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Happy Cinco de Mayo: tacos, tortillas and tomatillos

PUBLISHED: 15:24 05 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:24 05 May 2017

Picture: Kertsin Rodgers

Picture: Kertsin Rodgers

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Learn how to cook regional Mexican cuisine rather than the usual Tex-Mex

Picture: Kertsin Rodgers Picture: Kertsin Rodgers

Mexican food is one of the great cuisines of the world, and yet in the UK, for the most part, we get a bland version of Tex-Mex rather than regional Mexican food. Things are starting to improve, but authenticity is expensive. I recently visited a taqueria in Borough market, El Pastor, where for £3.50 I got a teensy taco with a sliver of fish.

Clerkenwell’s Breddos Tacos (breddostacos.com) has garnered praise. But why not make yourself a feast of tacos at home? Prepare toppings, lay them all out and allow guests to mix and match.

Make your own corn tortillas or buy them. Day-old corn tortillas can be turned into chip n dip: cut into 1/8ths then fry.

Other ingredients that may not be familiar:

Masa harina: a flour made from corn (not to be confused with the usual cornflour). The native Mexicans were very intelligent because they figured out that soaking corn kernels with slaked lime (ash), a process called nixtamalisation, releases the B vitamins.

Achiote: an ochre clay-red crushed berry that imparts a saffrony, dirty-in-a-good-way muddy flavour to Mexican food. A block will last years.

Tomatillo: a green husk tomato. They can be difficult to get hold of in the UK, so you could buy them tinned from Mexican specialists, or buy the green salsa. Or grow them, it’s not difficult!

Count between 3 and 5 tacos per person.

Serves 4

For the corn tortillas:

Equipment:

A tortilla or chapati press or a rolling pin

A Ziplock bag, cut down the sides

A large flat frying pan (cast iron if possible)

A tortilla warming bag or a thick non-fluffy tea towel

250g masa harina (around 25g per tortilla)

4 heaped tbsp lard or coconut butter

1tsp sea salt

200-250ml warm water

Mix together until you have a dough that holds together but is not too sticky.

Set up a production line:

Form a 25g ball.

Place it within the ziplock bag.

Put the plastic inside the tortilla press.

Press a round circle around 11cm (41/2 inches) in diameter. (Or use a rolling pin to make a circle.)

Dry toast the tortilla on the pan over a low heat.

Place in a tortilla warmer or in a folded tea towel.

Fish taco recipe:

For the marinade:

A walnut-sized piece of achiote

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp freshly ground black pepper

1tsp ground allspice

1tsp sea salt

A little hot water

For the fish:

400g salmon or tilapia fillets, skinned, boned, cut into thin strips

Olive oil, for roasting

Use a pestle and mortar to grind the marinade ingredients together, then add a little hot water to make a paste.

Baste the salmon with the marinade, cover and keep in the fridge for an hour at least.

Preheat the oven to 200ºC.

To cook, pour a little olive oil in a baking tray, place the fish strips in the try and roast for 8 to 10 minutes.

Mushroom taco recipe:

3tbsp olive oil

300g button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2tsp Mexican cumin, ground

1/2tsp sea salt

1/2tsp white pepper

2tbsp pumpkin seeds

Using a medium saucepan or frying pan over a medium heat, heat up the oil then add the mushrooms, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir fry for a few minutes, then add the pumpkin seeds.

Extras:

For the chilli slaw

Half a cabbage, white or red, thinly sliced

100ml mayonnaise

1 chipotle chilli, minced

1/2tsp sea salt

Mix all the ingredients together.

For the guacamole

2 avocados, pitted, skinned, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

1 jalapeno chilli, roasted, deseeded, minced

1/2tsp sea salt

Juice of 1 lime

Handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Mix all the ingredients together.

For the red salsa

5 tomatoes, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

1 jalapeno chilli, roasted, deseeded, minced

1/2tsp sea salt

Juice of 1 or 2 limes

Handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Mix all the ingredients together.

For the green salsa

5 green tomatillos, husks removed, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

1 jalapeno chilli, roasted, deseeded, minced

1/2tsp sea salt

Juice of 1 or 2 limes

Handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Mix all the ingredients together.

To serve:

Put the corn tortillas, slaw, salsas, guacamole, grated cheese (mozzarella, cheddar or Oaxaca cheese) in bowls on the table. Serve the fish and mushrooms on separate plates to let your guests construct their own tacos. Serve extra lime segments and coriander for extra flavour.

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