To me, no food shouts 'I'm on holiday' louder than a fish taco.
The last time I ate fish tacos, I was here.
We were on a surfing safari in the depths of Baja. Over the course of a dusty week I discovered an appreciation for beers with my name on them, learned that Baja Bill (the owner of the camp) makes a mean margarita and even managed to totter over the top of a few waves.
The tacos came into my life at a pit stop on the long drive back into California. It was a small road side stall outside Ensenada. We knew they were good, because Baja Bill told us so. He was right about most things.
Bill also taught us a good barometer for checking the freshness of the food. His advice was to check the temperature of the squeezy bottle of crema. If it had beads of condensation, then the crema should be ok. And it's also probably ok to eat the fish.
If the dish tastes this good, then I'm happy to take the risk.
There was crispy coat of batter swaddling gentle flakes of white fish. The taco had some earthiness from a corn tortilla and the pale and bitter crunch of shredded cabbage. There was some fatty creaminess from a squirt of crema and the sniffingly sour burn of Tapatio.
A fish taco is a perfect one handed feast that screams of sun and good times.
This version takes the original concept and makes it a little more swimsuit friendly. Instead of battering and frying the fish, here it's roasted with a gentle crust of coriander leaves and pumpkin seeds.
What you miss in fatty crunch is made with the winning addition of guacamole and the murky heat of a chipotle lime crema.
To me it's all about the chipotle- it's the baritone to the girlish trilling of grilled fish and raw veg.
These dried and smoked jalapenos, when toasted, steeped and blended with lime and creme fraiche or sour cream could make a sexy dip for crudites, or a fine dressing for a chicken and roasted corn salad.
But it's in these fish tacos that it finds its happiest home. Together it's the taste of summer. It's the smell of success.
These are best consumed with a cold beer and a wedge of lime- whether you're on holidays, or just wishing you were.
Fish tacos with chipotle lime crema
1 stick blender or small food processor. 1 fry pan. 1 baking dish for the fish, or a grill.
Chipotle lime crema
1 dried chipotle chilli
2 tablespoons of just boiled water
Juice and zest of half a lime
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche (you could also natural yogurt or sour cream)
1.3 pounds of boneless white fish fillets
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Zest of half a lime
1 cup and a half of shredded white cabbage
2 tablespoons of cilantro leaves and stems, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds
Salt to taste
Jalapenos to taste
Warmed corn or wheat tortillas (2-3 per person- corn tortillas are preferable).
(nb, if you have a preferred recipe or ratio for guacamole, use that)
2 ripe avocados, mashed
1 tablespoon of coriander/cilantro leaves, roughly diced
Juice of half a lime
Salt to taste
Here's how we roll
1. Split the dried chipotle chili and shake out most of the seeds. Dry toast it in a fry pan until it smells nutty. Then cover it with just boiled water and leave to steep for 15 minutes.
2. Puree the chipotle and the steeping water until smooth.
3. Keep one heaped teaspoon of the chipotle puree in the bottom of a blender (nb, you can freeze the remainder in an ice cube tray. It means there's some on hand for next time you make tacos, burritos, enchiladas, pulled pork, etc). Add two tablespoons of creme fraiche and the zest and juice of half a lime. NB, if you didn't have chipotles you could always use chipotle powder, or, in a pinch a combination of smoked bbq sauce and cayenne pepper.
4. Puree until smooth.
5. Top with a few cilantro leaves and put to the side.
1. Dry the fish fillets well and lay them out in a baking tray. Cover them with a flurry of cilantro leaves, pumpkin seeds, a drizzle of olive oil and the zest of half a lime (use the juice in the guacamole).
2. Bake the fish in a 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes, until the flesh is opaque, or grill on the bbq.
3. Flake each fillet of fish into thirds (keeping the toasted pumpkin seeds and leaves with it). Place the fish on a serving platter with the warm soft tacos, guacamole, shredded cabbage, chipotle crema and jalapenos.
4. Assemble your own soft tacos, adding jalapenos and crema to taste.