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Friday, 23 September 2011

Andale, andale, arriba, arriba!

Worth the wait, I promise!
It's time I finally reviewed my all time favorite restaurant: MAMASITA! If you haven't heard of Mamasita, you must either a) live in a cave, or b) you're not from Melbourne.  If you do live in Melbourne and haven't been to Mamasita, what's wrong with you?!

Tucked away on Level 1, 11 Collins Street, this place is the real deal when it comes to Mexican cooking.  This is NOT Tex Mex! (Btw, Taco Bill is Tex Mex, not Mexican) Nothing is smothered in chesse, over cooked or comes with refried beans.  And there are no tacky ponchos, sombreros or fake cacti!  Having lived in both Texas and California and having the opportunity of visiting Mexico, I have long had an obsession with Mexican food in it's true form.  It's fresh, it's healthy, it's flavourful... whoops, I'm drooling on the keyboard!  Oh, and did I mention the entire menu is Gluten Free?  Can Mamasita get any better?!

All that being said, there is one catch... they have a no reservation policy - insert huge sad face emoticon here!  You should be prepared to wait at least 40 minutes (if you're lucky) for a table.  Mind you, my husband and I have noticed that if you arrive around 5pm, you should get seated straight away... if you wait until 6pm, the line will run down the flight of stairs and out the door... how I wish I was kidding!  So leave the kiddies with the babysitter and have a night out - you deserve it!
A fabulous array of Tequilas, Margaritas, Mojitos, etc.
Ok, ok, the food!  For a starter, you can't go past the Elotes Callejeros - just don't ask me to pronounce it.  This is based on a "street style" dish which is essentially chargrilled corn, smothered in just enough chipotle mayonnaise, a tiny sprinkle of cheese and a squeeze of lime.  It's slightly spicy, slightly creamy and oh so addictive!  It's the only way we eat corn at home now, yum!!
Must have!
Next, I would recommend a taco or two.  My personal favorites are the pulled pork and the grilled fish - amazing!  Don't be scared of fish tacos, they really are divine and so light.  The pulled pork is a must in my mind and has a scrumptious pineapple and onion salsa... For me, a visit to Mamasita is incomplete unless I've had one... or two...
Tacos the way they SHOULD BE!
If you've filled up on tacos, maybe finish off with a cheese quesadilla.  This is basically a cheese toastie, Mexican style, ie: two tortillas, cheese in the middle, cooked in a frypan until melted and crispy.  It comes with a drizzle of jalapeno salsa which cuts through the cheese perfectly.  It's a lovely little end or perfect with a few cocktails.

However, if you're still hungry grab a "Comida para la familia".  This is a family style dish, best shared with your date.  If you visit, during the cooler months, my other must have dish is the Estofado de Cabra, translation: Chipotle braised goat which comes with a roasted sweet corn paste - I wish I could get this recipe!  My husband and I usually share this dish with some tortillas and Pl├ítanos Machos.  Goat is usually a little on the fatty side, but this slow cooked dish is pure Mexican comfort food at it's best.  I wouldn't class is as spicy, but there's definitely a hint of warmth to the dish, which is probably why it's usually disappears off the menu during the warmer months.

So grab your partner, date, workmate and drag them up to the top end of Collins Street for a true taste of Mexico... just remember to get there early... or wear comfy shoes for the wait!  I promise it's worth it!

Buon appetite!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Root vegies = cold water...

Ok so this is a very basic rule, but it's mainly been forgotten over the years. If your veg is from under the ground (potato, carrot, parsnip) you need to start cooking with cold water. But if the veg is from above the dirt (corn, peas, green beans) you need to cook in boiling water.

Now I'm sure there's a really technical reason as to why this is, but the easy version is most underground vegies are roots. They are dense, hardy, filling foods and need to be cooked slowly so they cook evenly. If you start cooking potatoes in hot water, the outside edge will cook faster than the inside and you end up with a crunchy centre. Other vegies, like peas, are much lighter and should be cooked very quickly in boiling water to lock in the nutrients.

Oh and here's a quick mashed potato recipe:
  1. Peel 1 medium potato per person - my interpretation of 'medium' is about the size of a tennis ball... I generally work on the old rule of "one spud per person, plus one for the pot" but I always make a little too much, it's my weakness! If the potatoes are dirty, give them a quick wash too.
  2. Dice the potatoes into 2cm chunks. (It doesn't have to be perfect, but the closer in size, the more even result)
  3. Put the potatoes into a pan and cover them with enough cold water to cover by about 1cm. Add a good pinch of salt and cover the pan with a lid, but don't close the lid completely or it will boil over and make a huge mess.
  4. Turn the heat on to high and bring the water to a boil. Once it's boiled, then turn down the heat to low.
  5. The potatoes are cooked when they are tender. To test you can pierce a piece of potato with a fork. If the fork goes in smoothly and the potato is soft, they are done. Or you can squash one against the side of the pan with the fork, but be careful not to push the boiling hot pan of water onto yourself!! It usually takes around 10-15 minutes for peeled, diced potatoes to cook - depends how many potatoes are cooking, etc…
  6. Drain all the water and then put the potatoes back into the pot - this helps some of the excess water to evaporate.
  7. Now for the flavours! Add a little more salt and some pepper. (not too much salt, you can add more later) Throw in a good tablespoon of butter and a splash of milk, then mash, mash, mash! The more you mash the smoother it will be. Or if you have a stick blender, use that - you'll have the most velvety smooth potatoes you've ever had... bliss! (but don't overuse the stick blender or you'll make a gluey paste!)
  8. Other great flavour options are a sprinkle or parmesan or cheddar cheese, a little garlic salt, fresh chopped spring onions... use your imagination!
There's heaps of potato mashers on the market, most of them are the same. Opt for something that's comfortable to hold and remember you're going to be pushing down on it, so look for something sturdy.