In January 2002 a tall gangly irrepressible girl with thick dark curly hair and a wonderful gappy smile arrived at Ballymaloe Cookery School in a cute little Renault Deux CV. Thomasina Miers spent 12 weeks having fun, cooking, and developing her passion for food. Always eager to learn she soaked up every scrap of information like a sponge. After the course she headed towards West Cork to meet artisan producers and spent a happy time immersed in the cheese making with the Ferguson family at Gubeen near Schull.
Back in London Tommi wrote her first cookbook ‘Little Book of Soup’ a charming collection of recipes from top chefs and even though she was skint, the proceeds were donated to London Soup kitchens.
Her passion for all things Mexican had ebbed and flowed over the years but with the help and encouragement of the Mexican Tourist Board she set off on a research trip to source authentic Mexican ingredients and recipes. She headed for Oaxaca (pronounced Wa ha ca), a region surrounded by the Sierra Madre mountains, south of Mexico city and home to some of Mexico’s most colourful markets. She linked in with Pablo Munozeledo of the Slow Food organisation which seeks to protect traditional and sustainable methods of food production. Through him she found many treasures and met many inspirational people.
Eventually when she returned to London she was at a crossroads, not quite sure where to go next, looking out for a job, lots of bills to pay. Friends told her about Master Chef and she applied for the fun of it. “I didn’t even think I’d get past the first round. And when the program started it came as a complete shock, because I had not thought about being in front of the camera. That was the most terrifying thing realising there were cameras pointing in all directions while I was cooking” She was nervous about the prospect of John Torode and Gregg Wallace tasting and judging her food but eventually after many gruelling challenges – her instinctive and distinctive cooking and enchanting personality not to speak of true grit triumphed and she was declared overall winner of Masterchef. That was in 2005. Since then Tommi has gone on to fulfil her dream of bringing authentic Mexican street food to London.
Her first restaurant Wahaca was opened in 2007 in Covent Garden, Chandos Place. People queued up and still queue along the street. Now there are two restaurants, the second in Westfield, London and a third is planned for Canary Wharf, in October this year.
Wahaca won the Observer Best Cheap Eats Award 2008.
Last week lovely Thomasina came back to Ballymaloe Cookery School, her old Alma Mater to teach and enchanted us all with a Taste of her Mexican Street Food one day course. Here are some of the delicious dishes she cooked for us. She’ll be returning the cookery school next year to teach another course so watch this space.
Thomasina Miers’ Tortilla Soup with feta, totopos and deep-fried ancho
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced
3 cloves sliced garlic
30g chipotle puree
2 tins plum tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp fresh
1 litres water or veg stock
150-200g corn tortillas, blanched in oil
Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onions and sweat over a medium heat for 15 minutes, before adding the garlic. Continue cooking for a further few minutes before adding the chipotle puree, tomatoes and seasoning. Cook for 5 minutes and add the stock and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Add the blanched tortillas and blitz in a food processor until the soup is smooth.
Serve the soup in a jug with the garnishes in little piles in a wide, shallow soup bowl.
Feta cheese, crumbled
Ancho chilli, deep fried
Tortilla strips, deep fried
Thomasina Miers’ Chorizo, potato and thyme quesadillas [kay-sa-dee-yas]
Enough for 4 large quesadillas
200g cooking chorizo, diced
½ onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
350g potatoes, diced and steamed until tender
A small bunch of thyme, shredded
400g mix of grated cheddar and mozzarella cheese
4 large flour tortillas
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan and add the chorizo and onion with a small dash of olive oil. Cook until the onion turns soft and translucent and the chorizo has started to release its oils. Add the garlic and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Add the potato, turn up the heat and fry for another 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme and season with salt and pepper.
Spread the chorizo mix on one half of the tortilla and sprinkle with the cheese mix.
Fold the tortilla over so that you have a half moon. Brush it with a little olive oil (so the tortilla doesn’t stick to the pan) and place in hot, dry frying pan or griddle and cook until the cheese is melted and the outside is golden and crisp.
Cut into wedges and serve with your favourite table salsa.
Tommi finds that a mix of extra mature English cheddar and a little grated mozzarella makes the perfect cheese mix, with the right flavour and gooiness but it is also delicious with a little grated Lancashire cheese added to the mix.
Other fillings for quesadillas you could try:
Courgette flower, onions and garlic
Swiss chard and ricotta
Spinach, sautéed mushrooms, onion and thyme
Courgette, sweet corn and mint
Thomasina Miers’ Barbacoa with Mutton, Lamb or Beef
This produces a rich, meaty, fully flavoured lamb that melts in your mouth and is served with potatoes cooked in the lamb broth and a really light salad of finely shredded white cabbage, radish, coriander, red onion.
1.2 kg of shoulder of lamb
450g tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 bottle of medium bodied red wine
3/4 medium white cabbage, finely shredded
a bunch of radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 red onions, finely chopped plus 1 red onion
a handful of chopped coriander
2 limes, quartered
8 large floury potatoes
A wooden plate to serve the wedges of lime, radish and chopped red onion
For the marinade
4 ancho chillies
200ml best quality cider vinegar (or white wine)
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cinnamon stick, broken up
2/3 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp dried oregano
40g dark cooking chocolate
The day before (am or pm)
Tear out the stems of the ancho chillies and put them in a small saucepan, covered with cold water. Bring them to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes until soft. Blitz the spices, herbs and chocolate together in a blender and either add the chillies, and their water and 400ml of olive oil. Season well with salt and then turn it out into a plastic bag (check there are no holes) with the meat inside. Rub the marinade into the meat and store overnight in the fridge.
On the day fill large pans with the wine and the tomatoes. Place the shoulders in pans and cover it with a tight-fitting lid (I like to cover the pan with cling film, pierce a small hole in it and then put the lid on). Bring to simmering point and cook over a low, gentle heat (so that the liquid is barely breaking a bubble) for 3-4 hours until the meat is completely tender. Half an hour before serving add the potatoes and cook in the broth.
This can be done the day before. Keep the lamb apart from the broth at the bottom. Half an hour before you are ready to eat you can roast the lamb in a hot oven (200°C/400ºF/Gas Mark 6) for 25 minutes. Meanwhile whiz the broth in the blender and bring it up to heat again. Serve with the potatoes.
For the Salsa
This salsa is searingly hot, but totally delicious. It plays a beautiful counter point to the meatiness or the rich beef birria. Pass it around to people so they can drizzle it on their own plates, according to their bravery!
40g small, chilli de arbol
250ml cider vinegar (or a mix of white wine and rice vinegar)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon pepper corns
Simmer the chillies in 100ml of water for 5 minutes and then whizz up with all the other ingredients. Serve (in moderation!), with the barbacoa.
Thomasina Miers’ Ceviche tostada with coconut, coriander, chilli and lime juice
225g sea bass, skinned and diced into 1cm cubes
The juice of 5-6 limes
1-2 tbsp coconut milk
1tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
½ red onion, finely diced
4 plum tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and diced into 1cm cubes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 habanero chilli, de-seeded finely sliced
4-5 radishes, finely sliced
1-2 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
½ avocado, sliced
Maldon salt and black pepper
12 soft corn tortillas
Corn oil for cooking
Place the fish in a glass bowl, adding the lime juice and coconut milk. Cover and refrigerate. You can eat it right away if you like the fish raw or let it cook for an hour or two and for more well done.
Drain the fish of most of the liquid. Add the onion, garlic, chilli, tomatoes, radishes and coriander. Gently mix together and season with salt and pepper. If using bought tortillas cut them down to a smaller size, about 8cm wide. Heat the corn oil in a frying pan and fry the tortillas until golden and crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.
Put a tablespoon full of Ceviche on each tostada and a slice of avocado and sprinkle with a little extra coriander.
Thomasina Miers’ Smoked Mackerel Tostadas
330g smoked mackerel fillet
660g fresh tomato salsa
Chipotle mayonnaise (see Fool Proof Food)
1 avocado sliced
Flake the smoked mackerel with a fork and mix into the fresh tomato salsa. Spread a little chipotle mayonnaise onto each tostada and topped with shredded lettuce. Spoon over the smoked mackerel salsa and top with a slice of avocado.
For the tomato salsa, mix diced tomatoes, finely diced red onion, coriander, salt, pepper, lime juice, finely diced green chillies and olive oil in a bowl and leave aside for half an hour for the flavours to infuse.
Thomasina Miers’ Fresh Fruit Marinated in Lime and Tequila
This is a really easy pudding that looks vibrant with all its bright colours. The richness of the fruit and the touch of tequila makes it sophisticated enough to eat for a smart dinner but it’s equally fast enough to throw together for friends on a lazy weekend lunch or even for a decadent brunch!
1 pineapple, peeled
1 ripe mango, (the Pakistani honey mangoes are delicious)
a large punnet of raspberries
1-2 tbsp unrefined castor sugar
juice of a lime
a few generous splashes of tequila*
a large handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
Peel the mangoes and cut into rough chunks into a salad bowl. Top the strawberries and cut in half or in thirds if they are very large, adding to the mangoes as you go. Sprinkle over the sugar, the lime juice and the tequila and let sit for at least ten minutes in the fridge or as long as you want before pudding. Bring out before serving to allow to get to room temperature and scatter over the mint leaves.
This looks very pretty served in glass pudding bowls or tumblers.
Fool Proof Food
Thomasina Miers’ Chipotle mayonnaise
30g chipotles en adobo
90g Hellman’s mayonnaise
45ml olive oil
1-2 tsp fresh lime juice
1-2 tsp sherry vinegar
Maldon salt and freshly cracked pepper
Whisk all the ingredients up together to emulsify. If the mayonnaise is too thin, whisk in a little more mayonnaise and check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper, if it needs.
– A 1950s style ice cream parlour – opened on Pier Street in Kinsale in June this year. Owners Clare Atkinson, James Dixon and Kalai Barlow discovered a small but very good artisan producer – Clonakilty Ice Cream (087-9564693) – to supply all their ice cream in this colourful and vibrant little venue. Try the Rhubarb and Custard, Orange Crunch or Honeycomb Crunch or order a thick and creamy milkshake, blended with fresh fruit if you fancy. They also serve an excellent 100% organic, fair trade Italian coffee. Telephone 0863535264 or email email@example.com Cupcakes
are still all the rage – if you’d like to order a box of the most luscious cupcakes you’ve ever tasted, contact Siobhan Grace of Cupcake Cottage on
of Shea Displays makes cake stands in Perspex to order. We display our cupcakes on a Perspex stand with five tiers, very effective. Visit the website www.sheadisplays.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org Ludovic Lantier,
pastry sous chef at The Ritz Carlton, Powerscourt, is the winner of the first Valrhona Patisserie Championship 2009 organised by Valrhona Chocolates and Odaios Foods. His recipe Degustation of Alpaco & Tainori with Redcurrant was chosen out the six finalists on 23rd June.