Monday, 15 December 2014

5 Questions - Allan Bell, Owner of Taco Mazama Mexican Kitchen

Many years ago, Billy Connolly joked that Mexican food was all the same thing just wrapped differently, and until fairly recently I was probably of the same opinion. However after trying out some of the latest Mexican restaurants and takeaways that have opened in Glasgow, maybe my mind has been changed to see Mexican food in a very different light.
Earlier in the year I was fortunate enough to be invited to a launch night at Topolabamba on St Vincent Street in the Glasgow's city centre and had a fantastic night working my way through some of the tapas style dishes that they serve up. More recently, I was invited along to the latest branch of Taco Mazama Mexican Kitchen, a growing chain of Mexican fast food outlets.
I was aware of Taco Mazama from the whiffs of spicy food that I would get as I walked by the door of the Renfield Street branch on my regular lunchtime walks around the city centre. I knew that there was a branch in the West End if the city on Byres Road too but Ive never had the chance to pop into either. In all honesty, fast food isn't really my thing at lunchtime so it was easy for me to walk on by. So perhaps it was a bit of good fortune that I was invited along to the recently opened restaurant which sits inside Glasgow Central train station.
Taco Mazama's tagline reads "Burritos, Tequila & Tacos" so it was fitting that our night started off with some frozen margaritas. As I was driving I could only have a little sip but what i did taste was packed a good tequila kick balanced wonderfully with fresh lime juice, fortunately the drinks didn't go to waste as Nicola loved a frozen margarita and helped me finish. Our margaritas were accompanied by warm nachos served with homemade guacamole, fresh spicy salsa, and a slightly scary salsa made using refried beeans and ghost chillies!
The menu at Taco Mazama boasts a mix of burritos, soft and crispy tacos, nachos, quesadillas, fajitas and salads. Over the course of the evening, the staff done their best to let us try everything on the menu, starting with delicious soft flour tacos stuffed with slow-cooked barbecue pork, chargilled marinated chicken, barbacoa shredded beef, and vegetarian chilli.
Next up were quesadillas filled with Monterrey Jack, caramelised onions and more of the marinated chicken. I could eat quesadillas all day, they're such a great pick'up snack! In fact, all of the food that we were served, including the crispy filled corn tacos, was great and a fantastic introduction to Mexican street food.
As the night came to an end, the non drivers were treated to a shot of chilled honey tequila whilst I tucked into a creamy baked vanilla cheesecake whilst the owner of the Taco Mazama, Allan Bell filled us in on his plans for his growing empire.
Here's Allan's story;
How did you get started?
I got the idea backpacking around California one summer, and after waiting for a few years for someone to open a burrito bar in Glasgow eventually decided if I wanted a burrito I’d just have to do it myself. To start off I spent a couple of months in the US trying out different burrito and taco chains, then spent a year or so developing recipes and finding premises, and Taco Mazama was born.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Know how to do every single task in your company and what the difference is between it being done well or done badly. You don't need to be able to chop as fast as the chef or be as organised as the office manager but if you don't know the process, you can't manage it. But don't be afraid to delegate to people that can do it better!
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years’ time?
I'd like to us to be large enough to be able to be able to experiment more. There are some amazing Mexican dishes that are virtually unknown here, and as a small business it’s difficult to develop a market for a new or unknown product, the bigger you get, the easier that is.
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
Guacamole! Definitely Guacamole. It’s impossible to buy pre-made, goes with pretty much everything (Guacamole omelettes, shouldn’t work, but do!) and is really good for you as well. Does it count as cooking though?
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Ah, well it'd have to be someone dead as I could invite living people anytime. I'd be inclined to pick someone that could make a meal last a really, really long time as well. A Roman emperor maybe, as far I can remember from history they had dinner parties that lasted for days. I think I'd leave the menu up to them - I'm always keen to try new things, and when in Rome...

Having now tried out the food on offer at Taco Mazama Mexican Kitchen, if I were ever passing one of their branches around lunchtime, I would be more than happy to pop in for a bowl of tacos and a plateful of quesadillas. With branches dotted around Glasgow and now reaching across the M8 to Edinburgh, it's going to be a whole lot easier to get my next Mexican fix.
If you love your Mexican food, why not head along and try the Burrito Challenge? If you succeed, you'll win a years worth of free burritos!
Keep up to date with all that's going on at Taco Mazama on Facebook and Twitter.

 Written by Gerry HaughianWritten by Gerry Haughian

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The 12 Days of Mex-Mas Competition

It’s that time of year, and the good people at Pinto are feeling rather generous. (Santa who?) Want to get your hands on some FREE FOOD and be entered to WIN their GRAND PRIZE? Read on amigos….

Every day, they will be revealing a challenge on their Facebook page – simply take part for your chance to WIN the Pinto freebie coupon of that day – simples!

Intrigued? There’s more…

If you win one of their freebies over the 12 days, you will be entered into a prize draw to win the ultimate #PINTOMEXMAS Prize – a MAHOOSIVE hamper with loads of Mexican treats from your amigos here at Pinto! We hand selected everything ourselves!

You’ve got to be in it to win amigos! You can enter as many times as you wish – just remember to be inventive!! Let the games begin – and may the odds be ever in your favour.

Let’s get this trending! Tag #PintoMexMas online!!




Sunday, 7 December 2014

Product Review & 5 Questions - Scotia Spice

Indian food is now amongst one of the most popular cuisines in the UK and it looks as though that's going to be the case for years to come. However, when it comes to trying to recreate classic and authentic tasting Indian dishes at home, most people come unstuck. The supermarkets offer a huge range of curry sauces in easy to cook jars but they rarely tasty like your favourite dish from the takeaway, whilst the majority of those who try to cook a dish from scratch are often out of their depth when it comes to matching and mixing the various spice required to make a truely authentic curry.
On my visit to The BBC Good Food Show at the SECC back in October, I met Yasmin McDonagh who runs Scotia Spice, a cookery school on the outskirts of Glasgow. With family ancestory steeped in the Pakistani Punjab, Yasmin puts keen home cooks through their paces and passes on some of the knowledge that she herself has had passed down from her Mum & Dad and grandparents before them. More recently, Yasmin has put together Punjabi Cookery Kits in an effort to make it even easier for home cooks to serve up traditional Indian food that they can be proud of.
Yasmin was attending the show as a result of Scotia Spice being granted one of the BBC Good Food Show Producer Bursery Awards. The awards are hotly contested amongst producers but Katy Truss of Fabulous Food Finds decided that the "Your Guide to True Punjabi Cooking" was a great idea and as a result of winning her award, Yasmin was invited to exhibit at the BBC Good Food Show Scotland free of charge.
'Your Guide to Punjabi Cooking' is a fantastic idea. Yasmin has put together boxes for chicken, lamb and vegetable curry dishes. Each box includes a number of easy to follow recipe cards plus plenty of foil packed spices and other goodies to help you cook a huge range of authentic Indian meals.
I was very kindly sent a box to sample and last week I made an attempt at the traditional chicken curry. The recipe was so easy to follow, packed with real flavour and made a great change from the generic curry sauce jars that I've been guilty of using in the past. I can't wait to try some of the other recipes from the box.
It made perfect sense that I put my 5 Questions to Scotia Spice and Yasmin was more than happy to take time out to answer them.
Here's Yasmin's story;
How did you get started?
In 2006 I opened the doors to my kitchen and started the Scotia Spice Cookery School. I enjoy dishes and flavours from all over the world but I’ve always taught authentic Punjabi food the way I learnt from my Mum and Dad, the way they learnt from their parents in Pakistan.
This year we introduced ‘Your guide to true Punjabi cooking’. Our kits come packed with a selection of recipes, a cook’s larder of aromatic spices and a range of tips and techniques. It’s everything you need to bring Punjabi cooking into your own home.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
​Whatever your business idea make sure it’s something that you’re really passionate about and believe in. I’ve always wanted to show people just how easy it is to create my family food in their own kitchen from scratch. That’s at the heart of everything we do at Scotia Spice from every single dish I teach on my courses through to the design of our boxes,
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
‘Your guide to true Punjabi cooking’ in the kitchen of every enthusiastic cook in the UK, of course !
We have so much we want to do over the next few years. Something I’m very excited about is the opportunity to learn traditional Sri Lankan home cooking from the Mum of a good friend. We should be starting in April and I can’t wait as it’s a region that I’ve never cooked from before and the flavours and techniques are quite different to those in the Punjab. I’m then hoping to produce a range of Sri Lankan kits. We’re also very keen to produce our very own Scotia Spice spice blends.
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
I think it would have to be my family’s chicken curry. It’s an absolute classic, full of flavour and very straight forward to make. In our house, as a treat, we choose what we want for our birthday meal. My husband and kids ask for chicken curry every time without fail!
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
That’s a tough one! I think I’d invite Ammi-ji, my Granny. She lived in Pakistan so I didn’t see a lot of her and memories are precious and yet her influence is there in every aspect of my Punjabi cooking. She was an instinctive cook with a natural feel for which spices work with ingredients.
I’d love to chat to her about so many things and hope she’d be proud of what we’re doing with Scotia Spice. We‘d eat lamb curry because red meat was a rare treat when she was bringing up her family. My last meal would just have to include a classic masoor dhal and a little bit of indulgence wouldn’t go amiss so my sweet potato and red pepper pakora, which is a recipe I’m very proud of. It’s a variation on Ammi-ji’s recipe and I’d love to see what she thinks of it.
I really enjoyed meeting and chatting with Yasmin at the show and would like to thank her for taking the time to answer the questions for Gerry's Kitchen. I would also like to thank her for sending one of her 'Your Guide to Punjabi Cooking' kits for me to try out.
So if you fancy turning your hand to traditional Indian cooking, why not order your own kit and give it a go?
Keep up to date with Scotia Spice on Facebook and Twitter.

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