This amazing pork stew comes from the state of Nuevo Leon in northern Mexico, the capital of which is Monterrey. It is a simple dish but so full of flavour due to the cooking method used and the use of flavour-packed dried chillies. The two chillies used are guajillo and ancho, both mild rather than hot, so the dish comes out with a gorgeous warm flavour, fruity and smoky at the same time. Another essential ingredient is Mexican oregano, which is more pungent and 'wild' tasting than the European version. As this dish takes a while to make, it is worth doubling the quantities and making enough to freeze. A note - many Mexican dishes use lard as a cooking fat, and it really does make a difference to the flavour of the finished dish, but your asado will still be delicious if you use olive oil.
Despite the fact that it is as easy to find a terrible chilli con carne as it is to find a good one (think that dish of vaguely spicy mince swimming in tinned tomatoes that's been cooked for half an hour, as a guide!), when done properly this dish really is a prince amongst men. The secrets are correct spicing, and most of all, patience. A proper chilli takes at least three hours to cook, ideally more. And as it seems to work better cooked in larger quantities, have some freezer containers ready and you'll have a few suppers handy for those 'can't be bothered to cook' evenings. This recipe has a more typically Mexican flavour than some chillis, and it is pretty hot. And it may seem like there is an awful lot of spice in the recipe, which is true - this is one reason why long, slow cooking is essential, as it allows the spice to blend, mellow and mature.
The Mexican way to get your eggs for breakfast, Huevos Rancheros is a spicy, tomatoey treat when served alongside some warm flour tortillas. It works so well for a weekend brunch (and is also a noted hangover cure!), in fact perfect for a Saturday morning while planning a visit to Borough Market and Spice Mountain to top up the spice cupboard! You don't need a long list of complicated ingredients for this one, however, most of the things needed will be sitting there in the kitchen cupboard. If you are a fan of a more meaty breakfast/brunch, grill or fry a few chorizo sausages to go with your Huevos Rancheros.
As a balance to all the Southeast Asian delights this month, how about this robust, old school soup from Scotland and the north of England? It relies on barley for it's particular texture and creamy flavour, and is a great way to use up the end of a Sunday roast lamb. Wash the barley well and cook it separately until al dente. The soup is hearty enough to be served as a supper alongside some hot crusty bread, and it will work just as well at lunchtime. It also freezes very well. Some people enjoy a splash of fresh cream stirred into the Scotch Broth before serving.
Another very easy Thai dish, this uses the Thai holy trinity of flavours - lemon grass, galangal and kaffir lime leaf - a combination which enhances the flavour of the fish rather than overpowering it. It goes very well with the papaya salad featured elsewhere in this month's recipes, and some steamed rice. The dish is particularly recommended for a Valentine's Day dinner with its delicate yet still exotic flavours.
This is a deceptively simple Thai classic, the small amount of ingredients meaning they all stand out and balance each other. Crisp, crunchy papaya and carrot match so well with the sweet/sour balance of the dressing, and it is so refreshing served alongside some chicken grilled with Kaffir lime leaves. It also goes well with seafood, and can be used to make a lunchtime wrap with a difference.
Tartiflette is one of the true flavours of Winter in France – bacon, potatoes, onions, garlic, white wine, cream and cheese all cooked up into a warming central heating for the soul! The dish is common on streetfood markets in the UK now too, and proving to be just as popular as it is in France. The cheese used in a true tartiflette is always Reblochon, a fairly strong, soft cheese, and it is best to stick with this; after all, if it ain't broke! Tartiflette is gorgeous for lunch, served alongside a crispy salad and a warm baguette.
This is a simple recipe which takes advantage of our divine Cypriot Pyramid Salt, in this case the chilli blend.. This salt will keep its colour and texture when cooked, giving a lovely salty crunch to the finished dish. It is best to use shell-on prawns to give you that full sticy finger experience, but by all means use unshelled if you like – if you do, the dish makes a great sauce for pasta. Shell on, it goes very well with some fried rice or noodles on the side, or just as a fun everyone-dive-in starter.
Ever wondered why homemade curries never taste quite the same as the restaurant versions? The answer is that Indian restaurants almost always use a 'mother' sauce as a base for all their dishes. A big pot of gently spiced gravy will be bubbling away on the range, to be added to everything from korma to vindaloo. With this recipe, you can make your own mother sauce, which you can freeze easily, meaning all you need to do to make that Friday night curry is take a tub of this out of the freezer ready to adapt to your chosen treat. Making this sauce is easy enough, but it does take a little time, so is a great way to pass a rainy afternoon.
The Boxing Day turkey curry is an established favourite nowadays, and has been for quite some time. This recipe is a variation upon the theme, and is equally good for using up all the leftovers from Christmas dinner. What makes it deliciously different is the use of our Vadouvan (French masala), a flavour-packed curry blend from Pondicherry. Sprouts for example may not be a traditional Indian vegetable, but they are great in this biriani. If all the veg got eaten, a couple of handfuls of frozen mixed veg will work just as well. As a respite from all the richness involved in Christmas food, serve the biriani with a tomato and onion salad, a cucumber raitha (yoghurt sauce) and a quick chutney you can whip up yourself by chopping up a red onion, a few Indian green finger chillies and a handful of fresh coriander and mixing them up with a couple of tablespoons of mint sauce.