Former Masterchef star’s pop-up taco nights are the hottest ticket in Suffolk
- Credit: Wansersups
“I can’t believe it,” says Bury St Edmunds-based chef Hannah Gregory, who keeps selling out dates for her authentic Mexican dining experiences.
Tickets for her next pop-up, on July 22 at The Northgate in Bury, were snapped up just 40 minutes after being released last weekend. But fear not if you didn’t manage to nab a seat...more dates are in the pipeline, with Hannah (who made it to the quarter finals of Masterchef in 2020, flying the flag for Suffolk), also looking to open a Mexican-style restaurant of her very own in the town within the next few years.
Entitled Wandersups, the chef’s menus combine her love of cooking with a passion for travel, which has taken her all over the world, seeking out and trying dishes in ‘real’ kitchens and ‘backstreet’ eateries, where she’s been able to sample a true flavour of all the places she’s visited.
“I just wanted to bring that sense of wanderlust to people back home. To showcase all the things I picked up while I was travelling around. I’ve found food is such a community thing in other countries. It really does bring people together. So, I was living in a rural village in Africa where there was true poverty, but where everyday people got together to eat and share what they could. I wanted to translate that to a supper club, especially after the last year or so. That sense of community.
“I put out polls on Facebook asking where people were meant to be going on holiday, so I could translate those ideas into menus - from Greece to Turkey.”
But it’s Mexico that’s really taken off as a culinary destination for Hannah’s diners.
“My heart is in Mexico,” she laughs. “I thought I’d keep doing Mexican nights until people got bored of them. But they’ve gone down a storm. I haven’t stopped.
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“I’ve always loved Mexican food but I’ve found it quite difficult to find authentic meals over here. I spent a month travelling around Mexico in 2018 and I was like ‘ah, so this is what it’s all about’. I learnt so much about the spices and the culture. There’s a real depth of flavour and it’s completely different from one region to another. I love the vibrancy and the fun and the chat and the warmth. I was there for 29 days and ate a ridiculous amount, which helped when I was on Masterchef.”
It’s dishes from off-the-beaten-track that really capture the chef’s imagination. “We went to the Yucatan Peninsula where there was loads of seafood, and really hot salads that made you want to die, but that you couldn’t stop eating. We went to one place which was basically a restaurant in a built-in wardrobe. The tables were old ironing boards. Each taco was, perhaps, 50p. With cactus. And slow cooked pork. Some of the best memories I’ve ever had. I’m sure the locals were looking at us, thinking what strange English girls we were, stuffing in tacos with bottles of warm Corona.”
Hannah joined forces with The Northgate head chef Grieg Young during lockdown, and while their joint pop-up for the end of July is sold out, Hannah says more should be on the horizon, either at The Northgate or other locations around the town.
“Greig has been a bit of a mentor to me over the past year, teaching me so much, like how to cook at scale. I’ve been so honoured to learn from him. For me, personally I always assumed chefs were shouty and intimidating, so to meet someone so lovely and warm and welcoming was just really refreshing, and when he asked if I wanted to do something at the restaurant it was a no-brainer.”
The pop-ups include a cocktail on arrival, followed by four courses (including fresh, hand-pressed tacos) and an accompanying menu of Mexican-inspired drinks.
“The most important thing is to let people know it’s not all fried food,” says Hannah. “There’s this vision of Tex-Mex a lot of people will have, but that’s not the real Mexico at all. A lot of Mexican food is complex and cooked for a long time. They use complicated spice mixes that are hard to get here. It’s not all stuffed jalapenos and burritos. There’s so much more on offer. It’s fresh and bright and vibrant. Packed with amazing vegetables and herbs.”
Tickets for Wandersups supper clubs are £55 per person. To find out more, including the next pop-up date and location, follow Wandersups on Instagram or go to wandersups.com
Hannah’s Pulled Chicken Baked Tacos
This is best served with chilled margarita. And go to Spotify where you can listen to Hannah’s specially curated playlist (Wandersups Mexico) while you dine. The dried chilies, tomatillos (and other Mexican ingredients including proper tacos) can be found at Casa Mexico in Stonham Aspal.
500g chicken breasts, roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
3 black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves in their skins
2 dried guajillo chillies
2 dried ancho chillies
1 pinch salt
12 corn tacos/tortillas
380g tinned tomatillos
1 jalapeno or serrano chilli
Pinch caster sugar
Large bunch coriander
Juice 1 lime
Sour cream to garnish
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Finely slice the first onion and place in a pan with the chicken, peppercorns and bay leaves. Cover with water, bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
Heat a dry frying pan and toast the dried chillies until aromatic. Pop them in a bowl and pour over boiled water to submerge them.
In the same frying pan toast three of the garlic cloves in their skins until charred and black all over.
Chop the remaining half onion, jalapeno, (peeled) garlic clove and add to a pan with the tomatillos, 3tbsps water, the salt and pinch of sugar.
Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Check the onions are cooked through.
Put the mix in a food processor with the coriander and lime juice and blend until pulpy.
Remove the skins from the charred garlic and add the cloves to a blender with the drained toasted hillies, a pinch of salt and pinch of sugar, plus 100ml of the chilli soaking water. Blitz until smooth.
Remove the chicken from its cooking liquor and shred with two forks. Toss in the chilli sauce..
Lightly grease an oven dish with oil. Pop your tacos in tin foil and place in the oven for five minutes.
To assemble, fill a taco with about 1tbsp of the chicken/chilli mix and fold to make a semi-circular patty. Lay in the oven dish. Repeat to make a bottom layer of folded tacos that slightly overlap.
Brush with more oil, then repeat until all the chicken and tacos are used up.
Pop in the oven for 15 minutes so everything gets toasty, warm and soft. Add this stage you could grate over some cheese.
Bring out of the oven and leave to sit for five minutes. Serve with the stewed tomatillo salsa, scoops of avocado, sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh coriander.