Wednesday 23 October 2013

Marathon cooking

Two months ago I signed up to a fantastic sounding new company: Kitchen Nomad. The concept is very cool - every month they send you a box packed full of ingredients and recipes all based on the cuisine of a particular country.

This month's box was based on Mexico, which was particularly great because I love Mexican food (it's definitely in my top ten of world foods). I often make Mexican-inspired food (e.g. fajitas or chilli) and frequently choose Mexican streetfood or restaurants when dining out. Fab.

So the box arrived, I got excited and headed straight out to buy the added ingredients that I needed for the taco recipe:
Doesn't it look exciting?!

I was ready to roll!

First to make the dough for the tortilla:
This wasn't too tricky, just a bit time consuming to get the dough to come together and then kneed it.

The difficult bit was still to come...

The recipe said:
"Dust the board and your rolling pin with a little flour. Press a ball of dough firmly on the board with two fingers to flatten it into a fat pancake, then roll out to about 2mm thick."

Oh. My. Life. I nearly cried. The dough stuck to the rolling pin. I tried adding more masa harina flour. The dough fell apart when I tried to pick it up, even when I rolled it thicker than the 2mm suggested. Nothing was working. I gave up on the rolling pin and just pushed the dough out with my fingers - better but still couldn't lift it off the work surface.

In the end, I found a recipe on the masa harina packet which said:
"Use a taco press or flatten betwee two pieces of plastic."

Hurrah! Something that worked. Two pieces of clingfilm, a mixture of fingers and rolling pin and finally I was creating flattish, roundish tortillas that I could actually pick up!

I took lots of photos of my attempts to get the dough rolled out, but it's quite a depressing sequence so I will spare you!

I cooked the tortillas and got started on the filling, which consisted mostly of onions, ancho chillies (which are an amazing ingredient - love these!), crème fraîche and chicken. The chicken was optional, but there wouldn't have been much to the filling if I hadn't used it. As it was I only had enough filling for less than half of the tacos that I slaved over!

The final product:
(with added cherry tomatoes for some fresh zing)

I have one particular niggle with Kitchen Nomad: I'm not convinced that they test out the recipes before sending them out. I have tried at least four now and all had an ingredient that wasn't mentioned on the actual steps (on this one it was the garlic for the filling. I guessed and added it five mins after the onions). On top of that, there were the portioning problems (not enough filling for the tortillas), and the fact that rolling out the dough the way the recipe says to is basically impossible.

In total, this recipe (which was rated 2/3 for difficulty) took me almost two and a half hours. I know I'm not exactly a chef, but I do cook regularly and felt quite deflated by this experience.

However, there are lots of pros to the Kitchen Nomad system:
  • It is very exciting to get a new box every month in the post and wonder about what might be in the next one.
  • It gives you the chance to try a range of recipes that you may never have eaten, or that you've only ever eaten in restaurants.
  • You find ingredients that you love and want to use in other cooking (ancho chillies - my new favourite!).
  • It definitely shakes up your usual cooking regime - I have particular meals that I churn out on a weekly or monthly basis. I find that having a box of recipes and ingredients encourages me to experiment more and try new things.

Overall, I'm not ready to cancel my subscription yet, but I do hope the recipes come a bit more "tried and tested" in future so that the experience is more fun and less frustrating!

Am looking forward to trying the chilli honey crumble (doesn't it sound amazing?) and the baked feta (well, it is cheese after all!).


Cheryl Pasquier said...

Great to see how you got on, even if it didn't all go according to plan - I'll definitely follow your advice when I make these ! I am working my way through the recipes over on my blog, but I haven't even started on the Mexican box yet. If you try any of the older recipes from previous boxes, you might like to compare notes - I make tweaks as needed ! (

Elle said...

good for your for being so tenacious and making something great out of what could have been a disaster!

this sounds like such a fun subscription.

I wonder if they are losing something in translations from other languages to English, when getting the instructions together?

will look forward to seeing more of your experiments as new boxes come along. do you get to choose the countries?