WanderSups: Limber up for Christmas feasting with this spicy little taco
“It is important to remember that the festive period is a marathon not a sprint, and this plate of food is the perfect warm-up.” Velvet recipe writer Hannah Gregory shares a cockle-warming take on her signature dish - tacos
“A December issue with a recipe that doesn’t revolve around dried fruit, turkey or Brussel sprouts?” I hear you cry. Well I am here to tell you that a taco is for life, not just for Christmas - and in a month where all things come laden with white fondant icing and a glug of sherry, it is sometimes nice to have a bit of respite in the form of a perfectly portioned taco.
Despite dreaming of being on a far-flung beach and as such, eating everything in my power to transport me there, I have saved the tropical flavours for another time and instead focused on more warming herbs and spices, meaning that even though this Mexican-inspired dish will make traditionalists run for the hills, it works incredibly well in creating that warmth that is well needed at this time of year.
The woody thyme and comforting cumin create a heady marinade for the light seabass. The salsa and crema, spiked with jalapeno, warm the cockles just as well as the heartiest of soups and stews.
And what’s even better? Despite this dish being absolutely packed with flavour, it is healthy and light, meaning it sets you up perfectly for the trifles and Christmas puds heading your way at the end of the month. It is important to remember that the festive period is a marathon not a sprint, and this plate of food is the perfect warm-up.
I have included my recipe to make fresh masa tortillas (aka the best option) but corn or flour ones bought from the supermarket work just as well in a pinch. As with many taco recipes, it looks more complicated than it is because there are multiple elements, but I promise you it is easy.
Get your fish marinating a few hours before you want to eat, and the salsa and crema can be made ahead of time. Then it’s just a case of throwing the fish in a pan, cooking the tortillas and bringing it all together.
Cajun Sea Bass Tacos
What you need:
For the tortillas:
● 1½ cups masa harina (authentic Mexican corn flour)
● 250ml water
For the sea bass:
● 2 seabass fillets, skin on
● Sprig fresh thyme
● Sprig fresh oregano
● 2 cloves garlic
● 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
● 1 teaspoon cayenne
● 2 tablespoons olive oil
● 1 lemon, juiced
● Black pepper
For the corn salsa :
● 1 cob of corn
● 1 tablespoon veg oil
● 1 tablespoon ground cumin
● ½ red pepper
● 1 lime, squeezed
● ½ jalapeno, finely diced
● 1 garlic clove, crushed
For the jalapeno crema:
● ½ small tub sour cream
● 3 tablespoons mayo
● Half bunch fresh coriander
● 1 lime, zest and juice
● ½ jalapeno
● Pinch salt
How you do it:
1. First up, make the marinade for your fish. Bash the oregano, thyme and garlic in a pestle and mortar.
2. Stir through the salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, olive oil and lemon juice.
3. Pour the marinade over the fish making sure it is well covered, leave to do its thing for at least 30 minutes, ideally a couple of hours.
4. Whilst the fish is marinating, make the salsa and crema.
5. For the salsa, get a dry pan screaming hot and then char the cob of corn all over, trying to get a nice blackened finish.
6. When cool enough to handle, carefully shuck the corn kernels off the cob.
7. Heat the veg oil in the pan (use the same as the one you charred off your corn - no need to create more washing up than necessary), then fry the corn with the cumin and garlic until the spice is fragrant and the corn well coated and cooked through.
8. Remove from the pan and allow to cool.
9. Whilst the corn is cooling, finely dice the red pepper - in an ideal world, you want the red pepper dice the same size as the corn kernels.
10. Stir the red pepper through the corn with the diced jalapeno and lime juice.
11. For the crema, blitz the lime juice, jalapeno, salt and coriander to make a smooth green liquid.
12. Mix the mayonnaise and sour cream in a separate bowl and stir through the lime zest and coriander mix.
13. For the tacos: add the water to the masa and knead until you have a pliable dough.
14. To test your dough, make sure it is as moist as possible without sticking to your hands. If the dough is too dry, it will crack when squeezed between your fingers. To remedy this, add more water as needed.
15. Portion out the dough by making golf ball sized balls - you should have six.
16. Cut greaseproof paper into squares, two squares per ball, each square about 15cm wide.
17. Place a ball of dough in between two squares of paper and lightly press down with your fingers to give him a little squidge. Either using a taco press or a rolling pin, roll your balls into discs about 12-15 centimetres in diameter.
18. Keeping the tacos in the greaseproof sheets (this is important so they don’t stick together), stack them and place to the side till ready to cook.
19. Heat a dry frying pan until screaming hot (test this with flicking water on to it - it should bead and dissipate). When hot, place the fish skin side down into the pan - allow it to cook for around three minutes until it lifts up easily without sticking. Do not be tempted to shuffle it around as this will rip the skin. Flip the fish and cook for another minute/two minutes, then remove from the pan and allow to rest.
20. When ready to cook the tortillas, heat a frying pan till hot, gently peel the greaseproof paper off one side of the taco, using the other side to help place it into the pan. Once the uncovered side is in the pan, peel off the other sheet. The tacos will need 30 seconds to a minute on each side; they are ready to flip when they start to puff up and char on the edges.
21. To assemble, use a sharp knife to cut each fish fillet into three pieces. Top each tortilla with a spoon full of salsa, a piece of fish and drizzle with the crema.
A former BBC MasterChef quarter finalist, Hannah hosts WanderSups supper clubs, “serving meals created with love, inspired by journeys around the world, dished up on home turf”. Her ethos is simple - have fun, enjoy it, make it an occasion. To find out more follow @WanderSups or visit wandersups.com.
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