The food exploits of Mark Popkiewicz, talented creator of the blog A Mouthful of Mark: Foodies Bits and Recipes, have interested me for some time now. Mark’s recipes have the uncanny ability to make every dish look like comfort food, no matter the style. Add to this his knack for easy-to-follow instructions and enticing food photography, and it’s easy to see why his kitchen skills have earned him a significant following. Mark took some time earlier this month to answer a few questions on topics that include the most exotic ingredient he’s ever worked with (and one that he’d love to in the future), where in the world he would choose to spend a month studying indigenous cuisine if given the chance, and who inspires him when it comes to creating fabulous recipes.
Flavorful World: Your “About Me” section states you “love trying out new recipes from all over the world, and sharing these” on your blog. What cuisine(s) have you had the greatest success with in terms of trying out recipes? What cuisine(s) do you most want to experiment further with?
Mark Popkiewicz: In terms of success I would have to say Mexican cuisine. Having spent the month of May in honour of Cinco de Mayo cooking a great deal of Mexican dishes, this has opened my eyes to the diverse types of recipes there are beyond the usual fajitas & burritos that people associate with this type of food. A particular favourite being chicken tortilla soup which had such a deep rich flavour to it and was a lot of fun to make. I would love to experiment further with Asian food. I have a love for curries, which I enjoy making from scratch however I need to get beyond the traditional as I did with the Mexican food and try out a lot more dishes that these cultures have to offer.
FW: What’s been the biggest benefit of being part of the Foodie 100 UK Food Bloggers index?
MP: Being part of the Foodie 100 UK Food bloggers index has brought visitors to my site and also provides links to other blogs that I enjoy reading and interacting with—always looking for food inspiration.
FW: Using the following ingredients plus up to 5 of your own choosing, create a small plate or a dish suitable for brunch: 1.5 cups of red wine, 8 oz. diced pancetta, one blood orange, and a stalk of lemongrass.
MP: This was a tricky one given the mix of ingredients; you really made me think here. I would opt for a salad using mixed leaves, feta cheese and toasted walnuts adding pan-fried pancetta (finely diced) and dressed with a lemongrass vinaigrette (made up of shallots, chilli, lemongrass, honey, soy sauce and white wine vinegar) and I would wash this down with the red wine. A few more extra ingredients than the 5 that you allowed, but this was tricky!
FW: What is the most exotic ingredient you’ve ever worked with, and in what dish did you utilize it? What is the most exotic ingredient you’ve not yet had the chance to work with but soon hope to, and what attracts you to it?
MP: In terms of exotic, I have used a lot of different ingredients with the Mexican cooking and I have come across so many different types of chillies that I have never heard, of it’s untrue: Chile de árbol, Chipotle meco & Mulato chiles to name a few. Whilst not all readily available in the stores, due to the wonders of the modern age, you can pretty much find any ingredients you want via the internet. A little fact for your readers which I wasn’t aware of: chipotle is in fact, a dried jalapeno. As for ingredients that I have not had the chance to work with, again referring back to wanting to experiment further with Asian food I would love to use Aam Adrak which is a ginger root that has a distinctive green mango flavour, which apparently works well in soups, broths and relishes. Whether or not I will be able to find any in the UK is another story, even with the internet!
FW: What or who has been the biggest influence on your original recipe creation process, and why? How does that inspiration inform your process?
MP: I would have to say my sister Rachel; she is a gifted cook and one of those people who can just rustle something up without thinking about it. She is really good with flavour combinations and isn’t afraid to experiment. When needing inspiration, I would think what would Rachel do. If that didn’t work, I would probably call her!
FW: With regard to recipes that you find and attempt, in what instances are you likeliest to deviate from the source material, and why? In what instances are you likeliest to follow the instructions faithfully, and why?
MP: I often deviate from the source material as I tend to find recipes that I really like, however there could be one or two ingredients that I am not so keen on, what I usually end up doing is finding a couple of similar recipes and choosing the best bits from each and make and new recipe from it, which was the case with the chicken tortilla soup recipe. As I don’t have much of a sweet tooth I don’t tend to make many desserts but when I do, it’s then that I would stick to the recipe for fear of messing it up.
FW: If you could spend a month studying any cuisine anywhere in the world, what cuisine and locale would you choose and why?
MP: My partner Scott spent a part of his youth traveling around Asia and loved the foods that he came across, I would perhaps like to go to Indonesia and learn some traditional dishes that I could replicate for him and hopefully bring back some memories of his travels.
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits?
MP: “I ate it my way” 😉
FW: When you aren’t cooking and/or eating delicious foods and traveling to exotic locales, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
MP: I did laugh at that question as pretty much that is all we seem to do is travel, eat delicious foods and cook, but when not doing that we are both avid movie goers and will more often than not be found at the cinema most weekends.
*Note to readers: Delicious things to pop past your lips abound at http://amouthfulofmark.blogspot.co.uk/, but that’s not the only place to savor another mouthful. Mark also brings the tastiness to Twitter and photographs his outstanding edibles on Instagram. The wise stomach will follow him on both, as there’s always something wonderful on the menu.