Xico

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. One por­tion of slices goes er is diced very small for the live oil and bal­samic d and add the diced onion. ces into the ice cube bowl. the cobs, blanch in a pot of ol un­der cold run­ning wa­ter, p of the dress­ing Set aside. f each tomato (re­tain for wo thick slices. Pour wl and add the su­gar salt an, and over high heat add ato slices into the corn­meal n the hot pan un­til crisp r each batch. slices, add to the dressed oss gen­tly. Give the tir vig­or­ously with a fork red to the salad. Gar­nish nd cu­cum­ber. d red yams but when red yams were also known dropped. s to which ‘‘mild chilli’’ to ed) chill­ies work well. If sure it doesn’t con­tain epan and cook the onions Add the diced chill­ies and dd the car­rots and ku­mara, e veg­eta­bles sweat a lit­tle. Add the stock and sim­mer un­til all the veg­eta­bles are ten­der. Cool, then work­ing in batches, put in a blen­der or pro­ces­sor and puree (or push through a sieve over the saucepan). Re­turn puree to the pan and, over low heat, add the milk, su­gar salt and chilli flakes. Bring to a sim­mer stir­ring con­stantly. Taste and add pep­per if re­quired. If the soup needs thin­ning add wa­ter and re­heat to a gen­tle plop-plop. Gar­nish and serve.

RA­JAS

Chill­ies cut into long strips (ra­jas) are added to slow­cooked sliced onions and then sim­mered in stock. In Mex­ico, asadero cheese and crema are added un­til all is a sweet, spicy,creamy tan­gle. Ra­jas can be served in tor­tillas, piled into tacos or served as a side dish with chicken or grills. A na­tional dish that seems to be more tex than mex has lay­ers of rice, corn and ra­jas, topped with crema and baked. 1 Tbsp light cook­ing oil 250 g onions, thinly sliced 6 poblano chill­ies 4 cloves gar­lic, diced 2 bay leaves 2 tsp thyme leaves chopped 3⁄ cup veg­etable stock

4 225g asadero cheese, diced Heat the oil in a large fry­ing pan add the onions and cook over low heat for 15-20 min­utes un­til just be­gin­ning to colour. Mean­while heat a grill or oven to high and cook the chill­ies un­til the skin blis­ters and chars. Put them in a plas­tic bag un­til they are cool to the touch, then peel and pull out the stem and seed pod. Hold­ing the chill­ies un­der a slow run­ning cold tap makes an easy job of this. Slice the chill­ies into strips, add to the onions and cook for a minute or two. Add the gar­lic, bay leaves, thyme and stock and sim­mer un­til the liq­uid has evap­o­rated. Add the cheese and cook over low heat un­til melted. Taste and add salt if needed.

CHUNKY GUA­CAMOLE

A great gua­camole needs the best av­o­ca­dos and the only way to be sure of that is to buy un­ripened fruit and al­low them to ripen qui­etly on your bench with­out prod­ding or pulling out the stems. The stem holds the se­cret of ready-or-not. Press it gen­tly and if it falls off the av­o­cado is ripe. 2-3 ripe av­o­ca­dos 1⁄ tsp each of

2 cumin pow­der and black pep­per 1 tsp salt 1 gen­er­ous Tbsp lime juice (lemon juice if you must) 1 firm fleshy tomato, skinned and seeded Op­tional finely chopped co­rian­der leaves to gar­nish Split the av­o­cado, flip out the stone and scoop out the flesh. Keep it in chunks if pos­si­ble and scat­ter with cumin, pep­per and salt. Mash a lit­tle with a fork and add the lime juice, adding more to pref­er­ence. Dice the tomato (dis­card any juice) scat­ter over. Mash again lightly and fluff up the bowl to in­cor­po­rate the diced tomato. Scat­ter with co­rian­der if us­ing.

CHILLI CHOCO­LATE MOUSSE

In­spired by Nigella Law­son’s in­stant choco­late mousse in Nigella Ex­press (Chatto & Win­dus). It is sweet and very rich and is best served in small pots or glasses. Serves 4 75g small marsh­mal­lows 25g soft but­ter 150g dark bit­ter (at least 70 per cent co­coa solids) chilli-flavoured choco­late, chopped 40ml strong black cof­fee (a short black espresso take­away is the easy op­tion) 275 ml cream lightly whipped with 1⁄ tsp best

2 qual­ity vanilla paste. Put marsh­mal­lows, but­ter, and all but a scat­ter­ing of the chopped choco­late pieces (put aside for the gar­nish) and black cof­fee in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat and stir un­til the marsh­mal­lows have melted into the other in­gre­di­ents. and you have a thick smooth mix­ture. Leave to cool a lit­tle then fold in the vanilla-flavoured cream. Keep fold­ing and stir­ring gen­tly un­til all the cream is in­cor­po­rated. Pour into lit­tle pots or glasses and re­frig­er­ate for an hour or two un­til firm and set. If leav­ing in the fridge for longer than three hours cover the pots with food wrap to pre­vent a skin form­ing. Just be­fore serv­ing grate the re­served choco­late pieces over each mousse.

Photo: DEAN KOZANIC/FAIR­FAX NZ

Hot and stripped: Ra­jas are chill­ies in strips. Hot salad: Corn­meal-coated toma­toes. Cool and creamy: gua­camole

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