16 July 2010

GUEST BLOG: Arriba to vegetarian Mexican tapas!

By guest blogger ROS SWEENEY

As a veteran of the Tuesday Cracking Good Food sessions (I've been to five out of six!), it was with a touch of sadness that I attended the last one of this series: Mexican Tapas. Still, I was very interested to see what would be made in this vegetarian tapas class (and how tasty the results would be!) as tapas, to me, has always involved huge quantities of meat and fish. Fernanda was the cooking teacher for the full class of 12, and as she's from Mexico we knew staight off that we were in capable hands.

First of all, Fernanda got everyone chopping and dicing onions and peppers - meanwhile a pan of black turtle beans were simmering in the pressure cooker (a brilliant ultra-quick way to cook dried beans - cheaper and tastier - from scratch!). Some beautiful smoky chipotle chillis were added to this and, once the beans were cooked, they were mashed and part of the onion and pepper mix added along with some veg stock. It wasn't the most attractive dish, but the taste was wonderful.

The bean dish was the first of many. Next up were potato and millet tacos. Soaked millet was added to mashed potato along with some more of the onion and pepper mix.
The more daring among us heated through some tortillas - which involved putting five in a hot pan (no oil) and turning them over with a quick flick of our fingers! Once cooked, these were made into tacos by filling with the potato and millet mixture and securing with cocktail sticks.

Salsa and guacamole were also made, along with tortilla chips. Fernanda said how important coriander is in Mexican cooking and the flavour of both these dips was amazing and totally unlike any supermarket bought ones. They were relatively easy to make too. To make the tortilla chips, we simply cut the tortillas into triangles and deep fried them... I'll never buy a pack of Doritos again!

Next was the best bit. By now, we were starving and we all sat down to what was simply a wonderful feast. The tacos had been deep fried, the refried beans, salsa and guacamole were all put in bowls and we tucked in. It completely changed my idea of vegetarian tapas. Each individual dish was superb. Even better, despite our hunger, there was so much left over that we all got to take huge helpings home... I had it for my lunch at work the next day and it tasted even better!

I have enjoyed the Tuesday CGF sessions immensely. Not only have they shown me simple and easy ways to cook, but it's also been fun. The informal approach and small groups work really well and it's great that all the ingredients can be found in local shops. I'll miss the groups over the summer and look forward to the next round come September - I recommend anyone to join up. I went on my own to all the classes and the atmosphere in every one was so friendly that by the time we sat down to eat, it was like being among old friends!

Fernanda is running a second Mexican Tapas class tomorrow (Saturday 17 July), 11am-2pm at St Ninian's Church Hall.

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