This week in The Happy Foodie test kitchen, the team has been mixing things up with MEZCLA, the debut solo cookbook from Ixta Belfrage. If we thought we were obsessed with Ixta’s recipes before, it’s safe to say our devotion to her flavourful, vibrant, genre-redefining dishes has reached a whole new level with the arrival of this glorious cookbook. From a game-changing prawn lasagne to a salad with crumpet croutons, here’s how we got on cooking up a selection of recipes from the book.
From the book
MEZCLA: Recipes to Excite
From the co-author of Ottolenghi’s FLAVOUR
100 vibrant and colourful dishes with inventive ingredient combinations
A blend of Italian dishes, with Mexican flavours, and Brazilian spices
Who: Daniel Bhattacharya, Product Lead
What I made: Porcini Ragu
What I thought: WOW. This recipe is described as a speedy version of Ottolenghi’s Mushroom Lasagne (one of our all-time favourite recipes to make), but due to the three hours needed to make it, we usually reserve that for special occasions.
Ixta’s ragu does not scrimp on flavour and will fast become a weekly staple here in our house. Ready in around 30 minutes, this dish has the same incredible depth of flavour of said lasagne. Having made a few recipes from the book I can attest that great flavour is a constant for Ixta. The inclusion of indulgent cream and toppings of Parmesan at the end add that extra special element to make this a rich meal. No doubt it will be frequently requested by everyone lucky enough to be served it.
Who: Morgana Chess, Campaigns Officer, Ebury Publishing
What I made: Tomato, Tahini and Ginger Salad with Crumpet Croutons
What I thought: Need I say more than CRUMPET. CROUTONS. Utter genius. These crunchy garlicky bites were so delicious and will definitely be a salad staple for me moving forward. I also loved the spicy freshness of the tahini ginger sauce with the tomatoes and cucumber, the flavour was so moreish. This was really easy to put together too and would work well as either a main or part of a spread. A good one to have in your back pocket for when you want to impress, without the effort!
Who: Vikki Mizon, Head of Creative Events, Penguin Live
What I made: Lentils with Caramelised Onion Aïoli and Crispy Chilli Oil
What I thought: This was a super warming, comforting and flavour-packed dish, which helpfully uses a lot of store cupboard staples so it didn’t require much shopping at all. Once the onions have caramelised, it’s quick to throw together, so would make a good weeknight dinner – I made it for lunch whilst working from home and it felt like a real treat. The miso, soy sauce and onions together make it really rich and are balanced perfectly with the freshness of the aioli. A hit and I can’t wait to make more recipes from the book!
Who: Lara McLeod, Brand Executive, Ebury Publishing
What I made: Duck with Mexicorn Sauce and Spring Onion Salsa
What I thought: I really loved this recipe, and it made for a rich and delicious meal. I think duck always feels like a special treat. Even though it didn’t take long and wasn’t too onerous, the sauce that went with it took it to a new level! The way Ixta tells you to cook the duck means you get such a delicious piece of meat, with a crispy skin but pink and tender, and then you’ve got the peppery punch of the sauce. I actually made up a little batch of extra sauce to add to some chips the following day – it was that tasty! Not one dish in MEZCLA has disappointed, and this one was no different – 10/10 would recommend.
Who: Emily Brickell, Editor, Ebury Publishing
What I made: Chiles Relleños with Salsa Roja Risotto
What I thought: This is a completely delicious take on a risotto (using brown rice), served with cheesy stuffed peppers. I really enjoyed the process of making it, and the end product did not disappoint. I’ll be repurposing the salsa roja recipe for all sorts of dishes because it was so simple and yummy. This is one of the book’s longer recipes, but Ixta gives several tips on preparing ahead so it came together very easily and quickly when I needed to serve. It would make a fantastic vegetarian centrepiece.
Who: Sam Crisp, Ebury Commissioning Editor
What I made: Prawn Lasagne with Habanero Oil
What I thought: This was an absolute 10/10. Hands down the best lasagne I’ve ever eaten. I’ve never tried fish in a lasagne before and it was great, the cream and cheese balance out the spice perfectly. Super easy to make and a great recipe to prepare and assemble ahead of time so that you can just put it in the oven when you’re ready. The habanero oil is delicious, very quick to make, and you have lots leftover – so I’ll be drizzling it on everything from now on.
Who: Ellie Auton
What I made: Poached Fish Curry with Udon Noodles
What I thought: I was SO excited to cook from MEZCLA, every recipe just looked mouth-wateringly good, but I chose this one for the promise of it being a quick one-pan meal – and that it was! This took me around 20 minutes from start to finish and I couldn’t believe how packed with flavour it was; such a good recipe for a tasty weeknight meal. All of the supermarkets I went to had sold out of udon (probably to make this dish!) so I did have to substitute different noodles, but this was still so delicious.
Who: Jessica Lockyer-Palmer, Marketing Manager, The Happy Foodie
What I made: Roasted Aubergines with Coriander and Anchovy Salsa
What I thought: It was quite the challenge deciding on just one recipe to try from MEZCLA because every single dish somehow seems even more tempting than the last. After much deliberation, I settled on this super summery number with cubes of aubergine roasted in plenty of olive oil until they’re crisp on the outside and butter-soft in the middle. Added into the mix are cherry tomatoes that soften right down in the oven and add streaks of vibrant red sweetness and strips of roasted red chilli for a subtle heat. It’s all finished off with a fragrant coriander, basil and anchovy salsa and chunks of milky mozzarella. This dish is an absolute celebration of summer produce with layers of flavour and texture that belie just how easy it is to make.
Who: Rhiannon Griffiths, Online Editor, Audience Development
What I made: Piri Piri Tofu with Crispy Crispy Orzo
What I thought: It was so hard to choose a recipe to cook from MEZCLA because – and I’m not exaggerating – every single dish in the book looks absolutely delicious, but this recipe for piri piri tofu caught my eye immediately. I already had most of ingredients in my cupboard and the recipe was really easy to follow, so the entire cooking process was straightforward and stress-free – and the end result was so tasty and packed with flavour. It’s definitely one I’ll be making again – once I’ve made my way through the rest of the book!
Who: Helen Langley, Senior Email Marketing Manager, ABC
What I made: Roasted Onion Aioli and Tomato Toast
What I thought: This dish was actually surprisingly quick to make. I had time to make it and eat it over a lunch break and it really spiced up what is usually a very bland lunch rotation. It was absolutely delicious and I’ll definitely be making it again!