26 November 2011

Just Photos Viva Mexico at Cook the Books

Viva Mexico! Cook at Cook the Books have Grace Ramirez as a guest chef for the next few months and coming up are ceviches and Venezuelan.  Grace has just arrived in NZ from New York via Miami, Venezuela and Mexico.  This past week it was Mexican and it left me wanting long summer nights, a cold cerveza, guacamole and whole lot of chilli.

To start the evening only one way to go and that was a nice cold cerveza, but not just any cerveza.  Ice cubes, a squeeze of lime, top with Corona and a splash of tabasco in glass rimmed with salt and Magic Powder.  Really, Magic Powder.  It is a mix of salt, chilli powder and lime and it is quite delicious if salty, tangy with a chilli hit is your thing.  And if you would like some Magic Powder head to Mexican Specialities in Ellerslie and if you are not in Auckland you can order on line.  I'll most definitely be popping in to pick some up.

Along with spiced up beer tortillas, a little black been dip, some pickled jalapenos and homemade Queso Fresco. Queso Fresco translates to "fresh cheese" and is the most common cheese to be found in Mexico, crumbled atop beans, salads, rice or used to  stuff chillies or quesadillas.  It was crumbly, light and fresh and on Wednesday it was flecked with jalapenos and coriander.   Wrapped up in a flour tortilla, with a little pickled jalapeno and some chipotle tabasco the perfect friend for an icy cols beer.

If you are going Mexican and don't have Queso Fresco a little mild feta makes for a good substitute.  However, it really is quite easy to rustle up a batch and all that is required is a milk, a little vinegar, sea salt, jalapenos, coriander, cheesecloth and a little time. Grace used Marcela Valladolid's and there is one from Rick Bayless here.  Go on, impress your friends with some homemade cheese.

The Chilaquiles con Pollo production line.

Next up Chilaquiles con Pollo.  I love saying it!  Chicken breast are poached with garlic, bay leaves, onion and peppercorns and then shredded.   These go atop some chilaquiles; tomatillo salsa verde with freshly fried corn tortillas.  It has always sounded a little odd to me to go to the trouble of freshly frying tortillas to toss them through a sauce.  But hey what do I know???  This really works, satisfying and full of flavour and what tops it all off is the crema.  

Even better with a little chipotle sauce
Now crema is something I could become quite addicted to.  The best way to describe it is as Mexican sour cream but that really doesn't quite cover it as the Mexican version is more salty than sour.  
You can whip up your own by whipping together 300ml of fresh cream and half a tablespoon of salt at high speed and popping it in the fridge for a little while.  Tangy tomatillo salsa, the corn flavour from the tortillas, juicy chicken, a little crema and a little hot sauce all the layers come together to make for a perfect helping of comfort food.

The perfect avocado, essential for the perfect guacamole

Keep it simple, avocado, onion, chilli, coriander, lime juice, salt, pepper.

It wouldn't be Cook at Cook the Books without a second "main course" this time more layers and layers of wonderful Mexican flavours in the shape of Crispy Beef Tostadas.  On the bottom a crispy freshly fried corn tortilla,  smeared with guacamole, topped with shredded steak that was poached with capsicum, onion, bay leaf and garlic, pico de gallo (salsa mexicana), black beans and of course a generous dollop of crema.  Just delicious especially with a little of Chipotle Tabasco, another addiction in the making.

Layer, layer & layer all the flavours - Crispy Beef Tostadas

To finish, simplicity itself.  Fresh mango sprinkled with Magic Powder and a shot of some very good tequila.  Another great night at Cook at Cook the Books.

If you like this you might like these for some Mexican inspiration...
Raspado de Sandia y Frambuesa (Watermelon-Raspberry Ice)

Enjoy or as they would say on Mexico...Buen Provecho!


  1. Looks like a great evening and plenty to eat which is only to be expected by Cook the Books, must catch up at another class soon.

  2. I like the name magic powder, and yes I like my guacamole simple too :-)
    Great photos Mairi :-)

    Happy Sunday

  3. It all looks so good! I love Mexican, and it's so good to know it's not that hard to make queso fresco and crema at home (I must admit I never bothered to find out how, but bemoaned the lack of these things in Wellington... whoops, lazy!). I'm craving Mexican now, will have to cook some soon!

  4. Love the sound of that magic powder. What a great looking evening!

  5. Like how the food and drinks are so colourful and inviting !
    Never had magic powder yet. Sounds perfect.

  6. @peasepudding It was great, Grace is lovely, off to Venezuelan next week if you are keen?

  7. @Alessandra Thanks Alessandra, yes I do think simple is best :)

  8. @milliemirepoix It was a great class....and feel a little summer Mexican phase coming on. I think I will definitely have to have a go at making the cheese.

  9. @Emma Galloway It was indeed fin :) And I have to get my hands on some of that magic powder, quite delicious, especially on the mango.

  10. @Vanille Thanks :) I love how it is all so bright too...perfect for Summer :)

  11. What beautiful photos - I am drooling. Looks like quite a delicious evening, and I'm intrigued by the cerveza with Magic Powder...I'll keep it in mind for our next fiesta.

  12. Another rave review of what looks like a fantastic evening at Cook the Books. You make the senses come alive with these photograph and descriptions. A real inspiration.

  13. @Hannah Yes the magic powder is indeed quite magical...certainly one of those addictive condiments.

  14. @Domestic Executive Thanks Julie, it was indeed another great night at Cook the Books..Venezuelan this week was pretty good too.


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