Tag Archive: cooking


guac_titleAlmost three years late, I’ve discovered this little gem of a game called Guacamelee. The nice thing about being late to the party though, is that the game is now available in an extended “super turbo championship” edition with additional levels and mechanics.

At the heart of it, Guacamelee is a “metroidvania”. You’re thrown into an open world with a limited set of moves/powers, and soon notice that plenty of areas are blocked or unreachable. Then, as you progress through the game, new powers unlock access to these previously unreachable areas, expanding the places you had already visited and opening up new ones. By the standards of that gaming genre, Guacamelee is rather linear, with obvious guidance as to where you should go next. It also is very generous with death, with save points littering the world, and platforming areas simply sending you back to your last platform in case of a terminal fall. Together, this makes it short-ish, as it took me around 10h of game time to finish it. That’s however without discovering all secrets (something the game handily allows you to do after you win), and in normal mode (hard mode gets unlocked after a normal win).

What sets the game apart however are two things. The first one is the combat. Your character is a wrestler, and you get to beat up the hordes of bad guys with a neat range of punches, kicks, grappling and throwing moves. The attack moves can also be chained up for surprisingly large combos, and a series of quests showcases the kind of sequences you can land on the opposition. Punching a skeleton into the air before grabbing it on the way down to pile-drive it to the ground never gets old. And you get to do it often as in addition to the open world monsters, you regularly get ‘trapped’ into arenas which you can only exit after having beating up all the foes. Where it gets better is that the combat moves you get to unlock through the game double up as movement skills, granting you additional vertical or horizontal range mid-air. This gets put to good use by the level design with many small platforming puzzles.

These piñatas are your reward after clearing an arena. I simply love the colours in this game...

These piñatas are your reward after clearing an arena. I simply love the colours in this game…

The other thing setting the game apart is its mexican-inspired theme. It is a silly magic-infused clichéed take over various bits of mexican culture, with a fair amount of gaming culture references to make it a rather unique setting. This makes for a nice change of atmosphere from medieval european clichés or generic medieval fantasy fare. If the story is a rather standard save the princess tale, the overall theme gives it that bit more life, and an atmosphere. You play as a luchador (hence the wrestling combat moves) across a lovely landscape in saturated warm colours. The art style is rather unique and goes very well with the game design: the welcoming warm colours go hand-in-hand with the generous respawn on death. The game is there to be enjoyed, not to frustrate or depress through a sinister dark atmosphere. A lovely soundtrack plays its part too.

Boss fights come up with full-screen match posters.

Boss fights come up with full-screen match posters.

And as if the game hadn’t caught me enough just yet, it pulled the food card with a side-quest that has you rounding up the ingredients for a world-record enchilada. As I ran around looking for that elusive perfect chili pepper, I could already feel that this was going to go beyond the realm of gaming. And so, at the weekend, I prepared some enchiladas for the family lunch. With no mexican cuisine knowledge and limited to easily sourced ingredients in Ireland, this has of course zero authenticity. The result was however exactly what I was after and the kids loved it which marks it as a household success. In order to mark the complete lack of authenticity and taking a leaf from a Guacamelee special power then, I’ll name these the Enchiladas Derp Derp.

Enchiladas Derp Derp

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Ingredients (makes 8 enchiladas):

– 8 wheat tortillas
– 400g chicken breast
– 200g mature cheddar, grated
– 400g red kidney beans
– 400ml passata (or 400g chopped tomatoes)
– 1 tomato or a handful cherry tomatoes
– 1 onion
– 3 garlic cloves
– 1 red pepper
– 1 small chili pepper

Preparation:
Chop the onion and start frying it in olive oil for about 5 minutes in olive oil. Remove the seeds from the pepper and chop it, as well as the garlic and chili, and add them to the onion. Chop the tomato and add it to the mix after the pepper has started to go soft (the tomato is only there for the texture, so you can skip it if you’re using a can of chopped tomatoes).

While the vegetable are cooking, chop the chicken into small bits and fry it in olive oil until it starts getting brown on all sides. About half-way through the chicken cooking, add the beans to the vegetable mix and fry for a few minutes before adding the passata, saving just a bit in a large bowl. Add a bit of water to the sauce if needed, and finally, add the chicken to the mix and season to taste.

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Add some water to dilute further the saved up passata and use a bit of it to coat the bottom of an over dish. Use the rest to colour up a bit and rehydrate the tortillas one at a time by dipping the tortilla into the diluted tomato then spreading it to the rest of the surface with your hands. This helps the tortillas to bake nicely rather than dry up into burnt wheat crisps.

Put the tortilla in the dish and fill up the middle with a helping of sauce and top up with grated cheese before rolling and pushing it to the side of the dish. Repeat until all enchiladas are rolled up and top them with a bit more cheese. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 200°C.

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Mulled Wine

With winter settling in, the warmth of the house becomes more enjoyable by the day as snow and ice now cover the landscape. A traditional christmas-period drink, mulled wine (vin chaud as it’s called in France) is ideal shrug off the cold and fill the house with the fragrance of warm spices.

Mulled wine is pretty easy to do, as the basic idea is to warm up some sugared wine, and throw a couple spices to the mix to enrich the flavour. The recipe below is the french interpretation i prepared at the weekend.

For 4-6 cups

Ingredients:
75cl red wine (Bordeaux or Pinot Noir will do nicely)
100-140g sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3-5 cloves
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange

Grate your lemon and orange to collect the zest, and throw it into a pot, together with the rest of the ingredients. Bring slowly to the boil stirring occasionally. Optionally, if you fancy it, you can flambé the wine in the pot when just on the boil. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Drain, then serve in a cup with a slice of orange. Enjoy as cold becomes a faint memory!


Lord Of The Rings Online (LOTRO from here) is a middle-earth massive multiplayer role playing game (MMORPG). As most games of the genre, it includes various kinds of crafting as in-game activities. Considering the hobbits love for all things edible, it’s no surprise cooking is one of the available crafts. One consequence of this is that as i play, cook and eat in virtual middle-earth, i soon enough find myself craving some of the virtual meals my hobbit prepared.

Thus, every now and then, my cooking is directly inspired by LOTRO, which has several perks:
– it satisfies my craving.
– it has me learning a new recipe every now and then.
– being ‘middle-earth food’, it gains additional credit with the kids.

The Chicken and Barley soup recipe below is thus one of those things i owe to Tolkien. With a few exceptions, i’ve never been much into soups, but this one happened to catch my attention as weather was gradually shifting towards winter. It’s trivial to make and goes down a treat on a cold evening. In game, it provides a bonus to fear resistance. After eating it in the real world i wasn’t scared, so it works.

In game, to craft a Chicken Barley soup , you will need:

  • green onions
  • a bundle of winter barley
  • some chicken stock
  • optionally, a sprig of parsley

In my adaptation, i went for a large yellow onion rather than scallions, seasoned with thyme rather than parsley, and added a few carrots i had left.

For about 6 servings (less if hobbits involved)

Ingredients:
– chicken stock (enough to fill about 2/3 of the pot)
– 3 fresh chicken fillets
– 2 or 3 carrots
– 1 large onion
– 1 cup of pearled barley
– thyme

Dice the chicken and the carrots. Slice the onion into long thin pieces, and fry them in some butter until they turn golden brown. Throw in the chicken and carrots, season with the thyme, and continue to fry for about a minute, stirring occasionally. Pour the chicken stock, and add the barley. Bring to the boil and maintain it for about 10 minutes. Salt to convenience. Finally, cover and let simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes. Enjoy.

Note that middle-earth probably doesn’t have instant chicken stock in cubes. For increased authenticity, prepare this soup on the day after eating a roast chicken, and make your stock from the bones and leftovers. Simply remove the remaining skin and fat bits, and break up the bones in a pot. Fill with cold water, bring to the boil, then simmer for at least an hour. Remove the bones, strain the stock, and you’re done.