Recipe: Mango Salsa

This one is really easy, but makes a yummy side dish.

You need:

  • One red onion
  • One Beef Steak tomato
  • Mango chunks
  • One lime
  • Chopped Coriander

Peel and dice the onion and add to a mixing bowl.  Dice the tomato in the same fashion, and add to the bowl.  Add the mango chunks. Finely chop the Coriander and cut the lime in half.

Add the Coriander to the bowl and squeeze all the juice out of the lime, into the bowl.  Mix all the ingredients well and transfer to a serving bowl.

And that is all there is to it.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Mexican Meatballs with Green Rice

Every country seems to have its own meatball recipe these days, Italy, Sweden, Greece.  The Mexicans have their own, and, naturally, it is made with beef.  Lamb and pork do not feature too much on their menu.  Of course it is spicy, but what would you expect?

So you need the following:

  • A pound of beef mince
  • Four egg whites
  • A teacup and a half of  breadcrumbs
  • Dried chillies

For the tomato sauce:

  • Two tins of tomatoes
  • 125 ml of Mavrodaphne Red Wine
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Pork stock or beef stock
  • Minced chillies

 For the rice:

  •  One and a half tea cups of long grain rice
  • A handful of spinich
  • garden peas and/or sweetcorn (as an option)

Right, let's get started.

Do you still have all the tomato sauce from the other day?  If so, tip it into a cooking pot, add a teaspoon of minced chilli  and heat slowly.  Then skip to the meatballs.  If not, then read on here:

Take one large cooking pot with a lid and place on a medium heat.  Open two tins of good quality chopped tomatoes and tip them into the pan.  Add 125 ml of Mavrodaphne red wine and two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.  Stir slowly and allow to simmer. Then add a teaspoon of minced red chillies.  Leave it for a few minutes, reduce heat and have a taste.  It should have a rich, full flavour with a sudden kick of spice at the end.  If not, then add more chillies.

So, leave the sauce to simmer, gently, and wash your hands.  This is the messy but fun bit.

Put one mixing bowl and one large plate on the work top.  Add the minced beef to the mixing bowl with the breadcrumbs.  Now crack and separate for egg whites from the yolks.  Add the egg whites to the bowl, and a small sprinking of dried chilles and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. and mix the ingredients together with your hands.  Kneed the mixture like bread until it all comes together.  If it is too dry and crumbling, add more egg white.  If it is too wet, add more breadcrumbs.  Mix it all together into one huge meatball.  From there, break off small handfuls and roll into golf sized balls in the palms of your hands.  It's fun, but messy. Set each ball on to the plate.

Now wash your hands with plenty of soap!

Using a hot deep fat fryer, fry the meatballs for a few seconds, just to brown the outside, then transfer them onto a clean plate. This prevents cross contamination from raw meat to cooked.  Add the bowl and the first plate to the washing up.

Once the meatballs have cooled for a little white, add them one at a time to the tomato sauce.  Place the lid over the pot and leave to simmer on a very low heat.  It takes at least an hour for the meatballs to absorb and cook in the sauce.

When they are nearly done, take a saucepan of freshly boiled water and place on a medium heat.  Add the rice and a handful of spinach.  Leave it to simmer for fifteen minutes.  You will slowly notice the water goes green as the colour is boiled out of the spinach.  It then absorbs into the rice.  Feel free to add half a tin of corn or peas if you want to add a bit of Carribean influence.

Pick out the spinach and drain the rice through a strainer and pack it tightly into an upturned plastic timbale or other small dish. Even an egg cup could work.  Now the tricky bit.  Take a plate and press the top of the timbale or egg cup tight against it.  Now slowly and carefully turn the whole thing over and raise the timbale.  You should get a perfectly pressed little mountain of rice to the side of the plate.

I always like to serve my meatballs in a separate oven ware dish so I can add toppings to melt in the oven.

Carefully, using a thick towel, transfer the oven ware bowl with the meatballs to the main plate, and serve.  It is nice with Guacomole and sour cream. 

Enjoy your dinner!

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


New Brum Fave: Mission Burritos

Hola Amigos, I have one last bit of news before Mexican May draws to a close.  As luck would have it, a whole new Burrito cafe has opened up in Brindleyplace and I was invited down to take a look and try a sample.

I found the place easily enough, it was right next to Carluccio's, and already they were queuing out the door.  I quickly realized that this was because they were giving away free Burritos.  One thing my time here has taught me is that nothing gets between a Brummie and a free lunch. 

I was introduced to Jan Rasmussen, a nice, approachable guy who founded Mission Burritos only a few years ago.  His story starts in San Francisco, where he was working as an IT Engineer at the time. He loved his time in the city, which he highly recommends. His favourite place was the Mission district, where the Mexican community had a food market at the weekend.  He loved their Tacos, which were cooked fresh, right in front of you, using the best ingredients from the market.

The Mexicans were a very open, hospitable community, and their big celebration day was Cinque de Mayo, when they closed the whole district for one big party with parades, games and all sorts of things. He returned to London a year later with a head full of ideas, and a heart that was no longer in IT.  He wanted to bring Mexican food to the UK.  This had been done before, of course, but this time he would make sure it would be 2done properly".

Everything is cooked on the premises, using locally sourced ingredients, helping local farmers and butchers.  But this has not been without challenges, namely, finding quality avocados at a decent price, all year round.  This has proved to be an ongoing challenge. Many of their sauces are imported direct from Mexico. So, moving on, I was invited to first try their Salsa sauces.

  1. The first one I tried was the Green Salsa Verde....hhmm, not bad.
  2. The second one was the amber coloured Pico de that was a cheeky little number with a little after burn    
  3. The third was the red Habanero Salsa ..... Sweet.  Holy.  Jesus, my mouth is on fire.

I was directed to the table where they kept water and a few glasses, and I did a good impression of the Flash as I made my way over. 

Then after we took a few photos of the decor, it was time to try their Burritos.  Now this was the bit I had been looking forward to.  I opted for the Carnitas, which is slow cooked pulled pork with orange zest and thyme.  It tastes amazing.  I had it with some Romain lettuce, Guacamole and sour cream.

Watching them prepare this thing showed that there is a dark art to wrapping a Burrito that I am still yet to master.  They had it wrapped, baked and presented in a nice foil package in just a few seconds.  Mine just leak and have bits sticking out everywhere. In size, this thing was huge, and well worth the money, and perfect for a lunch time snack on the go.

For more information, take a look at their website.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Chicken Fajitas

How are you all getting on at making those Tortillas?  Any better?  Good, because today I am introducing you to the one meal they are really made for. Chicken Fajitas have been a British midweek favourite for over twenty years.

You need the following:

  • Two large Tortillas each
  • Two chicken breasts
  • One white onion
  • One red pepper
  • Two handfuls of closed cap mushrooms
  • Mango chunks
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cajun spices
  • One beef steak tomato
  • Minced red chillis

And for the tomato sauce:

  • Two tins chopped tomato
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Mavrodaphne Greek Red Wine or sweet sherry
  • Pork stock

 To serve:  Sour cream

Let's start with the tomato sauce.  Place a medium sized sauce pan on a low heat and add two tins of decent quality chopped tomatoes.  Allow them to heat for a minute then add 125 ml of Mavrodaphne Greek Red Wine and two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.  Once they are up to heat, add 50 ml of pork stock and reduce to the lowest heat you can.  Test the flavour from time to time throughout the recipe.  Too sweet?  Add lemon juice.  Too sour?  Add wine or a little sugar.

Next, wash your hands.

Now, take a red chopping board and a medium sized plate.  Set your grill to maximum heat.  Take the chicken breasts and place them on the red board.  One at a time, carefully split them width ways down the centre to open them up like butterfly wings.

Done that?  Then wash your hands again, with extra soap this time, and please dry them carefully.

Using tongs, place the chicken under the grill and cook well on both sides, so that all the pinkness turns white, all the way through to the middle.  If the edges go a little brown, don't worry.  Using a second set of tongs, or a fork, place the cooked chicken on a plate.

Add the red board and the tongs to the washing up, and leave the chicken to cool.

Now take a green chopping board, a veg knife, and a big bowl.  Peel and finely dice the onion, then de seed and chop the pepper, and coarsely chop the mushroom.  Finally dice and chop the beef steak tomato.  Add all to the big bowl, including the mango chunks and mix them all around.

Now take a big wok or frying pan - the biggest you can get your hands on.  Place it on a high heat and add a tablespoonful of oil.

Add the bowlful of onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomato and mango and stir well for about five minutes to allow everything to sweat and cook.  Stir well.  Reduce the heat of the pan to about one quarter. 

While they are sweating, add the green board and knife to the washing up and wash out the veg bowl, then give it a quick dry with paper towel.

Once the vegetables look nearly cooked, take your chicken from the plate and rip it to shreds, literally, with your hands and add it to the vegetables in the pan.

Stir in well, then add two or three heaped tablespoons of Cajun Spices and a teaspoonful of Cayenne Pepper.  You can be very generous with the spices.  This is Mexican cooking after all.

How is the tomato sauce looking?  Not bubbling?  Taste nice and flavoursome?  Then add one ladle of sauce to the pan.

Now, before we go any further, I would wash your hands and find a clean, sealable plastic container.  Add the rest of the tomato sauce to the container, and place the lid over the top, diagonally, to allow steam to escape.  When the sauce has cooled enough, (it takes about an hour), seal the lid and place it in the fridge.  It keeps for two to three days and you can even freeze it.

Keep stirring all the ingredients, then add two teaspoons of minced chillies.  You find them in the Asian section of your supermarket and they save a lot of chopping of chillies which can be  a hazardous venture if you rub your eyes.

Have a taste of the ingredients.  They should be spicy with a slightly underlying sweetness. Finally, transfer everything in the pan to the mixing bowl, which can double as a serving bowl.

Heat the tortillas we made earlier for about thirty seconds, and serve the whole lot with sour cream and salsa.

[box type="note"]Tip: give each person plenty of napkins or paper towels.[/box]

Lay the table with a plate on each placing, with two large tortillas on it.  Forget the knife and fork.  Place the bowl in the middle of the table with a serving spoon.

To eat a fajita can be a bit messy at first.  Place one tablespoon of chicken and vegetables in the middle of the tortilla.  Fold up the end furthest away from you, then fold over the sides, nice and tight, and eat from the end facing towards you.  Practice makes perfect.


Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Recipe: Classic Margarita

The classic Margarita is a worldwide favourite.  It reminds many people of holidays, good nights out and wild parties.

I learned how to make this properly while advising a lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology.  Now in Dublin, no one is bashful when it comes to making cocktails at 10.00 am.  It was all in the name of study.  By half ten the room was spinning and I still had to open up my bar.

You need the following: 

  • One large coupe glass or martini glass at a stretch
  • One blender or smoothie maker or a cocktail shaker  
  • 50 ml good quality Tequila
  • 25 ml Triple sec, such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier or similar.
  • One lemon and one lime
  • Still water or tap water.
  • 50 grams of sugar
  • Ice 

First of all, you need your sour mix.  You can make this from fresh, as you go, or if you are having a party, make it in bulk.  For one cocktail.

Take a microwave proof jug, that holds about a pint.  Fill half a  tea cup of water and pour into the jug. Heat for two minutes and then add the juice of a lemon and two tablespoons of sugar. Place in a fridge or freezer to cool.

While you are waiting, cut the lime in half.  Now cut a thin slice (or wheel, as we called it) off the lime.  Cut a slit halfway into it, so that it will clip to the side of the glass.  With the remaining piece, cut another slit and run it around the rim of the glass. 

Take a side plate and fill it with a fifty/fifty mix of salt and sugar.  Never use just salt, this is what always makes people sick, and gave tequila cocktails such a bad reputation, going back years.

Now, when your sour mix is cool add 60 ml to the cocktail shaker or blender.  Add 50 ml of Tequila and 25 ml of Triple Sec.  Add half a tea cup of ice.  Blend well or shake well and pour into the glass.  Add the lime slice to the side of the glass and serve.

Please enjoy more responsibly than I ever did.

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.


Chef's Table: Tortilla


Welcome to the first in a series of Mexican recipes that have been keeping me busy this last week or so. 

Happy Cinque de Mayo everybody!  The fiesta to celebrate Mexico's unlikely victory over France in the battle of Puebla.  Over the years it has become a day of much feasting, drinking and party games.

Mexican food is tasty, easy to make and spicy!

The best place to start is with a homemade flour Tortilla.  I always had my doubts about the packet ones, they look like cardboard. So I had a look through a few YouTube tutorials to see what I could come up with.

After about a dozen tutorials I got tired of trying to make sense of the accents and checked out BBC Good Food instead. (Never have I been more relieved to be British!) So, after all the trial runs, here’s what I’ve come up with, in simple terms:

  • 400 grams of plain flour
  • 300 ml of water
  • Half a teaspoon of salt
  • Three tablespoons of oil

Take a mixing bowl and add all the ingredients into the bowl.  Stir well until a loose dough is formed.

Clean down a wide work top, and sprinkle liberally with flour.  Take the dough from the bowl and kneed it well, just like Paul Hollywood shows you.  Then break it into four equal balls.  Roll each ball out nice and thin.  Do not try and stack them, I learned the hard way that they just stick together if you do this.

Put a thick based frying pan on the hob, on the highest heat.  Do not add oil, just keep it dry.

One at a time, take the flat Tortillas and add them to the pan.  Cook for about thirty seconds, until they steam and bubble.  Then turn over and cook on the other side.  They should end up just nicely brown on both sides.  Once they are cooked, they can be stacked on a plate, and cling filmed for later use. 

The end result is thicker and tastier than a shop bought Tortilla, puffy and fresh tasting.  It can be filled with whatever you like, as a Fajita, Enchilada or Burrito.

But more on them soon. Go get practicing!

Words & photos by chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.