Saturday, January 17, 2009

Home Again and Work Mountain!

Well we made it home in the wee hours of Monday morning after 13 hours of traveling. Exhausted but happy to be home. We also arrived to a huge pile of snow! Lucky for us it happened during the day Monday so no need to shovel! Thank goodness because coming from weather that is on average 25 degrees to the freezing cold we have been having this week (-30 with the wind chill!!!) has not been kind to us. Luckily, we have avoided getting sick...knock on wood! Both Diego and I arrived to a mountain of work and have been really busy trying to climb that mountain...I am far from the peak but wanted to share some of the lovely things I brought back from Mexico for my kitchen!!!

Just before leaving I bought a set of cazuelas (kas-wela), an olla (o-ya) and 4 mugs to go with the olla. Cazuelas are clay cookware (orginally from Spain) that are used on the stove top (with or without the lid) or in the oven. The one pictured above with my cute tiny but VERY spicy chile plant is the smallest of the set of 5. Some of the typical things cooked in the casuelas are frijoles (beans), Mexican rice and mole but you can cook anything you can imagine in them!

The olla is a clay pot typically used for cafe de olla (Mexican spiced coffee) or Chocolate Mexicano (Mexican hot chocolate). I absolutely LOVE cafe de olla...this is what we had this morning! The coffee is made with piloncillo, which is essentially a block of unrefined cane sugar, and canela, which is cinammon but the kind used is different than the one we find in Canada. We did not bring back any piloncillo or canela, so we made due with brown sugar and cinammon sticks. I followed this recipe but used the olla instead of a sauce pan. I have yet to make the chocolate Mexicano, but will let you know how it turns out when I do!!

To make the pots, especially the unglazed parts, stronger you need to cure them. It is an interesting process that has been used since the middle ages. You need to soak the dish in water for at least 12 hours. Then you wipe them dry and rub the unglazed parts with a cut garlic clove! Then you fill the pot with water and 1/2 cup of vinegar and let it boil off until there is only 1/2 cup left. Let it cool completely, then wash it and it is ready to use. Supposedly, it seasons the pot, kills bacteria, and hardens the unglazed parts. I did this for all my new pots. However, if you are to cook strong fish or meat in them there is an extra process to prevent the clay from absorbing the flavours. Since, I am not a fan of fish and stong meat (eg: lamb or sheep) I skipped this step but could always do it in the future if my tastes change.

Here are the mugs...not need to cure these, they are completely glazed. I have two of each design. I also picked up these lovely napkins in Campeche to add to my growing collection! I think I have at least 15 now. I would really like to have a nice stack so I no longer have to use paper napkins!

Unfortunately, Diego's grandmother recently passed away but as part of our inheritance we received a molcajete and tejolote. It is the Mexican version of a mortar and pestle (respectively) made of basalt stone. It is a pre-Hispanic tool that was used by the Aztecs and Mayans. It can be used to grind spices, make salsas and guacamole. Salsas and guacamole prepared in molcajetes have a distinctive texture and a subtle difference in flavor from those prepared in blenders. Pictured above is my very first molcajete salsa! I used fresh tomato, a fresh chile from my plant, fresh local garlic, one leaf of my large leaf oregano plant and some salt and pepper. It was very tasty but the peel was hard to grind so the salsa had largish chunks. Next time I will roast and peel the tomato first to give it a richer flavour and make it easier to grind up.

My code to process my data has just finished running...with an error : (
Gotta run and troubleshoot!

Happy Weekend!

1 comment:

  1. Lovely treasures! Glad that you're back safe and sound. :)