Acts of Kitchen 11: Mexican cooking class

AoK_logo_v2In which I discuss Mexican cooking classes with my sister, and I mention three cookbooks and a TV show.

Palomar: the book, and the food.

The other books I mention are Pulse and Monday Morning Cooking Club.

unknownDuff till Dawn.

The cooking school my sister attended.

Contact me at actsofkitchen @ gmail dot com – or leave a review on iTunes!



Palomar: the food

This book was sent to me by the publisher. Go here for discussion of the physical product.


There’s some nice basics in here: harissa, watercress pesto (which I used to make snow pea pesto, and it was quite good), labneh and tapenade. I have prepared the cured lemons – one thing I do not lack is lemons – which the book promises will eliminate a “bleach-y taste” they claim preserved lemons carry. I haven’t noticed. I haven’t turned them into cured lemon paste, yet, but I definitely plan to. These things are in “The meal before the meal,” along with other dips and felafel and such.

The next section is “Raw beginnings” and I haven’t made anything from this section… and I’m not likely to. I’m allergic to scallops so that’s a few recipes gone, and I’m just not the sort of person who will ever come to steak tartare. There are one or two salads that might get a look at.

I have mostly cooked from “The main act.” The book has two shakshuka recipes; I’ve made the “New style” one with cauliflower, zucchini, garlic and chilli and coriander – then eggs cracked over. It was ok – I was perfectly happy to eat it – but not completely brilliant. It was one I had altered, taking out the eggplant because my beloved isn’t a huge fan… but since the recipe has a section called “Variations,” telling you to “reinvent” it every time, this shouldn’t have been a problem. I am intrigued with making it with chorizo and/or olives, feta… or, they promise, “any old stew or cooked vegetable you have as leftovers from yesterday’s main meal.” So I’m not quite giving up on this.

Polenta Jerusalem style: I admit I used instant polenta, which the author of the book would abhor, but that’s what I have. This involves making polenta; putting “mushroom ragout” on top (mushrooms cooked in butter), and then blanched asparagus. Garnish with Parmesan. I mean yes, it was tasty, but it’s not all that miraculous. Maybe ‘real’ polenta makes a huge difference?

Aubergine and feta boureka: ok these were quite cool. Bourekas are made by cutting butter puff pastry into four triangles, then brushing with egg, sprinkling with sesame seeds and cooking for about 18 minutes at 200C. Then you halve them and throw stuff on top – again, I omitted the eggplant, but the swiss chard stew with bacon and feta was really good. (This recipe also looks awesome.)

Papi’s spinach gnocchi: was a disaster. I’ll wear this one because I didn’t want to simmer them in goat’s yoghurt (too hard), so I simmered them in water instead. They just fell apart. I didn’t drain the spinach enough? Who knows.

Right in the middle there’s a series of pictures showing octopus – both cut up and not cut up. It’s my least favourite part of the book.

Cod chraymeh: I didn’t use cod, because that’s too hard in Australia; I think I used ling. This was … well, not flavourless, but really not worth the effort. It has red capsicum, garlic, spices, harissa… I was surprised how much it didn’t work.

Chicken thighs in green olive and tomato sauce: this was quite nice – the chicken with the olives worked really well.

IMG_1293.JPGLabneh kreplach tortellini: probably my favourite recipe to date. Kreplach are “the Ashkenazi Jewish version of Italian ravioli, Chinese wonton or Russian pelmeni.” Palomar suggests making IMG_1294.JPGthem like choux (choux? I can totes make choux) – flour into boiling water, into the processor to add more flour and egg yolks (which means making meringues later), then leaving the dough til the next day to roll and fill. As the name suggests, these were filled with labneh (yes, homemade) mixed with za’atar. I then simmered them in borscht (made with some of my own beetroots, EAT YOUR HEART OUT Katering Show). It was awesome. (I’m interested that a number of online recipes, like this one, call for whole eggs – no meringues! – but very excited that it points out that like dumplings, kreplach can of course by frozen. EXCELLENT.)

IMG_1295.JPGVerdict: I’m not sad to have experimented with it, but I wouldn’t be rushing out to buy it for all my friends. Possibly I’m spoiled by Jerusalem plus my two Sabrina Ghayour books, and The Saffron Tales, which basically cover these sorts of recipes – the ones I’ve enjoyed anyway. That said, I am looking forward to trying the date roulade, and their version of pitta bread.


This book was sent to me by the publisher, Hachette, at no cost. It was published in August; RRP $39.99.

4The-Palomar.jpgPalomar is apparently one of the hottest restaurants in London at the moment: it seats 34 people and the waiting list is up to six months, I’m told (I hadn’t heard of it – because Australian, and because not really up on my Famous Restaurants Trivia). I’ve been a bit conflicted about the cookbook.

But I’m ready to call it now. Sadly, this book has not become one of my favourites.

What it is:

  1. Beautifully presented. I mean, that cover is elegant and alluring, and under the slip cover is a glorious blue hard cover with a gold pattern such that I am agonising over whether to keep the cover or not. The inside is beautifully presented as well. The photography is delightful – a mix of shots in the restaurant, shots of the people, and shots of the food. The recipes themselves are well laid-out, with the ingredients in a black-lined box, and clear steps to follow for each recipe (although sometimes the small type isn’t great). Each recipe also has a little story in italics at the start; the stories are sometimes funny, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes practical. And there’s a little insert of cocktail recipes too.
  2. Largely accessible. Like Indian Made Easy and The Saffron Tales it has a section called “What’s in the cupboard?” which has clearly become The Thing You Must Do When Talking About “Ethnic” Food. This section has info about everything rom freekah to date syrup and information about spices and nuts. Most of the recipes I’ve looked at have ingredients that, today, in a multicultural city or with access to the internet a home cook would have access to. The final mini-bio, of Yossi ‘Papi’ Elad, instructs the reader not to consider “recipes as sacrosanct – they are creations of human beings, so use your imagination” – a blessing that I really appreciate, since I don’t always have the right things to hand. Some of the recipes do, of course, require time and skills – but not all.

What it isn’t:

That inspiring.

Some of the recipes I’ve made have been flops, and they have mostly been my fault, so I’m wearing that and definitely not blaming the book. But others… they’ve worked, but they just haven’t been super exciting. I haven’t made any dessert yet, and some of them do look intriguing, so maybe that’s where I’ll find the lurve.

I’ll discuss the recipes in detail in tomorrow’s post.