Clay Cooking in the Art Kitchen, Puerto Vallarta

The gang of six on the way to Art Vallarta.

Diego, Frida, and her monkey welcomed us to the Mexican-Morrocan cooking class at Art Vallarta last Wednesday evening. Hosted by the wonderful Nathalie, the class is held in the Art Kitchen penthouse of the San Franciscan condo complex in Old Town Puerto Vallarta, in the air above Art Vallarta.

The artist-painted chair backs are a new addition to the terrace dining table this year and they are gorgeous, as are the beautiful handmade textile place-mats.

Nathalie, dressed in colourful Frida-inspired clothing and apron, greeted us with refreshing blended drinks of tequila, cilantro, and pineapple juice (so much for my swearing off tequila …).

The first order of business was removing the pistils from a bowl of zucchini flowers to be used in a crepe dish.

Next, Janet was deputised to wash the banana leaves for a clay-cooked fish dish, while Maggie stoked the fire in the chimenea, in which the fish was to be cooked.

In addition to the raw clay platters Nathalie had pre-prepared, looking like enormous peanut butter cookies, the dish required a sauce of passion plant seeds from her enormous flowers, lots of cilantro, red onion, and cream.

This is the passion plant flower; it is at least four times as big as the ones I grow on my deck.

After patting out the clay and covering it with a banana leaf, we added a chunk of red snapper, drenched it with sauce, sealed it up in a banana leaf, and wrapped the entire package in clay, being sure that the clay had no holes.

Nathalie was pleased with our creations.

While we made the clay fish pockets, Brook whipped up the batter for the crepes in a large clay dish.

Once the chimenea was hot enough, Nathalie inserted the clay fish pockets deep into its belly, finding room for all nine pieces.

For the main dish, Nathalie had marinated chicken thighs and placed them in the bottom of one of Froylan’s whimsical clay tagines.

Building up the dish into a pyramid of food, we added prunes, red onion, herika sauce,

carrots, zucchini, garbanzo beans, potatoes, lots and lots of cilantro,

pomegranate seeds,

and covered the whole enormous pile with cabbage leaves at the end. The tagine is simply placed on a stove top element and left to cook for an hour or so; since the food that requires the most time to cook is placed on the bottom and that which requires the least at the top, all of it is ready to go at the same time.

The zucchini flowers were rolled into the crepes with a mild white cheese and covered in a roasted tomato sauce.

It was a bit tricky getting all of the clay pockets out of the chimenea’s belly.

Unfortunately, two of the pockets exploded while cooking but mine survived intact.

Once seated at the dining table, we each took turns whacking the clay with wooden mallets to reveal the fish inside.

My favourite dishes were the spicy cold avocado soup and the crepe.

This is what the crepe, when cooked, looked like. I really love the unusual ingredients and unique ways in which Nathalie’s recipes are prepared and cooked – her class is highly recommended!

And here’s the tagine dish. Thanks to Nathalie for a wonderful cooking class and great evening on her terrace!

See more pics here. For more info on the Art Kitchen, go here.

 

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