Dinner 14

Dinner No 14 hosted by Ellie: August 2013

I was really looking forward to preparing my menu as I had decided on a Mexican theme, and I love Mexican food. I wanted to choose things that I had never cooked before (in true 8ate tradition) but also to make it healthy. a lot of the Mexican dishes I love seem to involve large amounts of melted cheese, which is not good for the waistline!

I borrowed thomasina myer’s cookbooks from the library and these proved my main recipe source, with a bit of help from pintrest.

Paloma Cocktail

I wanted to try something different from the usual bubbles, and I really enjoyed this cocktail based on tequila and pink grapefruit juice. it was quite salty and sour, but I prefer that to sweet fruity drinks, and I was pleased with my new glasses that I crusted with salt, a new trick!

Black Bean and Avocado Tostados

I made the tostados by drying out then baking tortillas that I had made the day before. the recipe said to deep fry but I wanted a lighter, healthier crisp. I was pleased as they held together well. the black beans took, literally, hours to cook, but had a great depth of flavour helped by the whole cumin seed. the guacamole topping was good, the green contrast looked pretty, but guacamole is a bit of a faff to make, a slice of avocado would have been quicker and looked just as good.

Chorizo Empanadas

I decided on these as a last minute extra and made them using stuff I found in the fridge. I was really pleased with how they turned out, they were easy to assemble (helped by little 8 year old fingers) and although maybe not healthy the pastry was good with the cocktail!

Watermelon and Feta Skewers

a bit of a cheat canapé as it’s more an assembly job that actual cooking, but they look pretty, taste fresh, and complemented the stronger smoky flavours of the other canapés well.

Scallop and Prawn Aguachile

I have never made a cerviche before, and it was one of the main reasons I wanted to do a Mexican menu, and I was pleased with the result. making the aguachile, (meaning firewater) drew funny looks from my afternoon guests as it looked a very unappealing bright green soup, and when we tasted it it was so sour and overwhelmingly tequila! but once combined with raw seafood and left to marinate the flavours changed completely. I thought the dish looked good, tasted clean, light and fresh, and despite the scallops being very large the texture to the seafood was beautiful. I was really pleased with this dish, and am looking forward to polishing off the leftovers for lunch!

Seabass Tacos with Pineapple Salsa and Green Rice

these were supposed to be made with sardines but there were none in the supermarket, so a last minute change to seabass. the fish held its shape when cooked, and although subtle I could taste the coriander and citrus marinade. the pineapple salsa was a success and I will definitely make that again, so easy, and would go well with chicken too. the green rice looked good on the plate and provided a good texture and flavour contrast as it was cooked with lots of garlic. the one problem was my tortillas! when I made them the night before they were soft and supple, and could hold food well, but this batch were dry and crumbly. a bit of a disaster, but eating a taco with a knife and fork, although not very Mexican, is still tasty!

Chilli Chocolate Pots with Coconut Cream and Mexican Wedding Cookies

I wanted to try a different recipe for chocolate mousse, and this used tofu instead of egg or cream. it was dark and quite dry, and a good dollop of double cream would defiantly have improved it! but I was pleased with the chilli flavour, and even thought the coconut cream had split a little I liked the taste, even though I was whisking for ages I’d make this again. the Mexican wedding cookies were lovely really light and crumbly, and I changed the recipe to add salted caramel, which is always a good addition at the end of any meal.

Overall I was very pleased with my menu, thank you 8ate ladies for the lovely paired wine, especially sals for the delicious dessert wine. and thank you guests for my lovely bottles/gifts. hope you enjoyed the evening, and I admit to a small sigh of relief that I’ve now got 4 more meals to go before its back to me!

  1. Tanyah

    I love and adore Mexican food.

    The real winners for me tonight were the pineapple salsa and the wedding biscuits. I am beginning to think salted caramel should just be statutory at every meal!

    The cocktail was nice and served in gorgeous glasses but whilst the salted edge looks lovely I find it a bit… well.. salty! However, I still managed to slip about 3 down 🙂 I agree that it is nice to try something other than champagne to start. Whenever I have had cocktails at the start of an evening it has usually got a bit messy but gladly not tonight!

    Having made refried beans before I know how bloody long they take to make, but I think these with the avocado were slightly different as I used pinto beans not black beans. I liked the little bean avo combo. I liked the chorizo puffs, not a fan of the watermelon/feta but they looked pretty!

    I found the scallop dish a little tricky to eat but the flavours were certainly punchy, I am desperate to try this curing ceviche method now. I am also always on the look out for starters that can be served cold but are still classy and this was an excellent contender.

    I enjoyed all the individual flavours of the main and didn't mind not being able to roll it up at all. The pineapple salsa was just gorgeous, spicy/fruity/sweet just delicious.

    Pudding was not calorific enough for me!! give me eggs and cream any day! Love chilli and chocolate though – a classic Mexican combination.

    The biscuits were divine, all crumbly with that sweet and salty caramel which is always a winner.

    As ever the table looked lovely as well with all the 'bits and pieces' which you do so well Ellie.

    Thank you xx

  2. Charlie

    What a lovely occasion and an opportunity to meet a table-ful of lovely new people over delicious food.

    I must come clean, I'm a very functional cook, and one of my favourite things about the evening was coming away feeling inspired to do some entertaining and try some more challenging dishes. The whole safe environment of good friends is such a great idea: when you are having a dinner party that perhaps includes people you don't know well or whom you feel the need to impress (!) not many of us are brave enough to go off piste or try a new or more complicated dish.

    I thought your Mexican theme was fab and you're quite right – so much of my experience of this cuisine is heavily cheesy and meaty, so it was really interesting to taste a broader range of Mexican style dishes.

    My favourite things were the canapes to start, the ceviche with its lovely sharp-flavoured gravy and crunchy taco things (terminology! sorry! I'm such an amateur), the pineapple salsa, the variety of things on the main course plate and the caramel salty biscuits. Pretty much everything therefore 🙂

    I enjoyed the cocktail because it was sour – the distinct flavour somehow stopped me swilling it down as fast as I do with sweeter ones (which is A Good Thing!) and it was good to start the meal with a more salty, savoury flavour instead of something too sweet, if that makes sense. I love pink grapefruit. Interestingly I'm not a big fan of tequila in general but I enjoyed all the ways you used the flavour in the cocktail and food – perhaps I should stop drinking it neat from the bottle to appreciate it more – haha.

    I loved every bit of the presentation and preparation, I have seldom if ever been to a meal in someone's home where the table and food were so beautifully arranged.

    It was a great privilege and pleasure to be invited – thank you so much Ellie, and everyone for being so welcoming and entertaining.


  3. Anonymous

    So after arriving in New York some 20 years ago, not knowing a soul for a 2 year work placement, I was eventually invited on a date to the opening of Michael Rodiguez' (who was famous then but no one has ever heard of him now!) prestige opening of his new haute cuisine Mexican Restaurant. Bill Gates, poor soul, was on the table next to our raucous party. It was the first restaurant of it's kind bringing Mexican food to something far more elegant. Ellie I think you'd have given Mikey a run for his money! Your food was beautiful and delicious.

    Looking at the photo's everything looks so fresh and elegant without being too contrived.

    Our taste buds were given a fresh awakening with the Paloma Cocktail accompanied with the tostado's – I liked the guacamole – so really appreciated the extra work there.

    I loved your daughter's involvement particularly for the empanada's … a little Master Chef in the making.

    I was quite thankful the fish was sea bass – after the delicious scallops a much stronger tasting fish after may have been too much for me. The delicate sea bass and pineapple accompliment made for a wonderful light main packed with flavour. So we had plenty of room for pudding. I wouldn't be sorry about the tortilla's – the flavour (and more importantly aroma) of the corn was above all and completely different from any tortilla I've bought pre made.

    I'm not a great chocolate fan, being a more savoury geek, but I did like this quirky chocolate mousse with chilli and coconut combination. It made me slow down a little and consider the flavour and texture combination. Quite oddly, given my usual tastes, my favourite of the evening was the Mexican Wedding Cookies! They were so light, but still tasted naughty with the salted caramel and felt very celebratory. What a clever idea!

    Thank you Lucinda for inviting me, great to meet lovely new friends, and a huge thank you to Ellie for treating us all.
    I'm off to the garage to dig out my old New York cookery books and kick-start the Mexican chapter in my cooking again.

    Thank you all so so much for the inspiration!

    Clare x

  4. Lucinda

    Well done Ellie, you hosted a wonderful evening and a delicious meal!
    I love Mexican food and after 3 yrs of living in America I was beginning to think that it was hugely calorific, even at the non-chain restaurants. Your meal however, was gorgeously light, colourful and tasty proving that you don't have to have cheese and sour cream with everything – puts these American restaurants to shame!
    The cocktail certainly kicked off the theme beautifully, it was a little strong for me (I know I am such a lightweight!) and although the salt looked gorgeous maybe a finer salt would reduce the funny facial expressions that I presented to the girls!
    My favourite canapé was the black bean tostadas, they had fabulous flavours, colour and were very light. I enjoyed the lovely rich spicy flavour of the empanadas but felt that that they may have benefitted from a little dipping sauce?! The watermelon and feta looked fresh and colourful but I struggled a little with the texture of the two together.
    Having tasted your Aguachile I must remember to serve ceviche more in the summer, it was presented beautifully and, despite not being a lover of shellfish I really enjoyed it! I love strong flavours and enjoyed the punchy juice as it didn't overpower the fish.
    The pineapple salsa in your taco dish was a real winner, fabulous flavours, textures and colour which complemented the tender seabass and homemade tortillas (which I think looked better served open as you could see what was inviting you to eat!)
    I too am more of a savoury girl that sweet and normally find chocolate deserts a little rich, this wasn't the case with your chocolate mousse and I enjoyed the chilli accent too. I did find the texture a little granula as I am accustomed to mousses being smooth but I think it's great that you were able to make a non-dairy mousse!
    The wedding cookies, well, they were a simply gorgeous melt in the mouth moment and a perfect petite four at the end of a fragrant Mexican meal!
    Thank you Ellie, Tanyah I can't wait to taste your creations from your new kitchen!!

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