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Soon to arrive on our shelves is the inspiring book, ‘Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors from the Edge of the Yucatan’. More than a cookbook, this is a story of a dream.

When two New Yorkers went on holiday to Mexico for a few days, they hoped living in paradise would never end. Instead of doing what most of us do and return to their everyday lives, they opened their dream restaurant, Hartwood, in Tulum.

Hartwood is not your typical dining venue. It’s an off-the-grid restaurant positioned on the edge of a jungle road, two hours south of Cancún. There are no walls, no solid roof, no electricity or stove and no refrigeration.

Chef Eric Werner and his wife Mya Henry are the creators of Hartwood. It’s been dubbed one of the most inspiring restaurants in the world. People travel to Mexico to eat at there and they’re happy to line up for hours waiting for a table – EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Image | Moses Berkson for Travel & Lesiure

Dining at Hartwood is an experience. Ingredients are locally sourced and delivered by taxi drivers. The menu changes daily depending on the produce they can get their hands on. The food is cooked on an open fire in a handmade wood-burning oven and grill. The layers of flavours are punchy and the dishes are unique.

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While travelling to Tulum should be on every foodie’s bucket list, a book which tells of Eric and Mya’s story has been released. Featuring stunning images and delicious recipes, the book, ‘Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors from the Edge of the Yucatan’ brings the experience to you.

Hard-to-find ingredients have been replaced with easy-to-source substitutes and the dishes can be easily cooked at home. There are recipes for pork ribs, lentil and papaya salad, ceviche and Mayan shrimp. While they’re not cheffy, they all require a little time and care.

The fact is, there are easier ways to feed yourself and your friends. That’s true of many of the recipes in this book. You spend hours cooking … because it connects you to what you love.

Image: Hartwood

To get your taste buds salivating, here’s a recipe for Hartwood’s most popular dish, Costillas which means Spanish for ribs. It’s said to be a simple dish to create and carries the DNA of the Hartwood restaurant.

Actually, it’s pretty simple; you just need to invest the time. You braise the pork ribs overnight or first thing in the morning, reduce the cooking liquid and then use that to baste the meat as you reheat the ribs: baste, wait, baste, wait, baste, wait, baste until the liquid becomes a glaze. There’s no shortcut. Either you put in the time and it’s delicious, or you don’t and it’s just fine.

Hartwood’s Costillias

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What you’ll need:

Serves 4

1 onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 cup roughly chopped pineapple
3 pounds (1.4kg) bone-in pork ribs
One 350mL bottle Cerveza Ceiba or other medium-dark beer, such as Modelo Negra
¾ cup dark honey
2 tablespoons star anise pods
2 tablespoons kosher salt, or more to taste
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 banana leaf (optional)

What you’ll need to do:

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.

2. Scatter the onion, carrot, celery, and pineapple over the bottom of a large baking pan. Place the ribs on top. Add the beer and honey then add enough water to reach halfway up the side of the ribs. Add the star anise, salt and pepper. Lay the banana leaf or a sheet of parchment paper on top of the ribs then cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.

3. Cook the ribs for seven hours, or until a knife easily pierces through the meat.

4. Remove the foil and banana leaf and put the pan back in the oven for 30 minutes or until the ribs are nicely browned. Remove from the oven, transfer the ribs to a cutting board, and allow to cool enough to handle.

5. Meanwhile, strain the braising liquid into a saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and simmer until reduced by one-third. Remove from the heat and skim off the fat.

6. Portion the ribs for serving (make sure they’re not too hot or the meat will fall apart). Working in batches, place as many ribs as you can fit into a large cast-iron skillet, set over medium heat on the stove, and add 1½ cups of the braising liquid. Cook, basting the ribs every minute or so, until the liquid reduces to a caramel-like glaze, about 15 minutes. (If you would like more color, continue to cook, basting every five minutes, until the ribs are a darker caramel colour.) Stop once the sauce is thick and coats the ribs. Season with salt to taste.

‘Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors from the Edge of the Yucatan’ by Eric Wener and Mya Henry, written with Christine Mulke and Oliver Strand, will soon be available on the bookshelves of our Waterloo and Richmond showrooms.

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