We brightened up a dreary February lunchtime this weekend by taking our guests on a tour of our favourite Latin American recipes! Sunshine colour and warming spice were the ingredients of the day, inspired by some of our go to cook books, including Martin Morales’ ‘Ceviche’, Thomasina Mier’s ‘Wahaca’ and Kelis’ ‘My Life on a Plate’ (I’m a sucker for a novelty cookbook!).
Guests hurried in from the torrential rain and were greeted with a punchy daiquiri – the classic rum based Cuban cocktail. Usually made with white rum I thought I’d give dark rum a try to create something more warming and spicy. This was shaken with lime juice, sugar syrup and fresh ginger.
Canapes started with a comforting empanada of sweet potato and chorizo, classic Latin flavours of the soft sweetness of the potato and the spicy sausage all encased in crisp homemade pastry. A real Latin American staple! I followed these with a little corn cake adorned with huancaina sauce. The cake was warm, soft and sweet – the sauce creamy and spicy. I had guests guessing at the bizarre ingredients in the sauce, which included evaporated milk, cream crackers and Amarillo chilli! The sauce on its own can be used as a base for mac and cheese, which I can endorse having had it for my dinner the other night! My homemade Amarillo chilli paste was actually made from scotch bonnets, red and yellow peppers and oranges – a combination which mimics the spicy fruitiness of the Peruvian Amarillo chilli perfectly.
The small plates continued with a beautiful little salad of quinoa, butterbeans and avocado, stacked together in layers, topped with a tomato and onion salsa and served with a physalis sauce. The quinoa itself was understated, lightly flavoured with a little chilli, lime and seasoning, but the sour creamy avocado, salsa and physalis made it all sing.
I followed this with a very pretty and refreshing seabass and passionfruit ceviche. Actually a Nigel Slater recipe, this paired delicate seabass flesh with sour passionfruit, lime and fiery chilli. This was a great palate cleanser ahead of the main courses and even got the fish haters licking their plates clean!
For main courses we wanted some warming, comforting dishes given what a cold, wet day it was. Susie prepared steak tacos. Little purple corn tortillas crammed with layers of different flavours. Creamy and cool guacamole, crunchy bitter purple cabbage, fruity pico do gallo rare skirt steak and then all topped with sour, herby chimmichurri. A real mouthful indeed!
I couldn’t do a Latin American event without some form of slow roast pork. I used Kelis’ Pork Pernil recipe, which is a Puerto Rican slow roast spiced pork. A huge pork shoulder was stabbed all over and had slivers of garlic inserted into it. It was then marinated for 24 hours in a cocktail of herbs and spices that included achiote paste, smoked paprika, rosemary, thyme and oregano. It was slow roasted, on a low setting, for 5-6 hours. I found this very similar to pork pibil if I’m honest. But the soft, tasty meat is always a winner with me. I served the meat on top of a bed of flavourful yellow beans. These were chana masala cooked with bacon, onions, chicken stock and red peppers. Before serving these were spiked with coriander, lime juice and more Amarillo chilli, creating a warming yet refreshing side. These little dishes of awesomeness came anointed with pink pickled onions, pickled chillies and pork scratchings (or carnitas!).
Showing no signs of food fatigue, which is what we like to see, our guests were swiftly moved on to a palate cleanser of pineapple and sage granita – an interesting Latin American and British fusion. Susie’s stunning dessert was a combination of Pastel de Nata (spiced custard tarts), arroz con leche ice cream (rice pudding), chocolate ganache and mango couli. The tart was a crisp case of homemade puff pastry, filled with a thick and rich custard spiked with lemon zest and cinnamon. The ice cream was infused with toasted rice pudding and vanilla – a subtle flavour that really came through. This was all brought together with the rich chocolate and the fruity sweetness of the mango.
For petit fours I created little sweet potato doughnuts (called picarones). These were lovely and sweet but the dough was very hard to work with and I found the dampness of the sweet potato meant that even after frying the doughnuts were quite dense and doughy. However the sticky rum sauce that these could be dunked into more than made up for that!
Next month we’ll be offering up more of a British themed lunch for our Nigel Slater Kitchen Diaries III inspired event. It’s a lovely book, so we’re looking forward to reacquainting ourselves with it and picking recipes!