Joined January 2020 Message
  • Day55

    Closest thing to family

    March 31, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    Twelve days have passed since the last update. Most of them have been pretty similar in terms of our daily life, despite restrictions finally starting to be imposed.

    Food supplies in this town are pretty limited and spread out, so we're heaving to be creative with the set of ingredients that are easy enough to source- tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, cucumber, cilantro, onion, chillies (obviously), avocado (particularly good here).

    There's a bread guy who comes by twice a week in his truck, and a couple of ladies selling tamales (chicken, beans, or cheese). One of them is really adorable. She takes our waste from eating fruit for feeding to her pig, and she likes to stop by for a chat and a little nap in the shade before she plods along to the next group.

    The bread is surprisingly (for Mexico) pretty decent, so we've been enjoying using that a fair bit.

    The main highlights,

    - More jackfruit- tacos at night (Dave), followed by burritos served up with scrambled eggs and avocado (Lucas)

    - Lucas' Cauliflower and Broccoli battered tacos- Baja fish tacos style. Interesting that rum is an ingredient in the batter. Seriously tasty.

    - Vegan Ceviche using dried soy, pineapple, onions, lime cilantro etc. Served on tostadas. Outstanding from Lucas

    - Jen's epic Spanish tortilla. As good, if not better than the last, and enough to make our Spanish buddy, Sebastian, extremely happy.

    - Jen's pizza breads. Fantastic use of that good bread. Covered in bravas sauce, asadero cheese and fresh pineapple.

    - Stuffed poblanos, as usual. Reliable dish for keeping folks happy from me.

    - Patatas bravas with home made garlic mayo and tomato paprika sauce. Designed to build on Jen's tortilla to give Sebastian and Melanie a taste of their home in Spain. I enjoyed seeing Melanie, who is a French native, get excited at having home made mayo. I could hardly do otherwise with a French lady in company!

    - Lentil, potato and carrot curry, with lime cilantro yoghurt, pickled onions, lime pickle, onion bahjis, and all done in DIY wraps. This was my contribution to last night. A lot of effort in 34°c with all the it's going, deep fat frying and the oven on. Worth it though.

    - Roasted aubergine, pepper and tomato pasta, and a treat of mushroom pasta for Jen. The roasted veggie pasta is becoming something that I think I can build on.

    Honestly, there hasn't been a single shoddy meal. Lucas is a great cook, everything he's done has been super tasty and he manages it without the effort I end up having to put into some of my food. Anything Jen knocks out is always on the money, and I'm happy with my contribution to things.

    We've been eating in the restaurant in the campsite a couple of times. Seafood is obviously their thing here, but we've not been feeling it too much, so we've had their chicken Milanese burger, or their beef burger. Both super fresh and tasty.

    We'll be eating at one of the other restaurants which is meant to do an epic prawn burger, freshly made to order, as well as some top drawer fish tacos.

    Central to garnishing many of our dishes has been chipotle mayo and my green sauce which seems to find it's way onto everything. It is damn good.

    But the most important thing has been how mealtimes have brought people together, including our friends Melanie and Sebastian, a Spanish/French couple from along the camp; our other neighbours Mitchell and Linda (Mexican/Swedish), and Eddie, a friend of Mel and Sebas, who is from the US.

    Last night we all sat down for the first time together and chowed down on my Indian feast. Suffice to say it went down well. Eddie remarked that it was the best food he's eaten on his trip so far, so that was lovely to hear. It was some new flavours for Lucas who also seemed to enjoy it, but really, the best thing was just sitting down together, talking, laughing and forgetting about the subject which has dominated points of our time here. Mealtimes are feeling like family occasions. When the people are this nice, the setting this beautiful, and the food this good, it serves to remind us how very lucky we are to be here in this situation.

    Sebas and Melanie will unfortunately be leaving for home shortly, so we'll lose a key part of the group. Be for they go, I think we'll all go out for dinner together and enjoy some local food and company.

    It looks like we may be here for some time yet. I look forward to seeing what we get around to cooking. I've got a stack of ideas bubbling away and precious little else to be doing with my time, so I'll plan to get back to being regular with updating this with the highlights.

    Maybe I'll get around to that interview with Lucas, and maybe the others, too. Why not?
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  • Day43

    Corona Transition

    March 19, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    Beach cooking whilst the storm passes- hopefully

    We spent a few days around the city of Puerto Vallarta, but as things started to build around the whole Corona Virus situation, we figured the responsible thing to do was get to a quiet beach camp, load up on veggies, and see how the situation develops. The standout eats in Puerto Vallarta were some top drawer street tacos- Pastor and also chorizo- maybe equal best we've had to date. The pineapple on the pastor was slowly cooking away on top of the kebab spike, and the guy just niftily flipped a slice off with his cutting knife.

    We also had barbacoa - a lamb dish, traditionally cooked underground in banana leaves, and served with the broth on the side. We had ours in quesadillas. Tasty stuff.

    Before we set off, we had bought a jackfruit- as in, a whole one- as the pieces we bought were the ripe fruit which is seemingly no good as a meat replacement. What we didn't get told about when asking about the prep was what happens when you try to cut the thing. Basically, everything gets covered in glue! It excretes a natural latex which meant everything was sticking to our hands- neither Lucas or I got a photo because it was so much of a mess that it was somewhat dominating the experience. We've since learned some things we should do next time.

    After cutting it all up, removing the seeds - which are the only part the locals eat - I boiled it and then added it to a base of my BBQ sauce and some fried onions, garlic and peppers. Alongside some of Jen's tremendous quesadillas with leftover veggie chilli, the jackfruit got slapped on tacos with chipotle mayo, pineapple, pickled habaneros, tomato and onion. It was a pretty decent first attempt, and it made an absolute ton of the stuff- $4 worth of the fruit made enough to last us about a week of eating, and it looks like it'll freeze well.

    The following day, we had a ten hour drive South to get where we are now at La Ticla in Michoacan. Lucas bought a whole bunch of veg, as did we, so we're loaded up and enjoying cooking by the beach.

    We've munched our way through some more.of the jackfruit, which Lucas cooled down further eith a bunch of tomatoes and garlic, making it much richer- that was brunch yesterday on some bread with chipotle coleslaw- the boy can cook, so I'm looking forward to learning more from him.

    Jen made a new dish of Persian lentils, which were really good. Lentils, carrots, celery, tomato, garlic, mushrooms and some spices, all boiled down until soft. Still to be made are: another Spanish tortilla from Jen; jackfruit stuffed poblanos; roasted tomato, pepper and aubergine pasta sauce; green sauce, and whatever Lucas has in mind. We may be here a while, so it's good we have a decent supply to save us having to go into town When we're trying to keep social contact minimal.

    Whilst we're hunkered down, I plan to interview Lucas about his life and food. It should make an interesting discussion- an Argetinian who is veggie is an unusual find. It's been great hanging out with someone who has some things I can learn from, so the next week or so cooking with him should be both interesting and productive.

    So, we might be on lock-down, but we're on the beach with our buddy, the sun, and plenty of delicious food to be made as we let the days slip by.
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  • Day35

    Knee deep in love

    March 11, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    A blistering start to food on the mainland.

    Despite the tangible impact of over 300 sand fly bites between Jen and I, acquired in our last days of Baja- think something like the Scottish midge, but a few times more itchy - we're still managing to enjoy our time, especially on the food front.

    Crossing the Sea of Cortez has resulted in a real shift in climate to much more humid conditions and a few extra degrees on the thermometer. Deserts are gone, replaced with lush countryside. Immediately, the palate of ingredients has changed, most notable is likely the jackfruit- more to follow on that shortly.

    The food on the ferry wasn't up to much as was expected, but it was free and, more importantly, it was an opportunity to sit with some truckers, say hello and exchange the customary 'buen provecho', followed by a comforting and respectful silence as we all ate. I'm proud that we take these moments more than we once would have. This is where the substance of eating is. Watching people, their relationship with food and trying to think about their lives interests me greatly.

    Earlier, whilst waiting on boarding, a Mexican biker guy came up asking if we had some food that we could give him for his wife, so we offered what we had and refused his proposal to give us money. The next morning, as we neared our destination of Mazatlàn, we spoke with him and his family some more, exchanging details in the process, so now we are invited to stay with Jessie and his biker family near Guadalajara when we get there. My heart exploded even more when he said that he would show us how to cook their food. Surely, this is meant to be my first real opportubity to interview someone for a deeper insight into food through the lives of the people whose families have handed down tradition through them. I can't wait. I was buzzing for hours after that. It's enough of a privilege just to exchange conversation with people, but to be welcomed into their home after what, in some other countries, would have just been a casual exchange, fills me with so much love that I can't really find words. This is what travel can do and, combined with food, it is a vehicle for connection in a simple but powerful form which is really the thing that matters most to us about a journey like this.

    After arriving in Mazatlàn, we pushed South pretty quickly as we had some ground to cover. We stopped in a small town on our way to try to find water, but that mission soon got dropped in favour of trying one of the numerous local food joints, landing the first Pollo Asado of the trip. Order (thankfully) restored. I have just one photo. I was so immersed in the experience of watching the guys do their thing that I forgot to take any action shots. I also had a little kid, José, who I'd befriended in the car park, serving as a heartwarming distraction. Thinking about him and his twelve siblings certainly made me think about the real value of such a simple meal that we had ordered.

    The chicken? Oh, the chicken. Cooked with years of skill and love. Somehow, perfectly cooked throughout each part, and seasoned right on the button. Served up with a little salad and some red sauce for a smidge over $5 for one- and that was the Gringo price- it was a welcomed treat. Although, eating this piping hot lunch in 30°c in the supermarket car park was not so pleasant. There was enough left to form some tasty little tacos with my chipotle mayo and green sauce for dinner. Tremendous.

    So the trip has thankfully been saved thanks to finally indulging in Polls Asado for the first time in Mexico.

    This morning, we awoke in our camp spot - the car park of a petrol station, as is the way when on a highway push - and got ready for the road down towards Puerto Vallarta. Whilst refilling on fuel, a lady in the forecourt offered us some (still warm) cornbread. They like to eat it with milk, she said. We had one sniff at it and ordered another slab. At a buck a pop, it was a steal. It barely lasted the journey, saved only by the distraction of the return of roadside vendors. After passing a few, it became too much to say no any more. This is a fundamental point of this second phase of our trip- to stop driving past opportunities to connect and to eat proper, local things.

    The tropical conditions are yielding fruit on a totally different level to Baja. We stopped to visit a stall where the old ladies welcomed us with hugs and an introduction to their finest produce. We bought a huge tub of insanely good honey ($1.50???!!!), fresh jackfruit pods ($0.50), and these coconut cake things, for which I forget the name now- basically fresh coconut shreds cooked in condensed milk, and solidified back into a sort of cake- this shit will blow your fucking mind, it's so good. Four of those cost about $0.50 also. Patrick and Susie bought some banana bread, also. What a wonderful stop filling our bellies and our hearts. The coco treats didn't last the next segment of the journey. The honey, well...that'll just be getting lathered on everything- I wonder maybe with some good fresh cheese, or just in yoghurt. And tea. Hmmm. And the jackfruit? Well, that stuff is going to be turned into some veggie tacos on another level. As many veggie folks will know, jackfruit turns into a texture similar to pulled pork. I'm going to try a few different variants with this, but first stop is to use up some leftover BBQ sauce from last week - it keeps well - to make some BBQ pulled jackfruit, with which I hope to make a pastor sauce, pineapple salsa and some pickles. I'm salivating as I write this.

    Moving on down the road, floating on a coconut cloud, and mind racing with all that is going to be food-wise in this climate, we found ourselves in a small town to meet a friend of a friend of a friend. We stopped for some lunch first- our friend, Beto, showed us to a place where we could get into some proper local and homely grub. Unfortunately, from my selfish perspective, the consensus was for more familiar dishes, I.e. tacos, so we moved on. Before leaving, I didn't manage to understand much of what the three lunch dishes on offer really were, other than a beef caldo- like boiled meat in a broth with chunky veg. I just wanted to try something of the place, but it'll have to wait.

    Across the street, we found a taco joint. BBQ grill out front, and then a big pot with the meat- from pork leg, through to offal, and skin and the like, all sitting on the pork fat in which it's cooked slowly. We all played a little safe, going for Carnitas which omit the likes of Buche (stomach) and Surtido (Carnitas with offal, skin and various other bits). We all had tacos, except Susie, who opted for a quesadilla with carnitas ans cheese.This wasn't a tourist town, so it was the real deal. The trimmings were the standard assembly- tomato salsa, red and green salsas, onions etc. What a treat to be served up honest food by these warm people, including the little rockstar kiddo, in such a perfectly simple setting.

    Sometimes when you watch a food documentary, it's maybe difficult to appreciate fully the essence of something. The food can seem a bit simple or rough. But, when you're in it; in the place where it belongs, and with the people whose lives are immersed in it one way or another, whether it's making it, supplying it, or eating it, we are given an opportunity to look directly into the soul of a place, because food remains such an important part in everyday life. Without exaggeration, food is family, and so it receives all of that love which is passed on to people like us who are so privileged to be able to be here. We get to experience not just that food, but all the love that went into it and all the warmth that surrounds the whole experience. For some fleeting moments, we too are part of that family. I hope I never take for granted how lucky we are.
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  • Day33

    Bossing the Leftovers

    March 9, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    Making the most of our spare ingredients, and sharing some food with new friends- at Balandra once again!

    As we're due to cross to the mainland today- we're currently sat waiting on getting onto the boat- we needed to take a step back and look at our produce as the customs guys sometimes like to take fresh produce from you to help control the spread of bugs.

    From our travels before, we know this sometimes results in some interesting concoctions in a bid not to waste anything. On this occasion, it was complicated slightly further by the fact that I'm trying to control certain elements of my diet in an attempt to limit the effects of what I think is an intestinal parasite that I seem to be carrying- I need a doctor soon to get that confirmed and dealt with.

    So, cucumbers and habaneros were pickled; I rustled together a great pasta sauce with tomatoes, aubergine, onion and oregano, blitzed; green tomatoes were turned into some green sauce, although I bloody well burned the tomatoes so the recovery mission resulted in a smaller portion than planned. I needed up the coriander content in the green sauce as well to use what I could of what I had left of that, the result being pretty good, actually. Lastly, leftover chipotle chillies blitzed with some mayonaise- I didn't make my own mayo, as I wanted the pasteurized bottled stuff so it'll last.

    Jen made us a bunch of 'vannini' with asadero cheese with a lemon and oregano olive oil marinade- a take on a BBQ halloumi dish I used to do at home- all that stuffed in the tortilla with fresh tomato and heated in a non-stick was a delight.

    Lastly, Jen put her skills to work once more to knock out easily the best Spanish Tortilla that we've ever made. Our previous attempt using our new cast iron skillet resulted in it sticking- the pan needs further use with easier foods before it'll really turn as non stick as you hope for. So this time, she used a non-stick frying pan, and altered the recipe to cook the potatoes in a full cup of olive oil first. She tweaked the recipe to include some white onion, and boom! What a result. She was so (deservedly) pleased. We've been munching it with the pasta sauce I made and some good old British HP Sauce. The Spaniards would likely slaughter us for such an offensive act, but screw it. Why not?!

    Our other notable story on the food front was when Thom and Madi came to visit- our friends, Patrick and Susie, had met then whilst a walk at Balandra. They came and hung out for a while and, seeing as Susie was assembling some leftover veggie burgers anyway, we offered to defrost some more and feed the guys, also. Madi is Celiac, so couldn't have the veggie burger, so instead, she got some tortilla chips with my bean chilli, guac and pick de Gallo. All the food went down really well. It's so nice to spread the love via making happy bellies. It's the one thing I can give people, and it is my pleasure to do so.

    So, next stop, Mazatlàn after our 18 hour ferry ride to get over the Sea of Cortez. I'm not sure we'll hang out there- it's a city twice as big as La Paz, so we may well just move on as we don't hear anything about the place that makes it sound like a desirable stop. We'll be pushing down towards the fairly touristic Puerto Vallarta and around, before heading to Guadalajara where I believe we can expect some great food, not least in Taco Fish! We have some contacts who we'll likely be meeting there, so I'm sure we can get the inside track and maybe I can finally start getting under the skin of some real food stories and personal history.
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  • Day31

    Taco Fish: The Return

    March 7, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Upping the ante in the institution that is Taco Fish!

    Well, I have not yet manages pollo asado here and time is running out, but yesterday, we made a point of hitting Taco Fish once more. Normally, especially when taking people somewhere you've recommended, it's risky to expect your second experience to match your first. It's even rarer for it to exceed, but it did.

    Things started well with a lovely old guy in the street offering to watch our vehicles as the street we parked on maybe wasn't the most secure. When we got there, it was packed with locals on their lunch break that they tend to take later here, in Mexico. Jen decided to go for the same order as last time- a fish taco, and a Ceviche tostada. I went for three things- two in there is enough, but I wanted to experience different. I got a fish tacos because it's rude not to, a shrimp taco, and then a taco with a chilli relleno filled with octopus and marlin. Susie and Patrick went for fish and shrimp tacos.

    The fish tacos were just on another level- I asked the manager guy what kind of fish it was, and was told Pierna. Not unlike haddock, maybe, for us Brits. So crispy, not at all greasy and, instead of that side of 'chippy' (fish and chip shop, for non-Brits) chips - which we miss dearly - having it in a taco with all of those fresh flavours and textures is a real treat.

    The shrimp (camaron) tacos were epic as well, nice firm flesh, and also done in batter. Jen's Ceviche was a winner once more. And that stuffed chilli with the octopus and marlin was something else. I'm often funny with ordering octopus- cooked anything other than perfectly, it is offensive, so it's always a risky move, but once again, the taco format of eating afforded me the opportunity to be wrong with relatively low risk. It really was outstanding. The octopus was like butter. I tried to determine how it had been cooked, but gave up in favour of just getting my food all over my face and groaning with pleasure.

    I managed to compose myself a bit better at the garnish bar this time which meant I spotted what I missed last time out- chipotle mayo and sour cream. Sweet Lord. I hardly even took many photos, I was just so immersed in the eating.

    When we went to pay, I got chatting to a guy in the queue, Carlos, from Puerto Vallarta. He spoke great English, but I tried to stick to Spanish a sits good practise and I the show of effort makes for a better relationship, especially in those early moments. He gave us the wonderful news that there's another Taco Fish in Guadalajara, where we're headed soon! He also gave us some recommendations for streetfood in his hometown where we'll be before Guadalajara. Had we not been in a queue and all about to leave- he also seemed to be on a mission somewhere- I think this would have made a great candidate for a first in-depth conversation/interview about food, so I was a little sorry to say goodbye. Not to worry, though, I made the most of the time I had with him, and I can be happy with that.

    We left with a couple of treats in hand for the old-timer who was watching our rides, making sure that we put back a little bit of the love we get from the people here. What a wonderful country Mexico is.
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  • Day30

    Classic to contemporary

    March 6, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    A full day veggie of eating

    Yesterday morning started with the intent of exercise. Then Jen saw an advert for a pancake offer somewhere on Saturday and, within five minutes, our walk had been sliced in favour of the nearest place that served up pancakes.

    So, whilst there was no doubt what Jen would be ordering, I was a little less certain at first, until I spotted Chilaquiles on the menu- a fairly classic Mexican dish that's eaten at breakfast or later if desired. Jen asked me what they consisted of, but I wasn't sure- I was just following my intent to try stuff I'm not familiar with. I was willing to bet on tortillas of some kind, likely refried beans, some kinda red or green sauce, and maybe some cheese. And I was right, save for the addition of my choice of fried egg or chicken. I opted for egg, partly as I like to see how places here do at vegetarian food as it's not really their skillet. It was also an opportunity to keep my instances of eating meat balanced.

    Jen seemed pretty chuffed with her pancakes. My Chilaquiles were outstanding, specifically the red sauce which had a tang and texture a bit more like a good Italian pomodoro sauce, but the flavours and kick of classic Mexican. The sour cheese offset it nicely and, as always, refried beans just ground the whole thing with that savoury flavour and texture which shouldn't be right, but really is.

    It was quite a touristic restaurant we are in, right on the Malecon (promenade), so for the food to be that good, and for about $8, we were pretty impressed.

    Lunch was skipped as breakfast was big and we hadn't done the exercise to deserve the calories. Dinner came after a visit to the dentist to see about repairing my third broken tooth of the last 18 months. This time, we were in a funky little vegetarian restaurant with a lovely young team running the joint. We ordered an tasting plate, consisting of spinach and corn empanadas (blue corn tortillas), a black bean and rice burger, falafel, guac, fries, and then this falafel pastor thing, I.e. a veggie alternative to classic meat Pastor, the Persian inspired shaved spiced meat. On the side, Pastor sauce and another which I failed to identify and forgot to ask.

    Everything was tasty enough, and a pleasant alternative. The pastor dish gave me an idea, though- basically, I could do the same kind of thing, but with my veggie burger. I'm thinking broken into bits, minus the panko, then fried to create a similar mouthfeel to the little pieces of meat you have trimmed from the kebab. I'll tweak the spicing and come up with a pastor sauce, playing around with what was in theirs- tomatoes (roasted, I think), tomatillos, fresh Serrano chillies, dried Ancho chillies and cilantro. Watch this space.

    Overall, the experience of being there was nice. It's good to see places pushing a different agenda to the mainstream, and trying to knock out credible alternatives. A few tweaks on execution and they could have a really smart and punchy proposition.

    If I don't eat with emote fish tacos or pollo asado today, I will consider the day, maybe even the trip, a failure. We'll be heading back out into some wild camp spots as of tomorrow's so it'll be back into some of my own food. I've still not made my take on Tostielotes, and I've a bag of tostitos there, as well as some leftover veggie chilli in the freezer, so I need to follow through on that one.
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  • Day29

    Simple, if not easy

    March 5, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Classic Baja seafood, done to perfection

    The Sea of Cortez provides some of the best seafood on the planet, in abundance. From what I've seen so far, they don't mess with it here too much, though so far as street eats and family restaurants are concerned, anyway- it's Baja fish tacos with the batter; some ceviches, usually on a tostada (crispy round tortilla); shrimp and sometimes crab. Although, I have seen manta ray which kinds hits me a bit because, for some reason, I hadn't imagined they would be eaten because they are such iconic creatures- I thought maybe they'd be protected. They also have Marlin in some places, but definitely not so common.

    Yesterday, Jen picked out somewhere that sounded like a bit of an institution here with the locals, called Taco Fish- does what it says on the tin, we figured, and we were defo in the mood for some of that action.

    A stroll through the markets on the way was nice-  we'll need to revisit there as we do like to eat in mercados as it's a true experience. Always simple, focused and priced for locals. I like that people specialise so much here, it only produces great results. It reminds me of Italy on the produce front- I remember in a market near Sienna in Tuscany, there was a buffalo mozzarella guy, and then a guy who only did Burrata mozzarella- it was so cool that he specialised on one particular version of an already quite specific skill when it comes to cheese. Fantastic.

    On arriving at Taco Fish, we saw it packed with locals- maybe more of the middle-class working type than those we sit beside at street-stalls. The restaurant was certainly a bit more modern and polished than many that we choose to eat in. The menu was simple:  3 kinds of soft tacos, 3 kinds of tacos dorados (basically stuffed and fried in a roll or like an empanada shape), a couple of ceviches and that was it. So that was the simple bit.

    Deciding was not so simple- torn between sticking with what I know I'll love and that will hit the spot, and being more adventurous, but risking disappointment- but that's the joy of the format of the food here being small enough that you can eat two or more, and it's cheap enough, you can afford to be wrong. So, I went Baja style fish tacos and a jaiba (crab) taco dorado. Jen also went for fish tacos and added a tostada with Ceviche.

    The format was also an exercise in simplicity- order at the counter, leave your name; food comes to you free of any garnish; you go and select from the garnish bar, and then pay when you leave, ordering more in between if desired. The complicated parts were a) figuring that process out with the speed at which the guy at the counter spoke, and b) trying to establish just what to put on in the way of garnishes. There were so many! And then the hot sauces, I lost count! If you're Mexican then you'll already know your go-to, but for me it was all too much and I was a bit blinded by it all, and with everyone buzzing around me, knowing their shit, I just grabbed some stuff and hoped for the best. There are worse problems to have.

    Even after studying what I added, I'm not even sure what I added to mine to be honest. Some cabbage for sure, some kinda loose guacamole squeez bottle sauce, and then some onions with what both Jen and I thought were shredded carrots. We thought it was all a bit in the hot side which is when the penny dropped that the orange strips were not grated carrots, but , in fact, sliced orange habanero chillies. Ooft. I do like my food hot, though, so carry on, I did, Jen removed a few, I think, although she's definitely cranking up the heat versus her old tastes. Mexico does that to you.

    The fish tacos were fantastic, I loved the approach of taking a slice it from a bigger piece of fish instead of the more typical nugget format, and it was a fair old chunk they served up, too. My crab taco dorado was interesting- absolutely packed with meat, unusually low on flavourings and spicing, but better for it. The crab wasn't as sweet, strong in flavour, or delicate as what we're more used to with brown crab in the UK- it was fleshier, something akin to tinned tuna if you pulled it all apart.

    Jen devoured her fish taco and was a big fan of the Ceviche. Let's face it, nothing will ever live up to how they do it in Peru, but this was by far the most solid attempt yet since we were last down in Lima. Super fresh, nicely balanced on acidity, plenty of fresh, light veg throughout and the contrast with the crispy tostada underneath worked a treat. The one thing I notice with Mexican food is that getting mucky is part of the deal- liquid isn't strained out, for example, so your Ceviche will be dripping it's juices down your face, and hands, and up your sleeve. Once you're over it being a less civilised experience than you're used to, the mess becomes part of the experience you enjoy, and actually look for. It's part of the culture as I see it.

    So that was that. Simple satisfaction, and for less than $10 USD. I suspect we'll be back before we leave Baja for mainland Mexico, arriving in Mazatlàn, Sinaloa, on Monday. I also want to cram in some Pollo Asado (BBQ chicken) from a roadside joint. How we've not eaten this staple within the 6 weeks we've been in Baja, I have no idea.
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  • Day28

    Decent Dough!

    March 4, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    A rare treat of proper breads in Mexico.

    Good flour isn't cheap to come by in Mexico, I'm told, so maybe that explains why bread generally isn't that great, and maybe also because the demand isn't there- dough like we're into back home isn't what this country has been built on, not in its current form at least. Tortillas In one form or another, I.e. unrisen dough, is what it's all about. And result is I couldn't even find yeast the other day - in Walmart, as well. The assistant in the shop looked at Jen lile she had two heads when she asked for 'levadura'. I do hope we didn't offend by risking suggestion of some delicate lady-infection. Done now...

    I'm sat here, back in La Paz, in a mechanic's garage whilst we get some repairs done on our truck, Spud. I figured I might as well use the waiting tine to make my update for the day about bread, and the fact that we actually found some decent examples in the town of El Triunfo, yesterday. It's an old silver mining town which has been well-preserved. We'd been told by a few people that we must visit the cafe there for some bread- this is where the biker guy is meant to be. We didn't see any such dude, but it was a cool place and pretty sweet to see a wood-fired oven on the go.

    The menu was all Italian, pretty much. House-made pastas and the like. As much as I wanted to test their Lasagne - I find it hard to resist an opportunity like that, especially when it's so rare out here- I figured we really should go with something from the oven, so pizza it was, whilst Susie and Patrick went for Lasagne, much to my curiosity. At about $15, thr pizza was far from what we typically spend- our daily budget is $14 to cover both food and a few beers or whatever. But, sometimes, needs must.

    The result was better than the norm for this kind of thing here, but a bit short of what your mind goes to when you think of pizza. It was, at least, twice the size of Jen's head. The base was nice and thin, and crust crisp. The tomato sauce was decent, and they understood the idea of less is more- something that almost no pizza restaurants seem to get their head around. It always surprises me- you can serve better pizza that will cost you less to make, if you just put less on it! I guess maybe that's not what 'the people' want, and who am I to argue.

    The owner of the place is self-taught, so that's a nice part of the story. Hopefully one day I'll be able to say the same.

    It has all got me to thinking, despite the flour situation, we need to get in the case with making our own breads now that we have a van with an oven. So, I'm thinking Rosemary Focaccia would be a good starting point- that said, finding rosemary here is hit and miss. Maybe oregano and tomato. Focaccia in any case. Watch this space.

    For now, I just want the work to be done here so that I can join Jen in town for some long-awaited local food, served up on plastic plates as we sit on plastic chairs, eating at a plastic table, with a plastic cover, on the side of the road, side by side with local people, looking out over the Sea of Cortez. Canne beat it. I wonder if they know how good they have it, here.

    I have a little rapport with the mechanic boss here. I should maybe take the opportunity to ask him about food over in Mazatlàn in the mainland, where he's from, and where we'll be heading next, likely early next week.
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    KIRK Robertson

    Defo fancy the pizza

    Dave Young

    Man, I'd kill for a Paesano or Mora pizza right now. The last proper pizza we had was in Chile!

  • Day27

    Burger King

    March 3, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Veggie Burgers and BBQ sauce up in the sierras

    We did a U-turn yesterday and headed inland due to some shitty weather that's due to hit the coast.

    We arrived at our camp kinda late on, but it didn't stop me setting to work on making a BBQ sauce to go with the planned dinner of veggie burgers. I haven't made this sauce for ages- since our last van, back down in Chile.

    The principles are fairly simple, and so the ingredients are easy to swap out if you don't have the right stuff to hand, e.g. we didn't have Apple juice yesterday, so I blitzed some fresh pineapple instead;

    1) Onion, garlic and (optional) ginger base
    2) Add spices and sweat
    3) Add acids (vinegar, then reduce, then fruit juice, then reduce)
    4) Add body- e.g. tomato passata- not an essential stage
    5) Adjust flavour profile and seasoning- e.g. with soy sauce, mustard, honey/treacle/molasses
    6) Cook out to desired texture

    The burgers were done in panko, and in a toasted burger bap, served up with mayo, BBQ sauce, mustard, Susie's pickled carrots, shredded lettuce, super thin sliced tomatoes, and a full round slice of red onion on the base to give it some punch. They went down well. Patrick and Susie seem truly blown away with this veggie food- they are big meat-eaters- and Patrick is saying he's looking forward to serving up these recipes to his family as their minds will be blown by the dishes, and the fact he's cooking them. That's some big compliments there's which sent me to bed very happy.

    As much as I've enjoyed eating all this stuff we've made, I'm looking forward to wrapping up the batches we have as it's been too long since we've been eating in places at the side of the road- it's killing me driving past such awesome ramshackle little places, packed out with locals and smoke bellowing out from the grill. We've still not had a single pollo asado (BBQ chicken), so that needs sorted out, pronto. And we need some more Baja fish tacos before we leave here for the mainland, soon.

    Onwards we go. Today we should find some good bread at a bakery that's run by an old-skool biker guy, seemingly.

    BBQ sauce recipe.

    1 onion finely chopped
    4 garlic cloves grated
    Thumb of ginger grated
    80ml red wine vinegar
    80ml balsamic vinegar
    2 teaspoons ground coriander
    3 teaspoons smoked paprika
    2 teaspoons sweet paprika
    2 tsp cumin
    2 tsp gr ginger
    1 teaspoon mustard powder
    2 teaspoons chile flakes
    4 chipotle chilies
    2 teaspoons chipotle sauce
    1 handful chopped cilantro stalks
    8 desert spoons mustard (yellow or any type)
    500mls apple juice (or other fruit juice)
    50ml soy sauce
    100mls honey
    200 grams tomato passata
    1.5 tablespoons sugar (estimate- see below)
    Salt to taste

    Note: the amount of sugar required may differ depending on how sweet the Apple juice is, so taste before adding and add gradually tasting as you go.

    1. Gently cook the onion in a pot until softened, add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 3 minutes, taking care not to burn or apply too much colour

    2. Add the spice mix and cook for a minute or so, until the flavours start to release. Add a little more oil if you have to.

    3. Add the Chipotle chillies and sauce and cook for another minute

    4. Add the vinegars, raise the heat and reduce by around 3/4- until the harshness has gone from the smell

    5. Add the fruit juice, reduce by half or more- consistency should be just starting to thicken a little

    6. Add the mustard, soy, honey, cilantro and tomato passata. Cook for around 20 minutes, or until it becomes sufficiently thickened. Check flavour throughout, adding salt, sugar and additional spices to taste. If it needs a little more acidity, a drop or two of vinegar to taste, also.
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  • Day26

    Burger Beach Bonanza

    March 2, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Quesadillas; Poblanos; Veggie Burgers!

    Susie and Jen both made quesadillas the last couple of days, with various fillings- chicken, beans, salsa. All very tasty. With Jen's, we tried the cheap hot sauces we bought from the supermarket in preparation for my tostielote spin. One chipotle, one 'red'. They were pretty decent, and I think defo the right types I've guessed for what needs to go on this super-snack. Although, I think maybe I need to find out what's going on with tamarind here, as I wouldn't be surprised if that's what the 3rd sauce on the Balandra tostilocos was. I see tamarind pods in all the supermarkets here, so it's time to find out how it's used in Mexican cooking, so that'll be a task for today.

    With much help from Susie, Patrick and Jen, we made a bumper batch of my standard veggie burger mix. It is a mammoth effort. The recipe is below, until such time as I've decided upon my solution for storing them. The effort really is in all the grating of the veg and then squeezing the water out. At home, I'm sure a food processor and some other bits n bobs would help. I am going to try another base for the recipe which isn't so labour intensive, but whilst I'm out here, I don't really mind spending the time as the results are pretty epic.

    As mentioned before, the idea with this patty- which I generally coat in panko before frying, but can be done without- is that it's versatile. The spicing (cumin, ground coriander, paprika) is designed to be generic enough that we can mix up what we serve it with. I'm planning on making it with some BBQ sauce today, with choose, pickled carrots (courtesy of Susie), and maybe some slaw of some kind, depending on ehat we find on our way South to our next camp spot. It'll be interesting to see how all it gets used in the coming days. It freezes very well, too. This batch looks fantastic. It's all about getting the water out, and a bit of luck with how wet the chickpeas are- sometimes they're too mushy, like beans.

    Dinner had to be thrown together sharp after all that veggie burger prep. With the veggie bean chilli from the other day, so stuffed poblano chillies and threw some asadero cheese in there- this is becoming a favourite of mine. Damn tasty, quite light, and uses only about 4 teaspoons of the Chilli so it makes it stretch well which is important in our case. I served it with guacamole, as per the recipe which our Mexican buddy gave me a 10/10 for (with tomato, no cilantro, and some pre-soaked white onion), and some 'red' sauce- slightly grilled tomatoes, dried ancho chilli, lime, cilantro, water.

    That all went down a treat. So, even though there's repetition in what we're eating- that will always be the case whilst I'm working on Mexican food and my little variants, plus my old van-food favourites- I can't recall the last meal we had that wasn't delicious. It lets me start to really get a handle on some of the recipes, too, so that I can start to write them up and publish on here.

    We heard recently of a couple of other travellers selling vegan meals for 450 pesos from their van- that's nearly $25 USD. I could smash put epic food for half that and make a decent profit. The thought is crossing my mind more often these days. What's to lose?

    Anyway, veggie burger patty mix recipe below. This is vegan, depending on your garnish, and gluten free if you choose to use chickpea flour.

    Dodgy Dave's Veggie Burger Mix: MkII

    Burger mix- makes 8 (I think), maybe more

    Chickpeas- 2 tins, drained, crushed and dried as much as possible
    Garlic- 2 medium cloves grated
    Peppers- 2 grated coarse (red and green ideally)
    Courgette/zucchini- 1 large fine grated
    Yellow Onion- 2 medium, coarse grated
    Small aubergine/eggplant- skinned and coarse grated
    Fresh Coriander5Cilantro- 1/2 bunch, finely chopped
    Carrot - 2 medium, fine grated
    Mushrooms- 200g very finely chopped
    Fresh chili- to taste, finely chopped
    Fresh lime juice- about 1/2 to a full, to taste, so maybe even more
    4 TBSP chickpea flour, +/- to texture and stiffen. Wheat flour can be used, and actually works pretty well.

    Spice mix;
    2 tsp ground cilantro
    2 tsp ground cumin
    1 tsp chilli flakes (or adjust to taste)
    2 tsp paprika
    1/2 tsp cayenne

    Serving suggestions;

    Classic:  on a bun with:
    Red onion slices

    BBQ: on a bun with
    Dodgy Dave's BBQ Sauce
    Red onion, or onion rings

    Kinda Med/Persian style;
    On a flatbread/wrap with squeeze of lime, pickles, tomato, pepper, yoghurt with lime and cilantro)

    Alt option for all variants: dip patties in flour then egg then panko to fry up to a crispy version.


    Grate all the veg (except mushrooms) and place in a sieve over a bowl. Then, take handfuls and squeeze the water out of it thoroughly, and set it aside. Take a 2nd pass at it if needed. Mix it all together.

    Add a little vegetable oil to a non stick frying pan and put on a medium heat.

    Fry the veg mix (except the mushrooms and fresh chillies) in batches and set aside- idea is to cook off the water, get rid of the raw flavours and sweeten it, and get a little colour and savoury flavour in there. Get a little colour on each batch, then set aside in a pot. Use a little oil for each batch as needed, but only as much as is necessary, you don't want a greasy burger, hence why non stick pan is ideal.

    Fry the mushrooms on a high heat with no oil- they should shrink right down and get colour. Don't be tempted to move them around too much. Depending on the size of the pan, two batches may be required- just make sure and don't have them layered thickly.

    Add the cooked mushrooms to the veggie mix in the pan.

    Put the pan on a medium heat and add in the spice mix. Stir, and allow the aromas to start coming out of the spices for a few minutes.

    Add in the chickpeas and mix well and let it all sweat together for a few more minutes then allow to cool.

    Once cooled, add the cilantro and fresh chilli and season with the lime juice and salt to taste- the idea here is to introduce fresh, zingy flavours at the end so that their flavour remains as vibrant as possible in the end result, providing contrast for the deep and warm flavours and textures that's been created in the base patty. You can adjust the level of chilli, cilantro etc as you see fit, but keep it versatile as a patty is my advice.

    Make into patties, and put in fridge or freezer as desired.

    For final cooking, either coat the patties in flour then beaten egg then panko and deep fry (or shallow fry and turn- make sure oil is deep enough to cover half way up), or just fry gently with no breadcrumb in a non stick with a little oil.

    Serve up as you prefer.
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