Dinner

By Aine Carlin | August 1, 2011

Photo: Aine Carlin

Okay, first off, I have to give you the best piece of advice you’ll ever get with regards to homemade Mexican food: Buy yourself an authentic Mexican tortilla press and more importantly a bag of Masa Harina corn flour.

Now, onto the tacos. I love tacos. I love ‘em, I love ‘em, I love ‘em. Unfortunately getting decent tacos in the depths of Cornwall is nigh impossible so I have only myself to rely on when it comes to anything Mexican inspired. I’ve got to tell you though, since leaving Chicago my Mexican offerings have been somewhat lacking – I can no longer buy authentic corn tortillas from my corner shop.

Tortillas should have chew. They should be able to hold a decent filling without falling apart. They should be malleable enough so that you can hold and twist them around said filling without them cracking, tearing or going soggy. So you see then, those supermarket ‘tortillas’ just don’t cut the mustard.

If you’re a little daunted by making your own tortillas let me put those fears to rest immediately. There was a three to four week gap between me purchasing all the necessary equipment and mustering up the courage to make the darn things – I’m silly like that. It’s the possibility of failure that stops me sometimes. I do not like to fail! I should’ve known better though, as there was not one failure. Every single tortilla from the first to the last was pretty much perfect although there was a slight panic when I initially couldn’t get the first tortilla off the second plastic sheet but then I developed a special (easy) technique and the rest of the experience was plain sailing.

Tortillas (makes 10 taco sized tortillas)

Ingredients:
1 cup masa harina flour
1 cup warm water

Method:

  1. Put the flour in a large bowl, add the warm water and mix initially using a spatula.
  2. When it comes together use your hands to lightly knead the mixture until it becomes clay like.
  3. It should not be sticky. Shape into a ball and cover. Set aside for 15 minutes.

    Photo: Aine Carlin

  4. Tear off small pieces and roll into balls.
  5. Heat a dry pan/skillet until hot.
  6. Place a tortilla ball in between two plastic sheets cut to the size of the plates (you’ll not want the balls to go directly onto the plates, as they will be impossible to lift off).

    Photo: Aine Carlin

  7. Press until you get a generic tortilla shape. Peel off the top plastic sheet. Then place the sheets together again and use it to help peel off the other sheet – this is my patented technique.

    Photo: Aine Carlin

Gently place the tortilla onto the hot pan and heat for 15 seconds before turning over. Heat the other side for 30 seconds and then flip it over onto the other side again. When it puffs up remove it from the pan and keep warm in a tray covered with a clean tea towel or tortilla warmer. Repeat.

Photo: Aine Carlin

Black Bean Pineapple Salsa

Photo: Aine Carlin

Paprika Roasted Sweet Potato

Photo: Aine Carlin

*Don’t forget to serve your tacos with some roughly chopped avocado – squeeze over some lime juice and season. A few drops of Tabasco sauce are optional but highly recommended.

For Black Bean Pineapple Salsa
  • 1 cup cooked black beans
  • 1 cup organic sweet corn
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped pineapple
  • 1/2 large red or green chilli pepper
  • 1 heaped tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 heaped tbsp chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • sea salt and black pepper
For Paprika Roasted Sweet Potatoes
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • sea salt and black pepper

Directions

To Make Black Bean Pineapple Salsa:

1. Place the black beans and sweet corn into a large bowl. Finely dice the red onion, finely chop the chilli and add to bowl. Give it mix.

2. Finely slice the spring onion. Chop the parsley and cilantro and add everything to the mix. Season generously, squeeze over the lime juice and thoroughly mix.

3. Lastly stir in the chopped pineapple - I like tiny pieces but you could have them chunkier of you wish. Taste, season again if necessary and serve.

To Make Paprika Roasted Sweet Potatoes:

1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celsius/390 fahrenheit.

2. Chop the sweet potato into large chunks, as it will shrink quite a bit when roasted. Put the sweet potato in a baking tray and toss with the olive oil, thyme, smoked paprika and sea salt and pepper.

3. Bake for 40-50 minutes. When they are cooked, turn the oven off and allow them to sit in the oven until you have prepared all the other components. They will remain warm but also gain a desired chewiness - perfect for tacos.
I like to layer my tacos with the salsa on the bottom and sweet potato on top, as it holds together much better this way.

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