Grilled corn Cafè Habana style









Hello, we know this! you might say and of course you do. Everyone remotely familiar with Mexican, Cuban cuisine has had a combination of corn, crema, cheese, chile and lime. Blogs have waxed lyrically for years about classic Mexican street food staples like Elote en vaso (corn in a cup) is classic Mexican street food and the famous grilled corn of Café Habana in New York or it’s West Coast outlets. Understandably people don’t mind queueing for this delicious comfort food and tuck into these with abandon although there is no elegant way of eating the creamy-spicy-limey-salty-cheesy charred corn ears.

This heavenly combination is the reason for my constant return to these and since NY and the nearest Café Habana is not exactly round the corner one has to come up with an approximation of the original. Continue reading

Cochinita pibil with sour orange, quick-pickled onions & habanero chile sauce









Recipe in English & auf deutsch


It’s the height of the (very) short Seville orange season right now and if you see them anywhere you should definitely get some. The intense orange flavour with its distinct bitter note and a bright, fresh sourness usually is transformed into beautiful preserves & wine but plays out beautifully in savoury dishes, too. You may have already produced this years’ vintage of Vin d’orange and jars of English orange marmalade or are harbouring plans to do so but I urge you to get a few more (great, you’ll be able to use the extra peel) to make this exceptional aromatic Mexican pork dish originating from the Yucatán Peninsula and going back to the Mayas.

Originally a pit-barbecued suckling pig, for domestic use we’ll skip the digging & burying the glowing embers in favour of a Dutch oven (cast-iron casserole), marinate a piece of pork shoulder in a paste of sour Seville orange juice, herbs & brick red achiote seeds, then slow-cook the meat in layers of banana leaves which equally impart their gently perfume. Serve pulled pork pieces in warm corn tortillas with a beautiful bright pink bitter orange sauce with quick-pickled onions & orange Habanero chile dots. Continue reading

Habanero salsa – liquid sunshine









At the beginning of January, I have a craving for bright food with bold flavours, hot red, uplifting orange & yellow colours, food that is fiery and warming – basically simulating sunshine when the days are dark and dank. Oranges*, lemons, persimmons, peppers, pomegranates, chillies – all seem to brighten the mood and tickle the taste buds. This is especially true for chiles habaneros, little orange lampions or lanterns, which have a pleasant flowery, fruity flavour and are as hot as the sun. So, a habanero salsa is quite literally liquid sunshine.

We pour it on anything and everything, tacos, especially fish tacos, Continue reading

Mexican Green Goddess dressing









If the phrase Lightning never strikes twice only would be true, then we might be safe for all eternity (unfortunately, that’s a myth). A few things got fried: phone & router & AirPort & the likes and it took a while to replace them as well as to get everything back up and running. But… I actually found being cut off quite a soothing state of (temporary) splendid isolation. Which brings me to this:

You can say about Gwyneth Paltrow’s cooking what you like but better try this dressing first: once you modify it and substitute a fresh goat yoghurt for the vegan mayonnaise, it is fabulous. A Mexican riff on the Green Goddess dressing takes the creamy (mayonnaise) green herb salad sauce to a bright & fresh Spa version, which is not only highly addictive, but even more beneficial than the original, it might need a CA zip code. Good bacteria (yoghurt) are all the rage…again & the green zingy freshness (lime! coriander! Spring onions!) a true Californian, if you ask me and I can’t get enough of it. Continue reading

Chipotle barbeque pulled pork sandwich


Juicy, slow-cooked pork, shredded and doused with a quick improvised or customized chipotle barbeque sauce (or use a good store-bought one instead) in a buttered sandwich, white bread or a soft bun, please, just this once. For me, this is quite high-ranking on the ultimate comfort food list. It reminds me of the first encounter of something called Oaxaca pulled pork sandwich, obtained one day after shopping when plagued by pangs of hunger from a Saveway’s food counter and I am not so sure how authentic Oaxacan it was though it was so juicy, yummy, savoury, saucy, well, find out for yourself, here is the result of our own experiments. Oh, dear, I forgot to brag, this one was in the Guardian, too.
German Version below / Deutsches Rezept (s.u.)



Pulled pork

1.5kg (3.5 lbs) piece of pork shoulder (deboned & without skin)
2 onions, roughly chopped (cut into a few large pieces)
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
3 peperoncini or small milder chiles
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2½ teaspoons coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 litre (a little more than 1 quart) chicken stock
good barbeque sauce (= not too sweet & as natural as you can get) or make your own (see below for a quick recipe using the cooking liquor)

Preheat the oven to 170°C or 340° F.
Place the pork shoulder into a Dutch oven, add the onions, garlic, herbs & spices, tomato paste and the stock. Pour enough water into the pot to just about cover the meat. Bring slowly to a boil over medium heat, close the cast iron pot with the lid and heave it into the oven. Reduce the temperature to 150°C or 300° F, leave the pork (turning it every hour,) to cook in its braising liquid for about 3-4 hours until the meat is fork tender.

Remove from the pot from the oven, take the meat out of its cooking liquid, leave to drain & cool for a few minutes, then pull the meat into pieces. Add barbeque sauce & some of the cooking liquor., adjust the seasoning to your taste. Use more liquor for a thinner sauce: you want something rather thin like a gravy consistency to lightly coat the meat but not smother it in tons of sauce, at least that’s my take here.

Chipotle barbeque sauce:

Reserved cooking liquor with all the bits in (bay leaf removed & leave to cool a bit to remove excess fat)
2 chipotles en adobo with juice
250ml or 1 cup of ketchup
1 tablespoon tomato puree / paste
1 teaspoon molasses

Concentrate the reserved & previously degreased cooking liquor: cook over medium to high heat to reduce it to about half the amount. Strain to catch most of the soft vegetable bits, keep the liquid. Add the chipotle chiles, ketchup, tomato paste, molasses and a little bit of the liquid to the soft vegetables and puree with a blender (handheld or fixed) to a spicy, smoky and not to sweet barbeque sauce.

Serve in a buttered bun or sandwich, a taco, a burrito, add to stew, on top of vegetables & rice…

deutsches Rezept: Chipotle barbeque Pulled pork

1,5kg Schweineschulter ohne Knochen und Schwarte
2 Zwiebeln, in große Stücke geschnitten
4-5 Knoblauchzehen, geschält
3 Peperoncini oder andere kleine getrocknete Chilischoten
1½ TL getrockneter Oregano
1 Lorbeerblatt
1 EL gemahlener Kreuzkümmel
2½ TL grobes Meersalz
1 EL schwarze Pfefferkörner
3 EL Tomatenpüree
1 Liter Brühe (Hühner, Kalbs- oder Gemüsebrühe)
gute Barbecue Sauce (nicht zu süß & so natürlich wie möglich) oder selbstgemacht (Rezept s. u.)

Backofen auf 170°C vorheizen.
Die Schweineschulter in eine gusseiserne Kasserolle geben, die Zwiebeln, Knoblauch, Kräuter & Gewürze sowie das Tomatenpüree und die Brühe hinzugeben, dann mit Wasser auffüllen bis das Fleisch eben bedeckt ist. Bei mittlerer Hitze zum Kochen bringen, den Deckel auflegen und in den Ofen hieven. Die Temperatur auf 150°C reduzieren und die Schweineschulter für 3-4 Stunden kochen/backen (jede Stunde wenden) bis das Fleisch so zart ist, dass es auseinander fällt.

Das Fleisch aus der Kochflüssigkeit (aufbewahren!) nehmen, abtropfen und –kühlen lassen, dann mit den Fingern zerpflücken. Mit Barbequesauce und ein wenig von der Kochflüssigkeit vermischen (das Ziel ist eine dünnere Sauce, die das Fleisch nur etwas saftiger macht und nicht ertränkt), abschmecken und zwischen gebutterten Kastenweißbrotscheiben, Toast oder Brötchen servieren. Schmeckt auch gut zu Reis, im Taco, Burrito etc. etc.

Chipotle barbeque sauce:

Kochflüssigkeit mit allem Drum & Dran (Lorbeerblatt entfernt & nach dem Abkühlen entfettet)
2 chipotle chiles en adobo mit ein wenig Sauce
250ml Ketchup
1 EL Tomatenpüree
1 TL Molasse

Die reservierte & entfettete Kochflüssigkeit bei mittlerer bis starker Hitze bis auf die Hälfte einkochen lassen, dann durch ein Sieb gießen, die Flüssigkeit auffangen und die weichen Gemüse mit den Chipotles, Ketchup, Tomatenpüree & Molasse pürieren, mit der Flüssigkeit bis zur gewünschten Konsistenz auffüllen & verrühren.

Chipotle-lime mix

Chipotle-lime mix by the james kitchen
Chipotle-lime mix, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

We have got friends coming for New Year’s Eve and we are planning a great feast. No need to say that for a proper party one needs nibbles to go with the cocktails and drinks and since we are all spice-lovers and the food is sort of American/Mexican (write a blog and your husband only needs to point), logically the nuts should match the theme, too. Originally I had planned to make Lisa Fain’s recipe for Chipotle lime Texas trash but in the end used it as a pattern and fiddled to get a hot and spicy chile chipotle-lime nibble with more chiles, lime and no cinnamon. And let me say, this is quite something: it is smoky, spicy and hot, has a depth in flavour from the garlic, Worcestershire sauce and several layers of lime taste and is quickly becoming a real favourite in our house. I am just hoping there will be something left for our guests.

You may use it as a blueprint (as long as you stay within the 8 cups-formula), too and change the ingredients or quantities of nuts, pretzel & cracker around.

Ups, I just wanted to make those again and couldn’t find the recipe… I am not sure where the text had gone, if I had published it correctly in the first place or there were just too many tests to remember, so here it is. You live and learn, sorry to keep this from you.

Chipotle-lime nut mix
yields 8 cups, inspired by and adapted from The Homesick Texan

3 cups mini cracker & pretzel (Salzbrezel) mix (I used something called a Knabbermischung in Germany with little poppy seed crackers, alphabet pretzel pieces etc.)
1 cup unsalted cashew nuts
1 cup unsalted pecans
1 cup walnuts & hazelnuts
1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1 cup unsalted almonds
1 stick (114g) butter
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon (75ml) lime juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika (Pimentón de La Vera)
1½ teaspoon ground chipotle chile
2 teaspoons ground chiles (I use our mix of ancho, pasilla, chipotle & mulato chiles, make your own or use any other ground Mexican chiles)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
½ heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lime (roughly 1 tablespoon)

To finish:
1 tablespoon lime juice
zest of 1 lime

Preheat the oven to 120°C (250° F), 110°C for fan oven is what I used and prepare baking sheets with parchment paper.

If the crackers and little pretzel pieces (like the Knabbermischung I used) are hardly salted mix them together with the nuts in a large bowl and set aside.
If your cracker & pretzel mix is already quite salty, place it in a separate bowl from the nuts so that a part of the seasoned butter can be added without the salt while the nuts are salted & seasoned in the other bowl.

Melt the butter over a low heat, add the lime juice, Worcestershire sauce and all the spices (see if you need to salt parts separately), reserve the lime zest. Stir to combine and pour it over the nut-cracker-pretzel mix. Mix well until everything is coated with the seasoned butter, add the lime zest and stir again. This should happen swiftly otherwise the crackers will get a bit too soggy.

Spread your spicy nut mix immediately out on the baking sheets and bake them in the oven for 45-50 minutes. Rotate your sheets after half an hour and stir the mix from time to time. When everything seems lightly browned & toasted dry take the mix out of the oven, sprinkle with the lime juice & zest and toss to spread the final lime flavour evenly. Leave to cool if you can.

Chicken chile verde

Chicken chile verde by the james kitchen
Chicken chile verde, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

Not the prettiest of pictures I admit and I am happy to have a very good reason to cook this again very soon – just for the picture, you know, but this is such a tasty dish that it would be a shame to wait since it will be a good thing to use up turkey leftovers, too. I might be wrong but there might be a time in the near future where plenty of those will be available and this you do not want to miss out on.

When we lived in California we used to buy a chicken chile verde from Trader Joe’s and loved it so much that back here – where no TJ’s exists – we needed to make our own and after a few trials & fiddles we had our own chicken chile verde: it is even better, fresher and dead easy to make. It is best to cook the whole amount even if you are just two people, freeze the rest and you’ll have more ready to go when you need a quick fix.

I buy the whole chicken (to make sure it is not so much tempered with, at least free-range, long-lived, traceable and so on, no Frankenbird), roast it one day and use the leftovers for salads, chicken Fricassée (with loooots of capers for me)… and surely this chicken chile verde. If you start from the beginning then either roast a chicken along side something else (if you have the oven on already, might just squeeze a chicken in) or cook one  in this sort of mexicanized court bouillon (recipe below).

Not be too missionary & evangelical about it but I really recommend a whole chicken with bones & dark meat from free-range, long-lived birds (that is the healthy part with all the omega 3 & 6) for a proper chicken taste and succulent meat as opposed to the rather reduced one-dimensional taste of only breast meat. If you are squeamish about a whole bird use chicken pieces by all means, although there is a lot of flavour coming from the carcass and little tasty bits & pieces of meat that you are missing out on. Like the Oyster or Pfaffenschnittchen (the best piece for the priest…), in French it is adequately called Sot-l’y-laisse – “A foul who leaves this behind”.

Chicken chile verde
for about 6 portions

1 cold roast chicken or 1 cooked chicken (see below) or leftovers from the previous roast chicken dinner, picked and torn into not too little pieces
1 large tin / can (790g or 28 oz) of tomatillos (about 12)
3 cooked or broiled garlic cloves (I use the ones from my roast chicken or the cooked chicken)
1 small tin (220g or 110g drained weight) of sliced Poblano peppers, reserve a few and chop
2 jalapeño chiles, seeds removed, chopped
1 bunch of coriander / cilantro, roughly chopped
salt & pepper
olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
½ l (2 cups) good chicken stock (or use some of the chicken cooking liquid, check for saltiness though)
1-2 whole cloves (Nelken)
1-2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt & pepper
green Tabasco (if you need more spice)

Either roast a chicken (rubbed in olive oil, stuffed with two bay leaves & at least three garlic cloves – though why so stingy, they are the best to eat with the chicken – and seasoned with salt, pepper & dried thyme) in the oven at 200°C or 400° F for about 1 hour and leave to cool OR make the chicken one day for dinner and use the leftovers for this OR get a cold rotisserie chicken. Pick the meat of the bones and tear into bite-sized shreds (as for Fricassée).

Place the drained tomatillos, soft garlic cloves, most of the sliced Poblano peppers, jalapeños & coriander in a blender or food processor and chop with quick pulses to a chunky purée. Sweat the chopped onions in a little olive oil until translucent, add the chopped garlic cloves and stir for a scant minute to cook these, too. Add the chicken pieces, the tomatillo sauce, chicken stock, cloves and dried oregano. Let the whole thing cook on a low flame for a while (minimum 10 minutes or much longer until you need it) – this is mainly to get the flavours to mingle and to reduce the liquid in the sauce to a nice saucy consistency. Season with salt & freshly ground pepper and if you like green Tabasco.

Serve with rice and I think green vegetables of your choice, we have snow peas or broccoli or something along those lines with it.

Cooked chicken for chicken chile verde:

1 whole chicken
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 onion, quartered (no need to peel)
1-2 celery stalks, halved
a few coriander stalks (use the leaves for something else)
one or two or a few parsley stalks
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
10 (1 teaspoon) whole black peppercorns
1 small dried chili (peperoncino, piquin etc.)
1 tablespoon salt

If you have a large stock pot leave the chicken whole otherwise cut it into quarters and put it along with the other ingredients into the pot. Cover with water and bring over high heat to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook it for about one hour. Remove the chicken from the bouillon and leave to cool. Take of all the meat when it is cool enough to handle and shred into bite-sized bits.