A Tale of Two Mojos

You will recall that I have enduring and ongoing love of anything written with Elisabeth Luard. I enjoy her books because she is not promoting a lifestyle like many current celebrity cooks. Whilst we all love to daydream that we can be as glamorous and affluent as <insert celebrity cook of choice> if only we can perfect their wobbly creme brulee or learn to chop herbs with trendy ambivalence; in truth what they are selling is as far detached from the kitchen as a hammer drill.
This ongoing trend (in both the UK and the US) for producing attractive, slim, sassy cooks, putting them in front of a camera and giving them numerous designer kitchen gadgets to promote, whilst cooking painfully basic food is unnerving. On various cooking forums I have actually read people note that Tamasin Day-Lewis is “too dowdy” to watch cook despite her impeccable culinary skills and that Sophie Grigson (yes, THE Jane Grigsons daughter) is “so unattractive that I forget about the food”. Ina Garten is considered to be “too much in love with her husband that it's sickening AND loves butter too much” to be considered viewable and many people find Anthony Bourdain “a bit stringy and unkempt for my liking”.
When on earth did we forget about the food and start concentrating on the good looks of the host? Why do cookery shows have to be filmed in uber-expensive loft apartments? What happened to the Keith Floyds of the cookery world, who appeared slightly dishevelled and hungover yet still managed to produce an exquisite piece of French Cuisine, whilst being disturbingly nestled by Emus?
Forgive me if I sound a little like my beloved husband on my tirade against superficiality within the cooking industry. It seems so trite yet I am passionate about food and if I see another cookbook churned out by a super-cute nymphet or cheeky-chappy Jamie Oliver wannabe, I will probably puke. Don’t misunderstand me. If the super-cute nymphet had super-delicious food to back up her good looks, then I would jump on the bandwagon and purchase a copy, however most of these books are just exercises in great photography and vapid, regurgitated recipes.
Thankfully, on the other hand, we have Elisabeth Luard who has travelled extensively throughout Europe and lived in Spain for many years, and is more than happy to share her love and vast knowledge of the ultimate gastronomic treat, the Truffle, or write informative, bordering on obsessive, books on the ingredients of cooking of South America or the regional differences in Spanish food.
Her books are exquisitely and sensitively photographed. Like Tamasin Day-Lewis’s, there are no ‘action’ shots of the cook to distract us, the emphasis is purely on the food and the regions where the food originates.
I have been seduced by her book The Food of Spain and Portugal, have cooked a couple of recipes from it, and bookmarked many more. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who has visited Spain or Portugal and fallen madly in love with the foods, or for people who are shackled to their daily lives but have wanderlust in their hearts. The dishes cooked in this book will help send you to warmer climes with dusty roads lined with orange trees and the scent of ripe figs in the air.

The dish I decided to cook for supper last night was Papas Arrugadas with two Mojos. Papas Arrugadas translates as Wrinkled Potatoes and the name is derived from the traditional method of cooking potatoes: slow, with very little water but a lot of salt, in earthenware dishes over low heat. The resulting product is potatoes with, indeed, wrinkly skin but encrusted with salt and deeply flavourful. This can be easily replicated in the home kitchen using a stockpot or large lidded saucepan. Papas Arrugadas relies on patience but requires little effort for much flavour.
Served with the two Mojos (or sauces), a green one and a red one, the potatoes are wonderful, and drink up the spicy sauces as if they were once again in the soil and drinking up sunlight.
I admit, I did not make the sauces in a pestle and mortar, I used my coffee grinder instead. It worked extremely effectively and was far quicker than my weedy crushing could muster.

Mojos, originating from the Canary Islands, are spicy chillies sauces, seasoned with Fresh Garlic, Cumin, Spanish Paprika (Pimenton), Wine Vinegars and of course chillies of varying heats. Some use fresh and some dried. My two Mojos used one of each: dried red chillies, and fresh green chillies. From a purely aesthetic point of view, they look beautiful side by side, but do not feel it is necessary to make both. And, aside from being an easy supper, these would make a perfect cocktail party nibble.

If you want to make Papas Arrugadas with two Mojos (or even just one!), here's the recipe. Oh, and by the way, these spicy little sauces last for a few days in the fridge and, as with any sauces of this kind, improve if made the day beforehand.

PAPAS ARRUGADAS WITH TWO MOJOS, from The Food of Spain and Portugal
Serves 2 (with plenty of the Mojo leftover for dipping bread in the next day!)

1kg Potatoes. Small salad ones are great.
1 Tablespoon Coarse Salt (I used Maldon)
Some Water

For The Mojos:

Red Mojo:
2 Red Chillis, seeds removed (I used one dried Habanero as Paul advised that my dried Birds Eye Chillies might be explosively hot)
1 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1 Tablespoon Spanish Paprika (Pimenton), preferably Picante
Red Wine Vinegar to Taste
1 Teaspoon Salt
3-4 Cloves Garlic (I only used two because of Pauls 'issues' and this was plenty enough garlic - remember it's not cooked)
125ml Great Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Green Mojo
1 Fresh Green Chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
3-4 Cloves Garlic (see red Mojo for my notes about garlic)
1 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1 Tablespoon Spanish Paprika
White Wine Vinegar to Taste
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
125ml Best Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For the potatoes:
Rinse the potatoes under clean, running water but do not scrub.
Place in a large pan and pour over enough water to reach barely halfway up the potatoes.
Sprinkle over the salt.
Cover tightly and cook over low heat until the water has completely evaporated. Note: I had to pour some water away as I used a little too much. If the potatoes seem cooked but you still have lots of water left, pour most of it away and turn the heat up to boil away the rest, leaving the lid on.
Stir the potatoes halfway through cooking to ensure that the top ones are cooked too.
Once the water has evaporated, remove the lid and turn the heat up. Very quickly, the potatoes will start to dry out and wrinkle. They will be encrusted with the salt. They are now ready to serve. Note: You don't have to serve these with the Mojos, they would be just as good with simple mayonnaise or a salad dressing too, or just dipped in ketchup!

To make the Mojos:
Put all the dry ingredients for the red mojo, including the garlic, in a spice or coffee grinder and blend until you have a reddish paste. Pour in the olive oil and some of the vinegar and process until you have a smooth dipping sauce. Taste for seasoning, add more salt or vinegar or oil if you feel it needs it. Decant into little dipping pots.
The green Mojo is made in exactly the same manner.
Serve with the potatoes or raw vegetables or chips, whatever is good!


valentinA said...

Never heard of Mojos but they sound perfect with the potatoes dipped in them!
p.s: I love the spices you used.:)

Lydia said...

I agree wholeheartedly about the "starification" of cooking. Thanks for the rant. I discovered Elisabeth Luard years ago, on a trip to London. I'd stopped in to Books for Cooks, and asked them to recommend some cookbooks that might not be available in the US. One of the books was by Ms. Luard, and I was enchanted and have been a fan ever since.

The TriniGourmet said...

these sound really good and simple :) have booked to try! :)

Kelly-Jane said...

I have unwittingly made a version of this when I have not been paying attention and pretty much boiled a pan of new potatoes dry (dry but not scorched). The white salty edge had a good flavour, so we have eaten them on the odd occassion taht this has happened!

Next time I'll say I meant to do it :)

Kathryn said...

I have made those sauces, or versions thereof, before, and I agree they are fab. I've never made the potatoes though - they are intriguing! One to try.

Ulrike said...

Potatoes are to die for, in all variations. Germans are fond of potatoes ;-)

JennDZ said...

Yum, this recipe sure looks delicious, and I could not agree more with you about how cooking shows are more about good looks than cooking. I will definately be back!

Joyce said...

I'm in total agreement with your rant on aesthetics/cosmetics - let's concentrate on the food.
Ever watch reruns of Graham Kerr?
Before he gave up drinking?
Anyway, love the spuds...can't wait to try this cooking technique.

tigerfish said...

Do you eat those potatoes with the skins? Heard that potato skins are nutritious. I usually keep their "skins on" in my stew.
Every time I read your post, I learnt something new. :D

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Oh hooray another way to do potatoes. I have some little reds on the counter now that should be perfect! I've often baked them in the salt but not this way!

Madam Chow said...

Great post. I love Tamasin Day-Lewis, and count myself lucky for having discovered her on this side of the pond. And Ina is "too in love with her husband"??! Hers is one of two cooking shows my husband will deign to watch, in part because of the obvious affection between Ina and her husband. I love it, too.

Helene said...

I am 100% with on the good looks vs good foods...pass me those potatoes now will you?!!

Lucy said...

I have this book and , rather shamefully I must say, have never opened it. Must get cracking!

Elizabeth Luard and Tamasin Day-Lewis. Two of the best.

Great Mojos.

Melting Wok said...

just saw that pix up there on the top left hand corner, hehe, so sweet, u both looked really matching ! :) btw, your mojos are mucho buenos !! :))

Gattina said...

Reading your post is a real fun! Can't agree with you anymore on those wanna-be chefs/cookbooks!

Anonymous said...

This comment is in reference to Paul's entry on nostalgia foods. I just a few months ago threw away that patch. Now I wish I had not because you could get it when you come over to the United States. mom

Sig said...

Freya, love your piece on the wannabe chefs, and you convinced me to go buy a Elisabeth Luard book. The mojos and potatoes look yummy!

Katie said...

Blogger gave me an error so I'll try this again: I really like the '2 Fat Ladies' and Floyd and watch them both when I get the chance.
I can no longer stand the Food Network in the U.S.
Loved the potatoes ...and the mojos

T.W. Barritt said...

I too have given up on the Food Network, because of the "glossification" of most of the programming. My favorite program, long since cancelled, was "Cooking Live." It was spontaneous, and genunine and anything could happen. Recently started watching Julia Child's French Chef on DVD. As you would guess, while Julia was in no way "slick" the focus was on the food!

Lis said...

I've never heard of Elizabeth Luard or Tamasin Day-Lewis - but now I want their books!! I couldn't agree more about the celeb cooks these days. I'm ashamed to admit, I joined a cookbook club (not ashamed of that part) and one of the first books I purchased (for a penny THANK GOD) was Giada's first book.. A) there are more pictures of her boobs than there are of the food. and B) you can get everyone of those recipes off foodtv.com NEVER AGAIN will I buy a celeb book unless it's been proven to me that the recipes are good (and not for free on the web somewhere) and that there will be no pictures of someone's mammories staring me in the face. God.

Uhh.. sorry.. Anyhoo! Can I have some potatoes please? And I'd like to try the yellow mojo if you don't mind. ;)


Gemma said...

Must go and look up Elisabeth Luard now! Anyway, I really like all of the people you mentioned although some I prefer in print to TV. I suppose people who can't see why Sophie Grigson, Tamasin Day-Lewis, et al are so well regarded are into cookery books and programmes for the aesthetics rather than for the actual cooking.