Mezcla - Recipes to Excite

Mezcla – Recipes to Excite

Ixta Belfrage is one of the most talked about new voices on the UK culinary landscape

Mezcla – Recipes to Excite – Ixta Belfrage is one of the most talked about new voices on the UK culinary landscape.  She shot to fame in 2020 when she co-authored the bestselling FLAVOUR with Yotam Ottolenghi, and has now published her first solo cookbook, MEZCLA – and it’s fabulous! In Spanish mezcla means to mix, blend, or fusion and in this lovely cookbook, Ixta shares 100 bold, impactful recipes inspired by Italy, Brazil, Mexico and beyond.

This book is bright and colourful, as are the recipes and photography. Ixta’s style of cooking draws inspiration from three countries she grew up travelling to, eating in and obsessing over. Brazil (where her mother is from), Italy (where she lived as a child) and Mexico (where her grandfather lived). She cut her teeth at NOPI before moving to the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, where she worked for Yotam Ottolenghi for five years, contributing to his columns in the Guardian and The New York Times.

There are recipes for every mood in this book, from quick, midweek dishes, to longer projects for when you have the time to slow down and savour the process. The recipes celebrate fusion cooking, whilst the introduction is an ode to the countries that taught me to love food.’ says Ixta.  MEZCLA: Recipes to Excite is divided into simpler recipes (for when you need something great on the table, fast) and longer recipes (for when you have time to slow and savour the process), and includes quick, flavourful recipes, as well as dishes to spend more time over like Chiles Rellenos with Salsa Roja Risotto. Some 60% of the book is vegetarian/vegan and most of the veg recipes are easily veganised.

It really is a book to read and drool over!  Here is a recipe to inspire you to add the book to your Christmas present wish list.  The ragù is an inexpensive and delicious midweek supper.   Extracted from Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage (Ebury Press, £26) All photography by Yuki Sugiura

Porcini ragù

Mezcla - Recipes to Excite

“I’m not sure if you’re allowed to call a sauce that doesn’t contain meat, doesn’t start with a soffritto, and that only cooks for 10 minutes a ragù, and yet because of the concentrated flavour of the dried porcini, this has all the intensity of a meat ragù that has simmered for hours. Anyone who has made the spicy mushroom lasagne from Ottolenghi Flavour will realise what I’m trying to achieve here: an abridged version of that ragù with the same intensity but without the hours chopping kilos of mushrooms (yes, I heard you!). This recipe is inspired by two of my favourite dishes at Ristorante Pizzeria Acone near where I grew up in Tuscany – penne all’Aconese and tagliatelle alla Beppa.”

Serves 2 as a main with leftovers or 4 as a starter

40g dried porcini

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to serve 3 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped (not crushed!)

1⁄2 teaspoon chilli flakes (or less if you prefer)

10g fresh parsley (stalks and leaves),    finely chopped, plus extra to serve

1/3 teaspoon fine salt

11⁄2 tablespoons tomato purée/paste about 50 twists of freshly ground black pepper

250g dried tagliatelle nests

40g Parmesan, very finely grated, plus extra to serve

3 tablespoons double cream


In a medium bowl, cover the porcini with boiling water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 75g of the soaking liquid. Very finely chop the porcini to mince consistency, then set aside.

Put the oil, garlic, chilli flakes, parsley, and fine salt into a cold, large sauté pan on medium-low heat. Very gently fry for 5 minutes until soft and lightly golden, turning the heat down if the garlic starts to brown. Increase the heat to medium-high, then add the chopped porcini, tomato purée/paste and plenty of pepper.

Stir-fry for 3 minutes, then set the pan aside while you boil the pasta.  Cook the pasta in salted boiling water for about 6 minutes, until al dente. Drain, reserving 350g of the pasta water.

Return the sauté pan with the porcini to medium-high heat, then add the 350g of pasta water and the reserved 75g of porcini soaking liquid. Stir, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, leave to bubble away for 3 minutes.

Add half the Parmesan to the pan, stirring until it has melted before adding the rest. Lower the heat to medium, then stir in the cream, followed by the drained tagliatelle. Toss over the heat until the pasta and sauce have emulsified – about 11⁄2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and serve at once, finished with as much extra oil and Parmesan as your heart desires.

Vegan option: You can easily make this vegan by using plant-based cheese and cream.

Notes – It’s always good to have all your prep done before you start cooking, but it’s especially important with this recipe, as things happen rather quickly. Make sure you have your porcini soaked and finely chopped, garlic and parsley finely chopped, and your Parmesan finely grated before you turn the heat on.

Whipped yoghurt with roasted strawberries and peanut fudge sauce

Mezcla - Recipes to Excite

The lime-roasted strawberries and peanut fudge sauce are essentially a refined combination of peanut butter and jelly and boy do they sing together!

Here I serve them with a simple whipped yoghurt, but you could serve them with plain yoghurt or shop-bought ice cream. If you’re feeling wild, pile the whipped yoghurt, roasted strawberries, and fudge sauce on top of a caramelised roasted crumpet (page 236) and dust with cocoa powder to offset the sweetness.

Serves 4

Roasted strawberries

300g frozen strawberries, defrosted (frozen strawberries will produce a redder syrup, but you can use fresh strawberries – stalks removed and roughly chopped – just make sure they’re extra ripe)

50g caster sugar

1⁄2 lime

2 cinnamon sticks, roughly broken

Whipped yoghurt

150g mascarpone, fridge-cold 200g yoghurt, fridge-cold

1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Peanut fudge sauce

50g smooth peanut butter (I use Manilife)

11⁄2 tablespoons cocoa powder (15g)

75g maple syrup

1 teaspoon soy sauce (or tamari)

11⁄2 tablespoons water

Whipped yoghurt with roasted strawberries and peanut fudge sauce


Preheat the oven to 200°C fan/220°C.

For the roasted strawberries, place all the ingredients in an ovenproof dish just big enough to fit the strawberries in a single layer. They should be snug, but not piled on top of each other. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway. Set aside to cool.

Place the mascarpone, yoghurt, vanilla paste, and maple syrup in a large bowl and whisk together until completely smooth. Keep the bowl in the fridge until ready to serve.

For the fudge sauce, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. You may need to add more water or maple syrup, depending on the thickness of your peanut butter. You’re looking for a smooth, thick but pourable consistency.

In individual glasses, layer the chilled yoghurt with the warm strawberries and the fudge sauce and serve.

The Seasoned Gastronome

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