Last Friday I decided to escape my computer and treat myself to lunch at Zona Rosa, a new healthy Mexican place in town where I had a taco so delicious that I couldn’t wait to replicate at home.
I am a little new to Mexican food. Until I moved to California from England four years ago, my only experience had been the fabulous Wahaca and very un-fabulous Tex Mex places where the food was only really there to soak up the drinks.
Since moving here we’ve embraced our new local cuisine. When I first heard of people talking about taco night I had visions of those dusty boxes of crunchy Old El Paso tacos, stuffed with beef that had been cooked with one of those packets of spice mix and loads of cheese. Because in my university years that is what we thought to be the height of sophisticated entertaining.
Luckily I’ve moved on. Here in California, tacos are pretty much always served soft. So they are the perfect little holder for any combination of goodies. Taco night in our house usually involves me rummaging through the fridge for goodies, cooking a few things fresh then putting them in little bowls and letting everyone make their own tacos. This has been a great way for getting my boys to experiment with new foods as there is something about them deciding what goes in to their taco that makes them braver.
A combination of these things is how we do tacos in our house. I like to have something mushy (avo/beans/braised meat), something crunchy (bacon, seeds), something raw (shredded veggies), something cooked (meat or fish), something slightly sweet (roasted veg), something salty (cheese or bacon) and I always finish with chili sauce and lime wedges :
- shredded rotisserie chicken
- leftover braised meats and stews
- grilled fish
- crispy bacon
- canned black beans, drained and fried with garlic and chipotle chili sauce then mashed and finished with salt and a squeeze of lime
- leftover, or newly roasted, butternut squash, carrot, green beans or broccoli
- mashed avocado with lime juice
- crumbled Feta or Cotija cheese
- squashed baby tomatoes or salsa
- toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds
- shredded carrots, red cabbage or microgreens
I usually buy these organic corn tortillas to make tacos with. Most non-organic corn over here is genetically modified so I like to stay clear of that. Just before serving, I heat my tortillas on my griddle or in the oven for a couple of minutes.
Then, last night I had the fortuitous combination of some leftover buckwheat pancakes from breakfast (from the Hemsley and Hemsley cookbook) in the fridge, two very hungry small children and the memory of that taco that I’d eaten last Friday. So this is what I made…
For the tortillas either buy them or make these gluten-free buckwheat tortillas
Gluten-free buckwheat tortillas/pancakes – as always, weighing and using metric measurements gives more consistent results
250g (2 cups) of 100 per cent buckwheat flour
750ml (3 cups) of water
1 teaspoon of sea salt
For frying: rendered organic bacon fat, ghee (clarified butter) or virgin coconut oil
1. Whisk together the flour, salt, egg and water in a large jug, being sure to get all the flour from the bottom. It is gloopy at first so keep whisking and you’ll get a very liquid batter and leave to stand (if you want to get ahead, you can do this the night before). Before coking you will need to give it another whisk as it may settle slightly
2. Put a large non stick frying pan on a medium high heat. I like to use my Scan Pan or cast iron pan. The heavier the pan the better it will retain an even high heat. Brush or rub it with a little oil. Set your oven to a low warming temperature – around 160F or 70C
3. Use a ladle to add around a cup of the batter to the pan (by the third tortilla you will probably have mastered the right amount for the size of your pan) and swirl the batter round as you pour it in so that the batter runs around the pan and you are left with a thin pancake. There will be some tiny holes where the mixture bubbles and that is fine
4. Once the underside is lightly browned (around 2 minutes), use a silicone spatula to run a round the outside of the pancake to loosen it then turn it over and cook it for another couple of minutes on the other side. You don’t want it to be crunchy but you do want it to be golden.
5. Take the cooked pancake out of the pan and pop onto a tray in the warm oven to keep warm while you make the rest (they’ll be fine in the oven for an hour if you cover them with foil) . If you feel confident, try getting 2-3 pans on the go at once so you can speed through the pancakes
6. The buckwheat tortillas are quite delicate so they may crumble a bit when you roll and eat them, be gentle!
For the filling
Any combination of the fillings above. Or the combination I made last night was:
2 warm buckwheat tortillas per person.
On each tortilla, I spread quarter of an avocado that I’d mashed with lime juice, salt and red chili pepper flakes.
Next I scattered on a few mushrooms that I’d sliced and fried for a few minutes with garlic and fresh thyme (leftovers from the night before).
I squeezed on some fresh lime juice and scattered on some microgreens.
Then I quickly pan-fried wild salmon which I’d cut into finger sized strips and a couple of pieces of bacon, which I crumbled after it was cooked. I plonked those on top of everything else with some toasted pumpkin seeds, lime juice and chili sauce.
Next time I’ll add some roasted butter nut squash or carrot chunks for sweetness.