Sometimes you get those moments in life when you take in your surroundings but can’t quite believe you aren’t in a dream. For example my best friend’s wedding last year, not because I couldn’t believe it but because it was all so perfect or there was the time Grace Jones grabbed my arm and pulled me on to the stage at The Roundhouse (I was with at least 30 other people but she only touched me) Then there was just under fortnight ago at the Westfield Stratford City branch of Wahaca, surrounding by a handful of lucky food bloggers watching Thomasina Miers demonstrate 3 dishes from her new cookbook. Earlier on that day I was freaking out and nearly didn’t attend.
For the uninitiated amongst you – in 2005 Thomasina Miers was the first crowned winner of the new format Masterchef. In 2007 she launched Wahaca with her business partner Mark Selby. Wahaca was one of the first restaurants to bring Mexican Street Food to the UK, a far cry from the greasy Tex-Mex and burning tequila shots we had previously associated with Mexican cuisine. Since 2007 there are now 6 Wahaca restaurants within London, two Street Kitchen vans and opening in July ‘The Wahaca Experiment’ on the South Bank – a portable restaurant in shipping containers. On top of all that there is the food writing for various publications, the cookbooks, the TV shows and the trips back to Mexico and LA to keep Wahaca fresh with what’s happening there. Needless to say she is one very busy lady, so I felt extra privileged to be there.
As the 2nd blogger to arrive I couldn’t have timed it better, as it meant I was sat next to the wonderful Hannah from Crump Eats – who was friendly, chatty, lovely… perfect. Within moments we were offered drinks and then Tommi came and introduced herself to us and we chatted about her garden and the event she’d been at that day. Everyone else begun to arrive too and shock horror, they were all lovely, friendly and chatty too.
Seriously, what exactly had I been so afraid of? What did I actually think was going to happen?
Firstly Tommi showed us how to prepare the dishes, her passion and enthusiasm is a wonder to watch. She told us little stories of her travels in Mexico and also gave us knowledgeable tips and techniques.
The ingredients were brought out to us and with that it was our turn in pairs to recreate the dishes, also in 30 minutes. I suspect that Hannah & myself took it a little more seriously than the others; we had our complete game faces on during the whole challenge and barely touched our wine. It paid off as we finished 1st with 10 minutes to spare and even managed to perform some superb duel seasoning which impressed Tommi and her head chef.
The 3 dishes we prepared were a Beetroot & Ricotta Salad. Mint and chervil (often confused in appearance with coriander but with a delicate taste of aniseed) along with chilli, olive oil and garlic are mixed into the ricotta, with chunks of hibiscus marinated beetroot and cucumber finishing the dish. It was seriously delicious; I was tempted to steal everyone else’s.
Guacamole – Tommi taught us the key ingredients to Guacamole are avocado, lime juice and coriander and the rest is pretty much up to you. This recipe used tomatoes, Tommi rejected her tomato, as the wet weather we’ve been experiencing recently would mean they would lack flavour – I took her cue when preparing the Guacamole myself and also rejected the tomato, which of course saved precious time. Tommi’s version also included red onion, green chillies and garlic.
Finally there was the Sea Bass Ceviche – I’ve seen Jamie Oliver prepare ceviche before on TV where fish is “cooked” in citrus juice but I hadn’t yet tried it myself as I couldn’t quite believe it – but seeing Tommi prepare it with such ease and then preparing it ourselves, I will certainly be trying this at home soon. The most important thing for ceviche is to have the freshest fish possible. She also suggested freezing the fish slightly to make it easier to cut into thin slivers.
After we’d finished we were all rewarded with a Tamarind Margarita – Tommi’s favourite and we then sampled some of Wahaca’s own dishes – all delicious, I nearly died when I popped a piece of Sweet Potato in my mouth – completely divine.
If the evening wasn’t already enough we were all given a goodie bag containing some Wahaca chilli seeds, a bottle of their fruity Habanero sauce and… Her new cookbook Wahaca Mexican Food at Home. I cannot recommend this book enough (more on that later in the week)
So massive thank you to Tommi for making time in her busy schedule for us, thank you to Wahaca for hosting and feeding us so well, Westfield Stratford City & Megan Hart for inviting us and to my fellow food bloggers for all being lovely and not scary at all – I look forward to bumping into them again at future events.
Below is a video filmed on the evening – credited to Westfield Stratford City Restaurants
My fellow food bloggers blogs: