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How to make Thomasina Miers' roasted pepper and goat's cheese tart

Catching recent instalments of MasterChef, Thomasina Miers finds herself marvelling at how things have changed since she won the BBC contest in 2005.

"It feels like we were in the dark ages when we were doing it," says the 38-year-old chef, who founded the popular Wahaca Mexican street food chain after being crowned winner.

"I remember cooking for the army and putting some basil in my rice pudding because I thought it would give it a nice perfume, and Gregg [Wallace] going, 'What the hell are you doing?'

Chilli Notes is the new book by Thomasina Miers
Chilli Notes is the new book by Thomasina Miers

"Now, you wouldn't think twice; you get basil ice cream all over the place."

The mother-of-two, who has just released her latest cookbook, Chilli Notes, admits she has "never cooked any" of the type of dishes now conjured up in the MasterChef finals.

"I find that type of food very male anyway - very molecular [gastronomy]," she adds. "There are a lot of male chefs in this country now doing ultra-precision kind of cooking, which is really clever and amazing and brilliant.

'I always think that subtle chilli spicing is more interesting than blowing your head off'

"But I guess, as a female and as a mother, I'm more interested in this idea of food as being for everyone - feeding people, providing nutrition, that everyday purpose of food."

Everyday needn't equal boring, however, which is why Miers has infused Wahaca's menu and the recipes in her new book with a delicious kick of chilli.

And when it comes to chillies, she recommends "going lower rather than higher".

"Definitely, when I go to Mexico I can eat a really hot sauce, but [here] it's not like I smother all my food with them," she adds.

"I always think that subtle chilli spicing is a lot more interesting than blowing your head off."

Here are two recipes from Chilli Notes for you to try at home...

The roasted red pepper and goat's cheese tart
The roasted red pepper and goat's cheese tart


(Serves 4)

230g ready-made all-butter puff pastry

150g roasted red peppers (jarred to make it easy), cut into strips

1/2 a red onion, finely sliced

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

25g pine nuts

80g goat's cheese, crumbled

1/2tsp Turkish chilli flakes or a pinch of sweet smoked paprika

1 egg, beaten and 2 more if you want to make the tart more substantial

For the tapenade:

1 garlic clove

Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

1tbsp of capers, washed in cold water

110g black olives

A good handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped

1 large fresh red chilli, roughly chopped

6tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Here's how you do it

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7.

To make the tapenade, whizz all the ingredients apart from the olive oil in a food processor until roughly combined, then add the olive oil.

Roll the pastry, place on a lined or buttered baking sheet and chill for 20 minutes. Lightly smear the base of the tart with the tapenade, making sure you leave a border of pastry, 1cm wide, all the way around.

Scatter the base with the strips of pepper, onion, tomatoes, pine nuts and cheese. Brush the edges of the pastry with a beaten egg and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the pastry has risen and is golden and crisp and the tomatoes and onion are cooked. Sprinkle with the chilli flakes and serve.

You can also break a couple of eggs on top before baking if you want to make the tart a little more substantial.


(Makes 500ml of 'snow')

2 mangoes, peeled and sliced

300g raspberries, sliced in half

150ml apple juice

For the nieve ('snow'):

90g caster sugar

1 fresh red chilli, halved lengthways

Zest of 1 lime

100ml apple juice

150ml lime juice (about 5-6 limes)

2tbsp 100% agave tequila (preferably an unaged blanco)

Here's how you do it

To make the granita, put the sugar, chilli and 200ml of water into a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Simmer, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved completely, then remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the lime zest and set aside.

Once the syrup has completely cooled down, pour in the apple juice followed by the lime juice and tequila and stir to combine. The mixture will be quite strong-tasting at this point, but once frozen, it will lose much of its punch.

Pour the liquid through a sieve into a shallow dish and place in the freezer. After three hours, use a fork to break up any ice that has formed, particularly around the edges of the dish. Return the granita to the freezer, repeating the raking process every few hours or so until the whole dish consists of crunchy, flaky ice crystals. It is important to use a shallow dish, or this process will take a lot longer!

Mix the mangoes and raspberries together (you can do this a few hours before you are ready to eat, but not much longer, or the raspberries will start looking soggy). When you are ready to eat, dress with the apple juice and serve in bowls with the lime and chilli snow scattered on top.

Chilli Notes is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £25

Thomasina Miers won MasterChef in 2005
Thomasina Miers won MasterChef in 2005
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