Book review: Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage

06 October 2022 by
Book review: Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage

Mezcla brings a fusion of Brazilian, Italian, Mexican and British cuisines, among others, taking you outside the orthodox box

Don't glance at the cover of Mezcla and confuse it with the Mexican spirit made from the agave plant (that's Mezcal). Instead, Ixta Belfrage's first solo publication translates from Spanish into ‘mix', ‘mixture', ‘blend' or ‘fusion'. And boy, what a fusion this book is.

Belfrage grew up in the mountains of Tuscany to a Brazillian mother and a father born in the US to English parents. Her parents met in Mexico and she has travelled around these three countries, their cuisines providing the building blocks to this book. She cut her teeth at Nopi before moving to the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen and co-authoring Flavour. This influence can been seen throughout Mezcla.

Take the cannelloni enchiladas, where the traditional bechamel, mozzarella and pasta are combined with cumin, chipotle and coriander, which she promises will make complete sense once you taste it. Kohlrabi with miso meuniere, upside-down plantain omelette with Scotch bonnet salsa and mackerel udon all look tantalising, while the book also opens the readers' eyes to new ingredients in an Ottolenghi-like fashion, such as ajvar, a condiment from the Balkans, made with peppers and aubergines, which she pairs with lamb loin fillets and miso butter.

Her recipe for TV chips loads tinned tuna, Parmesan cream and chili salsa onto roasted chips in a messy dish you can imagine Nigella enjoying solo in her pyjamas, while the brown butter curried cornbread would easily take centre stage at any dinner party. Not every recipe fuses different cuisines. Take the simple Italian dessert of pane, vino e zucchero (bread with wine and sugar), or the Brazilian Romeo e Julieta (squares of cheese and guava paste), which she provides detailed background on. Other standout dishes include a miso caramel ice-cream bomba and a whipped yogurt with roasted strawberries and peanut fudge sauce.

While her recipes might make some orthodox chefs flinch, others will be inspired– you just have to put a bit of trust in her and have a little fun along the way.

Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage (Ebury Press, £26)

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