Wednesday 21 September 2011

Down Mexico Way

Unfortunately, as much as I love food writing, so far I haven't managed to make a living out of it.  In fact, I haven't managed to make a single penny. So I have to work to pay the mortgage.  One of my main jobs is working for Riverford Organics who have a huge farm based in Devon.  They operate an Organic Vegetable Box delivery all over England.  My job is to entice new customers, as well as to encourage and keep up motivation for their regular clientele.  What this really comes down to, is that I spend a lot of time cooking vegetables.  Thinking up new ways with carrots, kale and kohlrabi. 

Strangely, one of the most taxing vegetables for me recently, that is always popping up in one veg box or another, is the sweet potato. The reason for this immense challenge, is that it is so very sweet and although I have tried balancing its sugaryness in a manor of ways, I still hadn't managed to conquered the vegetable. 

I made a really nice Indian curry with chickpeas, loads of cardamon and spinach and lots of fresh green chillies.  But I felt that the sweet potato still had a sickliness to it.  I added quite a large amount of Tamarind.  It was really good, but at the end of the day, I couldn't help wishing that it just didn't have the sweet potato in it. This was rather missing the point of the whole exercise. So, I was pretty excited to find a Mexican recipe for Chipotle Spiced Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chilli. I have made Black Bean Chilli many times before but without the addition of peppers and sweet potato. I loved the idea of the dramatic combination of black and orange. It made me think of Halloween and sounded like something I like to eat.  It was!  Finally I had conquered the sweet potato.  As you may know I have been on a bit of a wrap mission recently and I have to admit that I have been making quite a lot of Chicken or Steak Fahitas. I am not going to burden you with the recipe when I know that you can get a perfectly good one from "Mad about Mexican", Thomasina Miers.  But this hot and smoky, Chipoltle Spiced Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chilli and was even better. Piled into a warm tortilla with lashings of guacamole, a delicious Pico de Gallo (tomato, chilli and coriander salsa) and big dollop of sour cream on top, it was truly delicious. The harder it is to eat, the better it is.  Add lots of grated cheese and this Chilli also makes a great filling for quesadillas. And, if you still have any left, whiz it up and it makes a delicious soup.

I have always found it almost impossible to acquire any Mexican ingredients in London, so I cannot tell you how excited I was to discover Casa Mexico in Bethnal Green.  Unfortunately, I still haven't managed to get down there personally, as it is right across the other side of London for me, and what with the day job, I don't get much time.  But I can't wait to go.  Not only do they have the most fantastic selection of chillis, beans, moles and salsas but they also sell kitchen ware, furniture and art.  Fortunately, they also have an online shop, so I have stocked up on Mexican staples and even finely managed to get hold of some elusive Chipotle Adobado which I kept on finding, listed as an ingredient in recipes and had almost given up any chance of ever finding. 

Right, now what shall I do with that box of Kohlrabi?

Chipotle Spiced Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chilli

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
4 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed Chipotle Chillis
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried marjoram or handful of fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
Small bunch of coriander, finely chopped

Heat oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat; add onion and celery. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until tender. Add bell peppers and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes or so. Stir often to avoid burning. Stir in garlic, and cook about 1 minute. Add chilli, the salt, the herbs and spices.  Stir and cook 1 minute. Next add the sweet potato.  Give everything a good mix and add tomatoes and enough water to cover the sweet potato. Simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes until the sweet potato is cooked. Stir in beans, and continue to cook 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf, and stir in lime juice. Finally add the coriander and adjust the seasoning to taste.


The most important factor to perfect guacamole is using good, ripe avocados. Check for ripeness by gently pressing the outside of the avocado. If there is no give, the avocado is not ripe yet and will not taste good. If there is a little give, the avocado is ripe. If there is a lot of give, the avocado may be past ripe and not good.
2 ripe avocados
2 spring onions (finely sliced)
1 fresh red or green Serrano chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
½ bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
Juice of 1 fresh lime
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Freshly grated black pepper
Drizzle of Olive Oil

 Cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out and put in a mixing bowl. Using a fork, mash the avocado. Add the chopped onion, coriander, lime, salt and pepper and mash some more. Chilli peppers vary individually in their hotness.  Start with a little, add more to taste. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it. Refrigerate until ready.

Tomato, Chilli and Coriander Salsa (Pico de Gallo)

One clove of garlic (very finely chopped)
One Fresh Red Serrano Chilli (very finely chopped)
¼ red onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
200g cherry tomatoes (quartered)
Juice of one or two limes
Bunch of Coriander (very finely chopped)
Glug of Olive Oil
Good pinch or two of salt
Freshly ground pepper

Mix garlic, chilli, lime juice and olive oil together.  Season well.  Stir in rest of ingredients. 


  1. Looks fabulous. I love wraps.

  2. Hello there - still loving your posts! I'm in Devon tomorrow visiting River Cottage learning how to cook fish. I get my boxes from Abel and Cole - also use sweet tates with spinach and chickpeas (Ottolenghi). My mum has a recipes which she demonstrates at healthier Indian cookery classes. For 15 portions (group sessions!) Peel and mash 1kg sweet tatess, add 2 - 3 tbsp honey, 4 - 6 tbsp almond powder, 1 tsp green cardamom powder, 1 tsp vanilla essence, 1/4 cup roasted chopped nuts/ seeds.

  3. Absolutely fantastic dish - having a mouth watering moment looking at this! The shop in Bethnal Green sounds like a great find.
    Jamie Oliver does a nice recipe with sweet potato - adding lime, fresh chilli and coriander and serving it with pan fried Sea Bass. When I'm stuck for ideas for sweet potato - I'll usually make this as I have most of the ingredients in the fridge.

  4. Just found your blog and being veggie am super thrilled for this to be the first recipe I see. I used to get riverford boxes and it was a good way to eat well and try new things. This meal looks amazing and I'm def going to make it. I've a cranks recipe with sweet potatoes and chick peas - moroccan I think. But like you say, nothing like loading up a wrap!

  5. Hello, I just found you. I love chipotle, it works so well with the ingredients you've used so I bet this recipe tastes fab! I recently used chipotle in my beet and feta fritters. I hope you will take a look xx


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