New Home For Hand To Mouth

12/10/2009

Hand To mouth has moved home. Still powered by WordPress, but on it’s own URL and with a new swanky design, you can find it here:

www.handtomouthblog.com

Hope to see you there…

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Local Hero #1 La Super-Rica

03/10/2009

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As mentioned in the last post, I’ve just returned from a holiday in the States. From a food perspective, one of the things that I noticed about a lot of the stuff we tasted in California was the Mexican influence. Plenty of lime, avocado, coriander, chilli and corn. Fresh, tasty flavours.

We also ate quite a bit of of straight up Mexican food. Great Burritos in the Mission in San Francisco, Huevos Rancheros for breakfast, torta Mexicanas in LA, but the pick of the bunch was a a tiny little place called La Super-Rica in Santa Barbra.

Reputedly Julia Child’s favourite Mexican restaurant and tucked away in the Mexican area of town, La Super-Rica is basically a little shack with a tent attached to the back. Always busy, the tiny kitchen knocks out fantastic traditional Mexican street food. There are daily specials, firm favourites and apparently the best horchata you’ll taste outside of Mexico.

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We tried the daily special, a vegetarian tamale, which came served in the corn husk it had been steamed in with a side of pork and beans. The corn meal was really tasty and kind of creamy, enriched with a bit of cheese and with vegetables through it. We also had a portion of the most delicious buttery guacamole, and a couple of servings of chorizo tacos. Amazing.

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It was also a really charming place. No frills and not in any way poncy, it’s location also means that you have to make a real effort to get there, so people really go for the food. And there was a proper cross section of them. From the WASPy Santa Barbra set to students, Mexican locals and hipsters. I’d go back at the drop of a hat.

Super-Rica? As Omar Little would say, indeed.


Eat Me!

07/08/2009

I LOVE New York, and a big part of this has to do with the food. There are obviously lots of great restaurants, but that’s not really what I’m thinking about. It’s the diners, the hot dog stands, the dollar slices of pizza and the local institutions that really get me excited.

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Kenny Shopsin. Photo: ThinkFilm

A couple of years ago whilst planning a trip to the apple, a friend told me that I had to check out this guy called Kenny Shopsin’s place in the Lower East Side. I’d never heard of him, but after a bit of digging I discovered that he’s a bit of a local hero. The best way I can think of describing Kenny is that he’s a kind of gutter Heston Blumenthal. He’s become ‘famous’ for his innovative combinations of foods, but not in a molecular gastronomy way. More thinking laterally about whats really tasty. His menu lists over 900 items, which he creatively names; dishes include ‘Slutty Cakes’ and ‘Blisters On My Sisters’. He’s also well known for his slightly unpredicatable temprament and strict house rules that are supposed to have partly inspired the ‘Soup Nazi’ character from Seinfeld.

Needless to say, I HAD to pay him a visit, and I wasn’t disappointed. The man himself took out order, and luckily seemed to like the cut of our jib. I can’t remember what everyone else had, but I ate a pretty atomic plate of huevos rancheros, which were very tasty, and we shared a plate of the slightly random, but totally delicious mac & cheese pancakes. I know. They sound a bit rank, but trust me. Drenched in maple syrup, they are ridiculous. So in honour of them, here’s the recipe:

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Ingredients

Peanut oil for the griddle

Butter for the griddle and for serving

3 cups of pancake batter (American style)

1 heaped copy of cooked macaroni – tossed with olive oil and warmed before using

1 heaped cup of grated mild cheddar cheese

Warm maple syrup

Method

Prepare the griddle of frying pan and drop on the batter. When bubbles appear on the surface (after about 2 minutes) drop a tablespoon of macaroni onto each pancake and sprinkle with a thin layer of cheese. Use a thin spatula and flip the pancakes over. Turn the heat down to medium, and press the cakes down with the spatula. When the underside is golden (another two minutes), remove them from the pan and place on a plate, macaroni side up. Smother with maple syrup and devour.

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I’ve just finished reading Kenny’s book, where I stole the recipe from, which is part philosophy part cookery book, and is an interesting read. As well as including a small selection of the hundreds of recipes on offer at his place, he charts the progress of his restaurant from a bodega in Greenwich Village to his new-ish home in the Essex Street Market, and how along the way he developed his own style, pallet and attitude to his customers.

Shopsin’s General Store is in the Essex Street Market, New York. His website is here, and you can see Kenny cooking those famous mac & cheese pancakes here.


Hogfest ’09

03/08/2009

Hog Roast

For the past couple of years my mate Ollie has been organising a hog roast, and last weekend was what has now been dubbed as ‘Hogfest 09’.

It’s basically a gathering for friends and family at his folk’s place in Shropshire, culminating in a hog roast. I know it all sounds a bit ‘River Cottage’, but for me escaping London and getting primal with a whole pig, a big fire and bunch of booze is my idea of a good weekend.  Ollie usually lives in Cairo where this kind of pork based entertaining doesn’t go down too well, so for him I think it’s also rare opportunity to feast on pork with impunity.

The preparation process is relatively simple. The pig gets scored all over with a Stanley Knife, given a good rub down with olive oil, and then sprinkled liberally with salt and pepper. No herbs or any other ‘fancy stuff’.

Cooking is a bit more complicated. The fire gets started at 5am, and then at 6 a barbecue pit of sorts is created using 2 sheets of corrugated iron, and by spreading the fire out into a hollow rectangular shape. The hog then gets mounted on a spit (bought on ebay and imported from the States no less)  and turned a quarter rotation every 5-10 minutes.

The fire’s heat should be more intense at the start to get the skin nice and crisp, this is pretty obvious when it happens, and then the rest of the cooking is slow and methodical. I think our pig was about 70 kilos and took around 12 hours to cook.

By 7pm (after a good half an hour resting) the meat was perfectly roasted. I had the honour of carving the beast, but after seeing it cook for so long my meat lust kind of took over and I went at it a bit like a demented cavemen butcher. It tasted amazing. Lovely salty crackling on top, sweet,  smokey, tender meat underneath. Totally worth the time and effort.

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There are some more pictures of the lucky pig and the rest of the day here, and if you fancy doing it yourself there’s some ‘How To’ help here.


Eat, drink and be merry…

03/08/2009

…I’m about to pop my blogging cherry.

Welcome to Hand To Mouth, a blog about food. Eating it. Cooking it. Reviewing it. Reading about it. And everything in between.

Depending on how into this I get, I’ll be regularly posting recipes, restaurant reviews and opinion and conjecture about anything food related that grabs my eye. Hopefully there’ll also be a few laughs along the way, and I promise not to cut the cheese.

If you like what you see please let me know, and equally don’t be afraid of throwing a few rotten tomatoes my way if you don’t.