MEZCLA by Ixta Belfrage
MEZCLA, Ixta Belfrage’s first solo cookbook, is one of the most exciting new cookbooks I have had the pleasure of reviewing this year.
The word Mezcla refers to Ixta’s mixed heritage. Three countries shaped the person she is today and the way she cooks: Italy where she lived as a child, Brazil where her mother came from and Mexico where her grandfather lived. As a global citizen she has also been influenced by cuisines from all over the world.
The Mexican influence can be seen in her liberal use of chilies but those who don’t like it hot can leave some or all of them out and she promises the dishes will still have tons of flavour.
She credits Yotam Ottolenghi, whose Test Kitchen she worked in for four years and co-authored Flavour with, for encouraging her to be adventurous and to combine different ingredients, textures, and flavours in innovative ways.
But much as I treasure my collection of his recipe books, which are well known for long lists of ingredients, and lengthy instructions, I don’t cook from them often enough. So, I was very pleased to see that in her recipe book Ixta keeps it simpler.
Her book is divided into 2 main sections, Everyday (quick and easier recipes) and Entertaining (longer recipes that require more time and ingredients). Each is further subdivided into Veg, Fish and Meat. Last, but not least, come the desserts, quick ones first and then some real showstoppers!
The first recipe I tried was the Sausage and Charred Citrus Traybake, a recipe in which she has used her magic to transform the humble sausage into a gourmet dinner.
Sausage and Charred Citrus Traybake.
For this recipe lemon, lime and tangerine halves were charred in a non-stick frypan on high heat, cut side down and then squeezed over the roasted sausages and carrots. When they were added to the roasting juices this created a wonderfully aromatic sweet and sour sauce. Such a surprising and delicious combination of ingredients and flavours!
Butternut and Sage Lasagne Gratin.
The lasagne sheets in this dish were covered with stock and cooked rather like a gratin. There was no bechamel sauce to make and there was no need to roast the butternut, so it was very quick and easy to put together. It could also be assembled up to a day ahead. I found it especially gratifying that this vegetarian dish really appealed to my carnivorous partner!
Charred Red Pepper Sauce with Omelette Noodles
For this recipe thin omelettes (as thin as crepes) had to be rolled, cut into noodle like strips, then tossed into a creamy, charred red pepper sauce, before being covered with parmesan and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
This is such a flexible recipe. Ixta suggests that you could also use the sauce, which is really delicious, for pasta or gnocchi. I tried it with dumplings too and it was good!
Banana Sesame and Maple Cake
A quickly made one bowl cake with a soft and puddingy texture and crisp sticky edges. The final touch was a sprinkle of flaked salt, and a drizzle of maple syrup over the top. Not having any at hand I left out the sprinkle of flaked salt which really didn’t matter too much. I plated it with a dollop of whipped cream and served it to appreciative dinner guests for dessert with a tiny cup of espresso.
After Dinner Chocolate Tart:
This was luscious and loved by all. I would happily make it again for a special occasion. A silky-smooth chocolate ganache, made with coconut cream, dark chocolate, maple syrup and vanilla paste and a hint of orange was poured over a crunchy base of blitzed gingernuts and left to set in the fridge.
The tart had to be made well ahead ,preferably the night before, which I found really convenient as there was no last-minute rush to get it ready before dinner.
There are so many reasons to love this book !
It is 60% plant based which is how many of us aspire to eat now, for environmental or nutritional reasons.
The recipes are flexible. If you do not have all the ingredients to hand Ixta often suggests a substitute. And many of her recipes can also be veganised.
Her instructions are easy to follow and even those in the Entertaining section would not take too long put together.
And best of all it is full of highly original recipes which burst with flavour. We have enjoyed all those we have tried so far.
MEZCLA is a recipe book I will come back to often and I would highly recommend it.
Reviewer: Lyn Potter