work, and it was ok, better than ok actually. I am genuinely very happy to be back in my job; I was reminded how much I like my colleagues and how much I enjoy working with them all, and how completely brilliant the children are. Neither Bella nor Angus would admit to being thrilled at being back at school, but I know they are happy - they are so full of chat and stories after school, their little growing brains are being nourished and challenged again. We were all very ready for the six week holiday to end. Friends in other countries who have twelve week long breaks - I do not know how you do it. 

How are you all, everyone ok? It's rained every day this week and has often been so dark in the mornings that we've had to turn the lights on. But it's still mild, the kind of weather that makes you feel a little chilly when you're sitting around indoors, but the minute you go outside and start doing anything you feel warm again. But the grey skies and blustery winds mean that summer feels longer ago than it should this early in September. And is it me or are the trees turning a little earlier this year? 

Well, I almost forgot to join in with Penny's Cookery Calendar Challenge in August, and only remembered to cook from my chosen book Mexican Food Made Simple last Sunday. I blame holiday brain. 

The recipes in this book are a million miles away from the kind of Mexican - well, Tex-Mex really - cooking most restaurants and pubs serve here; "Fageetas" served with under cooked onions and smothered in so much grated cheddar and sour cream that you can't really taste anything, and I'm not being snobby, I've ordered that before and probably will do again. The recipes in this book are lighter and fresher, full of smaller dishes, starters, sides and salads, lots of vegetables and lots of fresh herbs and spices. 

However, I was in a hurry and wanted something that would appeal to all without giving me a migraine, so I chose "An easy, speedy chile con carne", not remotely authentically Mexican. I was intrigued to see if it was better than John's version, which is one of his favourite things to cook and he's very good at it. (He uses minced beef and bacon, chopped onions, carrots and celery, kidney beans, tomatoes, stock, and it cooks in the oven for a few hours.) This recipe is based around beef stewing steak - I used briskett - and chorizo for the meat. You brown the beef in large chunks, then the chorizo, then the vegetables, then put everything back in the pan with stock, tomatoes, lots of spices, chilli, beans, all sorts. 

After two hours cooking you remove the meat, shred it with two forks then return to the pan.

It was gorgeous. Rich and oozy and full of flavour, and quite perfect for the rainy grey day on which I cooked it. We served it with rice, tacos and lots of accompaniments. Bella and Angus love tacos because, lets be honest, they are basically like giant tortilla chips, so they think it's like having crisps for dinner.

To go with this meal, I also decided to make a Fresh Tomato Salsa and Classic Guacamole, and this is the part I most enjoyed preparing and eating. 

Avocado, chilli, lime, coriander - my favourite flavours, zingy and fresh. 

I don't usually like salsa and I think that's because I associate it with the supermarket dip selection packs, you know, the ones that come in a pack of four. It's always the one I leave as it's just tomato and so much chilli that is blows your head off. But this was a revelation; sweet, sharp, fragrant and refreshing, and it was even better the next day when the lime juice had mellowed the red onions a little. I am converted.

Now the guacamole - that is the only recipe we'd previously used from this book and so often that it falls open at that splashed and stained page. The book is almost worth it's cover price alone (although, actually, I seem to remember this was a gift from my friend Rachel when she found herself with two copies) for this recipe because the guacamole is so, SO good. It's nothing like supermarket guacamole, but creamy, spicy, soft, crunchy, herby and so full of flavour, it's like you can taste every ingredient. 

That last photo is making me quite hungry! Now my next challenge will be to remember how good this book is and actually get it off the shelf and cook from it more. 

My book for September will be The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Happy weekend everyone, I've got nothing much planned except food shopping, rearranging some furniture, and lots of crochet. 


  1. It looks good. I think you would enjoy New Mexican cuisine, it's pretty different from Tex-Mex. It relies heavily on sauces, such as green or red chile (which, here, is sauce made from the peppers) or even mole. Pork is very common too, especially carnitas, which is like a stewed pork with red chile. There's also green chile stew, which is pork braised in green chile sauce. Even fajitas are usually a little different, just meat and vegetables on a tortilla. I love fresh salsa but I haven't made any in a long time. Yours looks great. Glad to hear that back-to-school went well!

  2. I love the Smitten Kitchen book, I've had it from the library. Must get my own copy. She has a new book coming out very soon. Homemade salsa and guacamole are lovely aren't they. So much nicer than supermarket ones, they can be a bit vinegary as well as the things you said. I'll no doubt make a little salsa if I get a tomato glut. Although ripening has slowed right down now with the darker cooler days. Glad your first week back went well. Back into the swing of things I think. 12 weeks is a really long break isn't it. I hope you have a good weekend. CJ xx

  3. Your recipes do look good, they're making my mouth water just looking at them. Glad you've all had a good week back. My teens are back at school (4 days this week) and college (2 days this week). I was thinking about putting my recipes up on Penny's page but couldn't find the link. I've missed a few months. Have a good weekend. Cx

  4. OK, you are in recovery mode from long school holidays & getting back into the swing of back to school & work, so no wonder your thoughts are on other things & I'm sure the family are always well fed, even if not from the book for the Monthly Cookery Challenge. It certainly looks tempting, but as you know from other posts, I'm not good with hot/spicy food. Funny how some our cookbooks fall open at certain pages & are also grubby too. Have a relaxing weekend after this first hectic week & take care.

  5. I LOVE this book. I managed to find a second hand copy a while ago and it's become one of my favourites. It will be the battle of the chile con carne in your house from now on! Glad that you are back into the swing of things at work. xx

  6. Nice to hear you are all happy to return to "normal" life - I feel pretty much the same after each holiday. I like being away and doing different things in a different environment, but I do love my home life and cosy routines.
    Guacamole for me has to be the very basic one - no tomatoes, just avocado, salt, pepper and maybe a bit of garlic. I used to make one for myself at least once a week but overdid it and now have not been having any for months. Your post has reminded me of how much I used to like it!

  7. Food looks fantastic. I have returned to work so crafting has slowed down but I love teaching so it all feels good. I am glad you are getting back into the swing of things. jo x

  8. My daughter has hated abocado all her life until she went to Mexico this summer. She's nearly green now with the amount she's eaten since July! She totally coverted and has been making her own avocado smoosh as she calls it frequently. Your pot of chilli looks lovely but it would be beans, not meat, for me. Catriona

  9. I love this sort of food so much! I make a kind of kid-friendly chunky dip when we eat anything vaguely mexican inspired - a mix of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, roughly smashed up avocado, a dollop of greek yoghurt and then fresh lime and coriander. Its a good compromise, esp for the Little B who doesn't really like anything too chilli-heat spicy just yet. Totally forget about tacos - on my shopping list for this week! x

  10. Hey Gillian,
    Always good to get the first week under your belt. My friend Liz makes a chilli this way, and I love it. My boys are not fans unfortunately, so I only make it when we have friends for supper.
    Leanne xx

  11. Love that book. We went to Wahaca (her restaurant chain) in Chichester when we were down and I was lush, thoroughly recommend the crab tostadas

  12. hungry now, need to make chilli!

  13. Glad the return to school and work has gone well.
    I got told at work not to pack the summer clothes away yet as apparently this weekend is going to be a warm one again!!
    Lisa x


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