|grilled salmon in smoky tamarind sauce|
In the past, if asked if I would like to go to a Mexican restaurant, I would typically answer "no". My experiences of Mexican food in London (and New York for that matter) had been typically awful - generally mushy beans, beans and more beans, with overly sweet sauces, uniformly sickly, accompanied by rotgut tequila. It turns out that I had been mistaking TexMex for genuine Mexican and that real Mexican food could be fresh and tasty without any kind of reliance on sugar and powdered garlic!
The opening of the restaurant Wahaca by Thomasina Miers a few years ago was something of a revelation; Tommi is an engaging personality and enthusiastic champion of real Mexican food. Her book, Wahaca: Mexican Food at Home describes how at the age of 18 and visiting Mexico for the first time, she was dazzled by Mexico. "The place was alive and pulsing with energy and the cuisine was a world away from what I had expected; until then I had thought that TexMex was Mexican food that that all tequila tasted cheap and nasty."
In opening the first of a series of restaurants. Wahaca, in London, Tommi has been able to show us Brits what the real food of Mexico is like - totally different from our previous experiences and bring delicious and vibrant flavours to our table.
I love the cookbook; it is beautifully photographed by Malou Burger, and well presented. While full of great recipes, there are also interesting guides to chillies, how to eat a taco, how to burn your food (yes, really) and everything you need to know about great tequila.
The grilled salmon with sweet smoky tamarind sauce intrigued me for its use of tamarind; something I always associate with the Far East rather than Central America. Tommi describes the dish "The refreshingly sour tamarind and smoky chipotle is one of those food matches that just sings". Well it is singing "eat me"!
Skill level: Easy
6 x salmon fillets
4 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp dark soy sauce (preferably Japanese)
3 tbsp sunflower oil
juice of 2 x fresh limes
4 tbsp demerara sugar
3cm x fresh ginger, grated
2 x garlic cloves, finally chopped
2 x dried chipotle chillies, soaked in warm water and pounded to a paste (I used chillies from The Cool Chile Company)
a handful of fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
a handful of fresh coriander leaves (and root), roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
- About 2 hours before cooking, combine all the marinade ingredients.
- Smother the salmon fillets with the marinade and set aside in the fridge for 2 hours (turning in the marinade at least once).
- Preheat the grill.
- Preheat a large frying pan and heat until smoking. Drizzle over a little oil and add the salmon fillets - skin-side down. (Make sure that you brush off as much of the marinade as possible). Fry for 5 to 6 minutes.
- Place the frying pan under the grill (keeping the frying pan handle away from the heat source!) and grill for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Wrap the fillets in foil and set aside.
- Pour the marinade through a sieve into a small saucepan and heat gently. Bring to the boil and reduce until thick and sticky.
- Serve with rice, greens, the sticky sauce and a salsa.
- The marinade makes a great sauce for ribs too.