Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Secret Gardens paladar

Tequila Sunrise, so 80s but I loved it! Behind: totopos (roasted corn tortillas) con salsa fresca de jitomate (red tomatoes) y chipotles adobados.

Bright Mexican paper decorations

Lesley, front of house, spent all day making paper flower decorations

Ceviche (sea bass) with corn tortilla

Main course of yuca chips, fish in an umami rich olive, pepper and tomato sauce (a la vercruzana) with green rice and a delicious onion salad (pickled in lime juice).

Carla makes salsa picante which she sold out at The Underground Farmers & Craft market

TV being used as sideboard

A warming flourless chocolate and chili brownie with hot mole sauce (choc, chili and cinnamon)

Food blogger Carla of Bribed with Food has a paladar in her home in Willesden Green. Carla comes originally from Panama, and her food reflects her Latin American roots.
This evening, el cinco de Mayo, a holiday that celebrates an unlikely battle victory over the French during their occupation of Mexico, myself and 12 other guests were treated to a Mexican menu. Bright paper decorations, handmade by Lesley, her flatmate, graced the tables, Tequila Sunrise cocktails were shaken by Carla's other flatmate.
We started with fried tortilla chips and salsa then a ceviche with tortilla wrap. I love this raw fish 'cooked' by citrus juice dish which I often ate in Peru on street stalls, despite warnings of worms and cholera.
Main course was all piled on one plate, typically South American, with authentic fried yuca or cassava. I remember eating yuca nonstop during my year in South America, in which I travelled from Venezuela through almost every country until Tierra del fuego. As a non-meat consumer on a meat obsessed continent, it was one of the few food stuffs I could eat, on 12 hour bus trips stopping at dusty roadside cafes, with a fixed menu chosen by the bus driver.
Yuca is oddly popular: one of the most widely consumed carbohydrates in the world, if you eat it raw or 'insufficiently processed' it's poisonous, cyanide to be specific and can lead to paralysis. But the bitterness of the cyanide means that's it's easy to grow, resistant to pests.
The red onion salad and green herby rice were particularly delicious...Carla, do post us the recipe?
We finished with a moist chili chocolate brownie. A well known combination nowadays but one that doesn't always work too well, here it did!
As Carla had a gluten free guest ( a real one, with Irish blood!) the whole menu was gluten free but you'd never have known!
At the end, Carla emerged from the kitchen and joined her guests at the table for drinks...which went on till 4 am. My only memory after midnight is doing a poor version of Beyoncés 'single ladies' dance with fellow supperclub hostesses @foodrambler and Carla. Despite our wide range of age and body shape, all of us are single. Cooking for a living means you end up with a nun-like existence. Food Rambler started about six months after me, but has also noticed how the guests are changing...she increasingly wants to move away from hosting dinners in her home, preferring the detachment and enjoyment of transforming a rented space. Waking up to other people's mess on a weekly basis can be wearing. The rare rude guest is still disproportionately upsetting when it's in your own home. I was relieved to find out that she too from time to time spends all day in bed, physically recovering from the graft of cooking for large numbers in a domestic kitchen. I thought I was getting old!


  1. mmm, ceviche in Peru, i would eat it, too. and those chocolate chilli brownies looked fab. here's to Single Ladies! x shayma

  2. I am in awe of what you at The English Can Cook do. If I still lived in London or made regular trips down, I would book a seat and bring flowers and good wine and give you (and those who also cook for others on such an intimate and yet wide-ranging scale) a standing ovation because y'all deserve nothing less.

  3. I adore ceviche...but never knew it came with the cholera warning! Oh well...and interesting facts about yuca and cyanide...potatoes are the same -small quantities of course and when they start to sprout etc etc... Sounds like a great dinner...and I can totally imagine how tired you must get!!! Such efforts you go to it is not hard to see why! xxx

  4. Thanks Duchess! Some guests do bring flowers or send cards which is always greatly appreciated.

    CC: Ive added a link about cholera in ceviche in Peru.It was a great dinner.
    I'm doing a few smaller dinners over the next 6 weeks to write and recharge...

  5. what a yummy looking dinner and I salute the Single Ladies dancing. I was shaming myself on the dancefloor at my best friend's wedding at the weekend. Fellow guests took great pleasure in showing me the photographic evidence the following morning. I innocently thought I was just having a good time like everyone else - apparently I was quite a spectacle. What IS it about Beyonce?!!!

  6. A great combo of beautiful and tasty! Love to visit your place when I travel to London :)

  7. katie: Beyonce is like Madonna but she can sing too!

    The laquer spoon:thanks...hope to meet you at some point

  8. That menu looks fantastic, yummy. I first had ceviche when a Tahitian friends of my Dad's brought her version (Poisson Cru?) to a dinner at my parents house, standing out in a sea of prawn vol-e-vants & black forest cheesecake... it was the last word in exotic to me then(and believe me late 70's suburban South Auckland was pretty short on exotic....)and 30 years later it still seems pretty fabulous, lucky you!

  9. It was a pretty raucous evening - it takes a lot of tequila to end dancing to Beyonce...

    Delicious cerviche and tortillas and hospitality Carla & Lesley.

    What were those green Mexican tomato-like things called again?

    Bottoms up to all day in bed in the nunneries!

  10. Thanks for the lovely words - I'm glad much fun was had by all and hopefully we will have you around again!


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