This new year's celebration was never going to be a big one, with bubs asserting that slow and steady would be the way to go. At the last minute we decided to make a Mexican dinner at our house for a couple of close family and friends. This is how Mexican food works in our house: I make the best fish tacos and the guacamole, and J makes the best everything else. We have a book of handwritten passed-down recipes from Nana, Aunties, and J's Mum and Dad; but for the fish tacos we use a very authentic recipe from this book, from an area near J's home town.*Side note: if you are after a cookbook of fresh, authentic, delicious Mexican food, this is the one for you. Highly recommended.
Anyhow, I thought I'd share the recipe for Authentic Delicious Mexican Fish Tacos, as eaten on the coast of Baja California ( a west coast state of Mexico). I'm typing from memory, but the recipe is from ¡Baja! Cooking on the Edge by Deborah Schneider. We get our Mexican ingredients from one of two online grocers in Sydney: Fireworks Foods or Monterey Foods.
Ingredients (makes about 24 tacos - that's 6-8 people)
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp granulated garlic
- ½ tsp dry mustard
- ½ tsp dried Mexican Oregano, rubbed to a powder
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bottle cold beer (I use a Mexican one - Sol, Tecate or Corona)
- 1 kg firm-fleshed white fish ( I use barramundi, snapper, perch, kingfish etc)
- Fresh lime juice
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
The batter can be made ahead and refrigerated. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, garlic, mustard, oregano, cayenne, 1 tsp salt and pepper in a large bowl. Note: Mexican Oregano is not the same as regular oregano. It has a larger leaf and is stronger in fragrance, making the finished flavour nicer. You can get it from the stores mentioned above, but if you're not fussed about buying a whole packet, regular oregano would do.
Stir in the beer until there are no lumps. The consistency should be like a thick pancake batter, coating the fish well but not dripping much.
Trim the fish of all skin. Cut into pieces the size of your index finger. Sprinkle with lime juice and salt. Pour the oil 2 inches deep into a pan suitable for deep frying (I use my wok). Heat to 180° (350°F) using a thermometer. Test the oil by dropping in a bit of batter; it should rise to the top and be surrounded by bubbles.
Dry the fish with paper towel, and coat with the batter. Add a little more beer if the batter seems too thick. Using tongs or chopsticks (I use awesome giant deep frying chopsticks that I bought at a Japanese grocery store), swish the fish through the batter, let it drip once, and place in the hot oil. Cook 3 or 4 pieces at a time, until they float and the batter is set, but still a very light colour.
Remove to a cooling rack to drain, and keep the cooled oil in the pan. At this point you can refrigerate the fish uncovered until just before you need to serve it, which is what I do so I don't spend the whole dinner party in the kitchen.
When you are ready to eat, reheat the oil to 180-185°, and refry the fish 3 or 4 pieces at a time, until the coating is golden brown and crispy.
- Corn tortillas, warmed (wrap in a teatowel and zap in microwave)
- Shredded cabbage (not lettuce.)
- Pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa. On a large board, finely dice 5 roma tomatoes, ½ a white onion, 1 red chilli, and 6 sprigs of coriander all together, scrape into a bowl, and squeeze 1 lime over the top and 1 tsp salt. Let it sit for a while to soak up the flavours)
- Avocado Sauce (runnier and plainer than a guacamole; blend 1 avocado, 1 tbsp milk, 2 tbsps water, a few drops of lime juice, and 3 springs of coriander in a blender. Add salt and more water to make consistency like thick cream)
- Mayonnaise (we use Kewpie Japanese mayo, HIGHLY recommend. Please don't use fake (no egg) mayo.)
- Hot Sauce (Tapatio, Valentina, Amor, Cholula)
- Fresh lime juice (serve wedges on the table for squeezing)
- Coriander sprigs
Just in case you're feeling super energetic and slightly nervous about impressing your guests, you could also whip up a chocolate and raspberry ganache tart (using the shortcrust pastry and the chocolate ganache recipes from Stephanie Alexander's The Cooks Companion), worry that it looks like a mud pie, and be extremely relieved when one of your guests turns up with three punnets of fresh berries.
And then your night would be complete after playing with sparklers and wandering down the road to witness the fireworks bringing in 2014.