Fish Tacos

“I hate tacos”…Said no one ever.  Whether it is Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday, this meal is guaranteed to please any sized crowd. Channelling Southern California, one of my favourite destinations, rather than actual Mexico, a destination I have yet to visit, this meal is colourful, fun, fresh, delicious and infinitely variable. The ultimate sharing food, tacos hold the pride of place as first choice family meal at our house. I put this down to the condiments and sides. But for one or two of my more simple eaters, this meal is heaven: it allows them to take charge of their own plate, eat with their hands and it’s a free ticket to make a huge mess.

So it only seemed right to teach this as my first class of 2017 last week. I am not claiming these are traditional or authentic tacos by any stretch.  There is also no frying or long laborious prep. I like to make these for a larger group using whole loins of cod but you can use  halibut or snapper fillets just as well.. Using whole sides of fish retains the heat when serving to several hungry mouths, and is much less likely to dry out while cooking. For a smaller crowd, I sometimes use fillets which I can pan fry, and in the summer I grill the fish outside for added smokey sunshine flavour.

The herb, lime and chilli seasoning on these fish tacos is fresh and simple, and the spice can be altered to suit any level of heat. I marinate the fish in the morning and pop in the oven or on the grill just before we are ready to eat. The task of mushing the avocados for the guacamole can be handed out to anyone old enough to hold a bowl and a wooden spoon, and the salsa can either be made a little earlier in the day and refrigerated, or quickly assembled while the fish cooks. Whatever you do, don’t skip the slaw. It takes no time to throw together, and the cool crunch of the veg is the perfect contrast to the soft and melting fillings.

A note on tortillas: when it comes to tacos, the only debate in our house is corn vs. flour tortilla so I always have both on hand. Corn tortillas hold the authentic card, but are thicker, less pliable, and can definitely resemble cardboard if left to cool too long. I however love them over-toasted and crumbled on a plate full of taco ingredients for the less bona fide and less messy way to shovel all the flavours into my mouth at once. Flour tortillas, although high on the stodge rating, are easier to warm for a crowd, stay soft for longer, and are stuffable to the brim. I won’t suggest you make your own as tortillas are on my list of foods that are always best left to the experts, along with sushi, macaroons and ramen.

Whatever choices you make about the tortilla or fillings, don’t forget the jug of margaritas.

Fish Tacos

I serve these with Cabbage Slaw (below), a good tomato salsa, guacamole and pickled onions, black beans and wrapped in a tortilla. I always like to have a little extra hot soured cream on the side to dollop on top. If you want to avoid dairy, the slaw is also great simply dressed with lime juice, olive oil and salt.

serves 4-6

1kg cod loin or fillets or any firm white fish fillets i.e.. halibut or snapper

salt and pepper

1 tsp powdered mild red chile

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tsp chopped oregano

1 tsp chopped mint

1 tsp chopped coriander

1 tbsp olive oil

juice of 1/2 lime

Place the fish fillet onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over chile powder, garlic, fresh herbs, olive oil and lime.

Rub all the seasonings into the fish, cover and refrigerate for 2-4 hours. (If you are short of time, you can just leave it to marinade on the worktop for 30-60 minutes while the fish comes to room temperature.)

Remove the fish from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Heat oven to 220C or if you are cooking fillets, you can broil them (or in the summer I always grill them).

Roast cod loin for 15-20 minutes until just opaque. If you are cooking fillets, cook for 3-4 minutes each side depending on their thickness.

I serve this straight out of the baking sheet, but feel free to transfer to a serving dish. Either way, surround with coriander sprigs and lime wedges.

Flake off sections of sections of fish to fill tortillas accompanied with all the sides.

Cabbage Slaw

1/2 small green cabbage

1/4 small red cabbage

2 fennel bulbs

1 bunch radish (approx 10)

juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp olive oil

good pinch of salt

2-3 tbsp hot soured cream (recipe below)

1 tbsp chopped chives]

Cut the green cabbages and fennel in half length-s wise and slice either on a mandoline, with a sharp knife or with the slicing blade on a magimix. Thinly slice or grate the radish.

Put all the sliced vegetables in a bowl, slicing the red cabbage last and leaving it on top so that it does not bleed into the other ingredients.

Leave covered until ready to dress, 10-15 minutes before serving (I usually dress the slaw when I put the fish in the oven or on the grill).

Squeeze lime juice over the slaw, drizzle with olive oil and add a good punch of salt. Sprinkle over chopped chives. Dollop 2 tablespoons of the hot soured cream onto the vegetables and mix thoroughly with your hands until it is all incorporated. Taste for seasoning and if you want add some more salt, lime juice, hot soured cream or all of the above.

Serve on top of cooked fish wrapped in a warm tortilla with guacamole, salsa and an extra spoonful of hot soured cream.

Hot Soured Cream

200g soured cream

2 chipotle chiles in adobo or 2 tsp soaked and pureed ancho chillies or 2 tsp hot sauce of your choice

Blend soured cream and chillies together. Pour into a bowl and serve on the side of the fish tacos and use in the cabbage slaw.