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Health & Wellbeing / Ali Horsfall

Cravings Corner! For When You Want To Eat Tacos

Our obsession with all things Mexican isn’t set to wane anytime soon. Sure, tequilla rarely turns out to be a good idea, but everything else we just can’t get enough of – the dreamy beaches (Hello Tulum), gorge Aztec-inspired interiors and of course Mexican food. Oh the food. So to celebrate Mexico’s tastiest export – the taco – we bring you two easy recipes to try. Ándale, ándale.

Roasted salmon tacos Baja med style with fragrant cucumber salsa

Baja–med is a delicious fusion of Mexican and Mediterranean cookery found in the border town of Tijuana and elsewhere in Mexico’s Baja California. These tacos are fresh, colourful and abundant, like the region. Cooking the salmon in two pieces is a simple technique that will ensure the fish will be moist, luscious and evenly cooked.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 12 homemade masa flour tortillas (see below) or store-bought tortillas
  • Tamarind chilli mole (see below)
  • Salmon – 1 x 400 g (14 oz) pin-boned Atlantic salmon fillet, skin on
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 large salad onion, sliced
  • Small dried chipotle chilli, finely sliced
  • 1 yellow bullhorn chilli, sliced into rounds
  • 200 g (7 oz) mixed red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 75 g (2 oz) kalamata olives, halved
  • 75 ml (2 fl oz) sherry vinegar
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 75 ml (2. fl oz) agave syrup
  • 1 bunch basil leaves, shredded

For the cucumber salsa

  • 2 peeled Lebanese (short) cucumbers, finely diced
  • Bunch dill
  • Teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted
  • Teaspoon sugar
  • Teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

How to make

  • Preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F)
  • To prepare the salmon, using a sharp knife, cut the salmon fillet along the seam of flesh that separates the belly from the loin. Cut into two pieces, separating the belly from the loin.
  • Heat a splash of olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat. Season the salmon pieces with salt, then place them in the hot pan, skin side down, and cook for 2 minutes, pressing the pieces down with your hands to ensure they cook flat. Cook for a further 1 minute, then transfer to the oven, skin side down, and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Remove the salmon from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack, then cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) thick slices using a sharp knife.
  • Add another splash of olive oil to the pan together with the garlic, onion, chipotle, bullhorn chilli, tomatoes and olives and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the vinegar and orange juice, bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated, then add the agave syrup and simmer until reduced to a thick, sticky coating.
  • Transfer the vegetable mixture to a small bowl, add the basil leaves and season to taste. Set aside to cool.
  • Heat a medium non-stick pan over high heat. Lightly spray with oil and briefly fry the tortillas to warm them. Stack the tortillas, wrap in a warm damp tea towel (dish towel) and set aside to keep warm.
  • To make the salsa, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  • To serve, divide the tortillas among serving plates. Spoon over a little tamarind chilli mole, if using, and top with the salmon slices, vegetable mix and a pile of the salsa. Serve immediately with more tamarind chilli mole on the side for dipping.

For the tamarind chilli mole

Ingredients

  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) merlot vinegar
  • 100 g (3 fl oz) tamarind pulp
  • 400 ml (13 fl oz) orange juice, plus zest of 1 orange
  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) agave syrup, plus extra to taste
  • 4 jalapeños
  • 2 red habanero chillies, halved and de-seeded
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 6 ripe organic tomatoes
  • 50 ml (1 fl oz) olive oil
  • 100 ml (3 fl oz) boiling water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • Sea salt to taste

How to make

  • Preheat an overhead grill (broiler) to high heat.
  • Combine the vinegar and tamarind in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the orange juice and zest, return to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes until thickened and reduced. Add the agave, return to the boil and reduce down further until the mixture is glossy.
  • Meanwhile, place the chillies, garlic and tomatoes on a grill tray and grill (broil) for 20 minutes until softened and caramelised.
  • Transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse briefly, gradually adding the olive oil and boiling water as you go, to make a smooth sauce.
  • Season with the lime juice, cumin and salt to taste and store in sterilised jars for up to 1 month.

Sesame crunch chicken tacos, cos, avocado & zesty crema

Serves 6

Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 12 homemade masa flour tortillas (see below) or store-bought tortillas
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) panko breadcrumbs
  • 150 g (5 oz) sesame seeds
  • Sunflower oil, for deep-frying
  • 300 g (10 oz/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 tablespoon chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2 cm pieces

For the salad

  • 1 whole cos (romaine) lettuce, cut into 8 wedges
  • squeeze of lime
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 small avocado, cut into wedges

For the zesty crema

  • 250 ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) low-fat sour cream
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • Pinch of salt

How to make

  • Preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F).
  • To prepare the chicken, add the beaten egg and salt to a shallow bowl and mix well.
  • Add the breadcrumbs and sesame seeds to a separate shallow bowl and mix.
  • Half-fill a large heavy-based saucepan or deep-fryer with oil, set over medium heat and heat the oil to 180 °C (350 °F).
  • Combine the flour and spices in a plastic food bag, then add the chicken pieces, seal to close and shake together well to coat.
  • Remove the coated chicken pieces from the bag and add them first to the beaten egg and then the breadcrumbs and sesame seed mixture.
  • Fry the chicken pieces in batches for 4 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove using a slotted spoon or tongs and place on paper towel to drain, then transfer to the oven to keep warm.
  • Heat a medium non-stick frying pan over high heat. Lightly spray with oil and briefly fry the tortillas to warm them.
  • Stack the tortillas, wrap them in a warm damp tea towel (dish towel) and set aside to keep warm.
  • Combine the salad ingredients in a bowl and toss together.
  • To make the crema, mix together the ingredients in a bowl.
  • To serve, transfer the warm tortillas onto taco stands or plates and top with a little of the salad, a few pieces of crispy chicken and spoonfuls of the zesty crema. Serve.

Tip

The chicken can be grilled with the same seasoning minus the breadcrumbs but won’t be as crispy. Dial up the flavours with some new salsas each time you prepare these tacos – Iike spicy peanut and sesame salsa or tomatillo verde – while if you really adore chilli, top it off with some fried dried arbol chilli pieces.

Tortilla Dough

Tortillas are a staple on the Mexican table. The dough is simple to make, using white masa harina flour and water, with a little salt and oil.

Tortillas can be grilled for use as tacos or as an accompaniment to any meal. In addition they can be fried and used as tostadas or quesadillas or baked or fried and used as masa corn (tortilla) chips. A tortilla press is useful here, but not essential.

Makes 750 g

(enough for twenty-four 15 cm/6 In or twelve 20 cm/8 In tortillas)

Ingredients

  • 300 g (10 oz/3 cups) fine white masa harina flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 450 ml (15 fl oz) water
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

How to make

  • Combine the flour and salt using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  • Mixing at medium speed, gradually pour in the water and oil to make a dough. Work the dough until it comes away clean from the side of the bowl.
  • Form a ball and press to flatten – when the dough is the right consistency it should not split at the sides. Add a little more water if necessary.
  • Shape the dough into 24 or 12 even-sized balls, depending on whether you are making small tortillas for tacos, or larger ones for quesadillas or tostadas.
  • Using a tortilla press, flatten the balls between 2 sheets of baking paper, creating thin discs. Alternatively, roll out between the baking paper using a rolling pin – but your discs will not be so perfectly round.
  • Heat a cast-iron or non-stick frying pan over medium–high heat. Cook the tortillas for 1 minute on each side, until they are light golden.

Tip

Tortillas can be prepared in advance and frozen. Simply par-cook and layer the tortillas between pieces of plastic wrap or baking paper. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.

Extracted from Taqueria by Taqueria: New-style Fun and Friendly Mexican Cooking by Paul Wilson, published by Hardie Grant books. Photography: Chris Middleton

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