Mexican Cornbread

This year I’m drawing out my birthday for as long as possible with bi-coastal celebrations. With the party kicking off on America’s East Coast, we had 20 people over to party, play and most importantly, eat! Friends and family joined us around the table after piling their plates with copious amounts of food. The kitchen island had a glorious spread on offer, East Coast style. We gorged on jumbo shrimp, fried chicken and 10lbs of some delicious locals, Maryland crabs.P1000104

P1000099Whilst prepping for the party, I discovered this little guy hiding in the corn. I named him Cobb.IMG_0393 Couscous quickly assumed the position of birthday diva and waited anxiously for guests to arrive. IMG_0430 IMG_0415Never one to skimp on sides, we had bowls of macaroni & cheese, baked beans, corn on the cob, my famous pomegranate salad and last, but certainly not least, jalapeño cornbread. I keep being asked for recipe posts and as this was such a winner at the party, I thought I’d share so you can be the food hero at your next get together. Just be sure not to tell everyone how easy it is to make and lap up the endless compliments and table full of ‘mmmmms’.

You’re not actually going to believe how easy such a delicious dish is to make.
You ready?
To feed a hungry party of 20 you’ll need:
720g Cornbread mix
350ml Buttermilk
4 Eggs (beaten)
1 can Creamed corn
80ml Vegetable oil
200g Pickled jalapeños (diced)
2 Large onions (diced)
230g Shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat your oven to 400F (200C)
Pour your cornbread mix, buttermilk, vegetable oil, creamed corn and beaten eggs into a bowl. Give it a good mix with your spatula.
All combined? Good.
Now grab about two heaping handfuls of shredded Monterey jack cheese and sprinkle them in like strands of cheese rain. I have tiny hands, so I went for three. You can obviously substitute this for a different cheese if you like, but preferably something sharp to contrast the sweet corn.
Now give your onions and jalapeños a rough chop and toss them into the gloopy mixture. The jalapeños add a nice fiery kick and you can add as much or as little as you like. Give a final little stir and pour into your sprayed or buttered 9×13 baking dish.
Pop into the oven for about an hour. The top should become a nice golden brown, and the interior will still be moist. Uh oh, does that word make you shudder? Sorry. The cornbread will still be a little wet and will leave a bit of residue when you test with your fork.
Cut into squares, pile onto a plate and watch them disappear before your eyes.

If you make these, take a picture and tag me @Alessandra_LDN on Twitter or Instagram so I can see how yours turned out! Or tell me what recipe you make as the perfect side dish in the comments below.

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La Bodega Negra

I had some time to kill before a meeting in Soho yesterday, and as usual, was craving Mexican food.
Good Mexican is truly hard to find in London, and unless I scavenge the ingredients to whip up a dish myself, I tend to give it a miss altogether.
Last year, New York’s La Esquina opened a London location under the name of La Bodega Negra. Bloggers and critics buzzed about the restaurant, calling it London’s answer to Mexican food.
Yet, I wasn’t ready to be let down by some sloppy, average dish lacking the true Mexican flavours.
Until yesterday.
I was really craving the tangy, spicy chili packed salsas and smokey, tender meats wrapped in perfect taco packages.
I had forgotten the much talked about restaurant downstairs requires reservations and doesn’t open until 6pm. The incredibly rude manager reminded us by snapping about the reservation policy and fine dining ambience as if we had asked something outrageous.
Ignoring her attitude, we settled for lunch in the Café.

La Bodega Negra

Spanish music posters line the wall and the room has a retro diner feel to it with checkered floors, wooden chairs and exposed lights.
The vibe was great due to a great Hip-Hop mix playing.
Jay-z & Kanye, Kase O, and Common ft. John Legend were just some of the endless chilled tracks being played.

On the menu, there’s a great selection of typical tacos, quesadillas and ceviches. I ordered Pork Belly Carnitas with Salsa Verde Tacos and Camaron (shrimp) Tacos with Chipotle Cream and Pickled Onion with a side of Green Rice and Cowboy Beans.

La Bodega NegraWhilst we waited, we were given an assortment of salsas to top our tacos. Salsa Verde, Salsa Roja and Salsa del Comal each gave different flavours and all packed a punch. On each table are two innocent looking bottles holding salsa created from the habanero pepper. These bad boys are pretty high up on the Scoville scale, but still tolerable with good flavour.
After tasting all three of the salsas, I tried the green habanero hot sauce. Unripe habaneros are green and this sauce packed a serious kick.
But the other, ripe habenero XXXTRA hot sauce packed a mean punch.
I dare you to take a teaspoon of this and send me a photo of your facial expression.
Or better yet, offer a taste to your dining companion.

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La Bodega Negra

Our tacos arrived piled high with vibrant toppings.
The Camaron tacos were divine.
Shrimp cooked to perfection with tender meat and a nice snap coated in a chipotle cream for a smokey hint of spice. They were topped with smooth guacamole and acidic pickled onion which really brought all the flavours together.
Add a little lime and sprinkle of sea salt, the perfect combination.

La Bodega Negra

Next to try were the Pork Belly Carnitas with salsa verde.
The pork belly was incredibly tender and had a nice crunch from a sprinkle of crackling. The tacos were piled high with salsa verde and were made even better with the combination of salsas on the table.
To accompany the tacos, we had a side of green rice and cowboy beans.
The green rice is flavoured with cilantro (coriander) and lime and goes well with any Mexican dish.
Cowboy beans are an American creation which uses smokey BBQ sauce to bring out the flavour of the refried beans. These also had bits of bacon as an extra naughty addition.

La Bodega Negra

Our lovely waiter Nelvino was incredibly helpful and very knowledgeable about the menu, even though he hasn’t dared try the habanero salsa.
I absolutely love their shirts and think that they should sell them in the restaurant, don’t you? 

La Bodega NegraIf you’re in Soho looking for a way to spice up your day and are in need of a great lunch spot, I’ve found the place.
If you’re looking for good Mexican food with a sexy atmosphere for dinner and drinks, make sure you call ahead for reservations here.
This, by the way, is located in the bottom of a sex shop.
It is Soho after all.

California Burrito

Another forecast of relentless rainy and gloomy weather has just about pushed me to my limit. I used to celebrate rain, running barefoot with friends down the streets of San Diego which were only ever wetted by the sprinklers feeding perfectly manicured lawns. But now, my days of rain dancing are long gone.
With my tinge of homesickness and craving for sunshine, comes another, much more powerful craving that is impossible to alleviate with any form of substitution: Mexican Food.
Now I know you’re listing all the new faddy Mexican restaurants popping up across London in your head, but it just isn’t the same. There’s something about homemade Mexican food combined with salt hanging in the air and the crashing of waves nearby that really gives it its flavor.

In Southern California, we have a very strange cultural obsession with the Taco Shop. Similar to having your favourite sports team or favourite band, you form an allegiance, an unspoken bond to your favourite taco shop. There’s Karina’s Taco Shop, Juanita’s Taco Shop, Rico’s Taco Shop… do you see a trend here? Now I know that this is bold and somewhat controversial of me, but Roberto’s Taco Shop is the best. There, I said it.

Anyone from SoCal, knows exactly what i’m talking about. But, for those of you who don’t, i’m sure you’re wondering how on earth you differentiate a bunch of taco shops. Is it the venue? No, most taco shops are small, unattractive little hole in the walls. The focus is on good, freshly made Mexican food.
Is it the menu? No, most taco shops have a similar menu, and although they may have a specialty, there is a standard assortment of Mexican food goodness on offer.
Is it the price? No, that’s the best thing about Taco Shops. You get an incredible meal for an incredibly reasonable price.
Alright, you’re getting frustrated. I’ll reveal the Taco Shop secret to their cult-like following. It’s all about the sauce. Each Taco Shop has their own freshly made, traditional salsa. To be honest, they’re all phenomenal. Roberto’s however, happens to have the best.

It’s a double knockout, red sauce and green sauce. Both fiery hot, one with red chillies, the other from jalapeños. Now that i’ve enticed you with their sauces, you’re wondering what you should order. Listen closely, because this piece of advice may just change your life. When and if you are granted an experience to visit Roberto’s (that’s right, shameless taco shop plug) you are to do exactly this: walk into the Taco Shop (Roberto’s) and utter these two words: California Burrito. Maybe you should throw in a por favor, but other than that, that’s all you need. After receiving your order number, make your way to the two metal containers sitting on a bed of ice that proudly display a sea of chilled red and green sauce. Gather several of each of the small pots and collect your order. A gracias would be nice.

Roberto’s has several locations at which you can dine, but I would suggest taking a friend, grabbing your burritos, and driving to the beach. With your toes wriggled into the sand, a friend by your side, and a view of blue ocean and suntanned surfers, the California Burrito tastes that much better.
I’ve told you about the Taco Shop, introduced the sauce culture, and even taught you how and what to order. Now all that’s left is the California Burrito.
A fresh, warm, flour tortilla encasing one of the most beautiful, unexpected combinations ever: Carne Asada, Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese…. and French Fries. I can tell your mind has just been blown, but trust me when I say it is the most magical, tastebud tantalising mix offered in a delicious bundle. With each bite of your burrito, pour a drop of green then red sauce. This becomes a delectable, drawn out process which maximises the flavour of each bite.

You’re welcome / De nada