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Comfort food kitchen: Easy Baja fish tacos

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I bought a lot of stuff on the internet during the last Sydney lockdown (didn’t we all?) but two of the smartest purchases were a tortilla keeper and taco holder (or stand).

The tortilla keeper is a big round insulated plastic tub that keeps the tacos warm so that you can heat them one by one (as you should), and then serve them when you need to.

The taco stand or holder allows you to fill and serve the tacos without the fillings falling all over the place. This is very handy if you want to make soft tacos, rather than the deep-fried crispy ones (but you can do them too).

Search for “taco holder” in Amazon and you will get dozens of options. I went for the simplest and cheapest one (see below) and it has been life-changing.

Which brings us to this week’s recipe …

Baja Fish Tacos with black beans and rice

This is dead easy and this is actually more of a construction manual as you can do it without very much cooking at all. The trick is in preparing all the components and having them at hand for when you require them.

Here’s what you will need.

  • Soft tortillas – La Banderita is a great brand (go for the wheat-based fajitas), while pure corn tortillas (La Tortillieria, Mission etc) are both gluten-free and authentic.
  • Frozen battered fish – I recommend Birds Eye Deli range Australian Hoki  or Flathead Bites from your supermarket.  They even suggest trying them for tacos on the boxes, and who are we to argue?
  • Salad – pre-washed mixed salad from the supermarket is fine.
  • Chilli mayo – you can go from basic Praise in a squeezy bottle or a jar of my favourite, Gran Luchito. Your call.
  • Fresh mango
  • One ripe avocado
  • Half a lemon
  • Half a lime
  • Half a can of black beans
  • Half an onion
  • One cup of cooked rice (to minimise actual cooking, you can buy packets of pre-cooked rice in the supermarket that only need to be microwaved).
  • Chilli cooking sauce (Gran Luchito or equivalent cook-in sauce)
Taco holder (ignore the fact that these are hard tacos)

The Method

Pre-heat the oven to about 220C. While it’s warming up, chop the onion and blanch it in a medium sized pot.

Place the fish on greaseproof paper on a tray. Aluminium foil is OK, but greaseproof paper is better (I don’t know why – it just is). The fish comes as battered goujons that you can cook and crisp up in the oven – no deep-fat fryer required.

The hoki comes in five portions each of which will will generously serve each taco but you can split them between at least six tacos if you need to eke the fish out.

OK, when you have everything else on standby for prep, the fish goes in the oven on for 16 minutes.  Turn the pieces after 8 minutes or you will have one side soggy and the other burnt.

While they are cooking, prepare your tortillas and fillings.

Sprinkle the tortillas with a little water and heat them in a totally dry frying pad for about 10 to 15 seconds each side.  You want them to be warm and soft, not browned and crispy. If you don’t have a tortilla keeper, wrap them in a stack in a dry tea towel adding new ones to the pile as you take them off the heat.

A pre-washed mixed salad is good.  Mix a small bowl of that with a couple of dessert spoons of chilli mayo.

Cut half the peeled mango into slices.  The other half can go into the desert (if you have one).

Add the cooked rice and the black beans to the blanched onions. Season and add a couple of tablespoons of chilli cook-in sauce or a generous dash of chilli hot sauce. Warm and stir.  Everything in that pan is already cooked so you are just warming now.

Mash up the avocado with a fork, adding a squeeze of lemon juice, lime juice, salt and ground black pepper.

Once the fish is cooked, it’s time to start loading (and this is where kitchen tongs really come into their own).

Smear some of the avocado on the base of the tortillas and slot them into the taco stand or prop them up on the plate using anything the supports their sides (eggcups, small herb jars … whatever comes to hand. Make mental note to go online and buy taco stands). 

Alternatively, you can lay the tacos flat and build a narrow ridge of the ingredients across the middle, to be gathered up when the taco id folded.

Add the salad (not too much) and then lay the fish on top, then add the mango and a squeeze of lemon,  Add a squirt of chilli mayo if you are feeling frisky.

Put the rice and black beans mixture into small bowls or on the side of the plate and serve it all with a fork and serviettes. Eat by hand which will get messy, if you’ve done it right.

This is a dish of contrasts.  The softness of the tacos against the crunch of the fish batter, the heat of the chilli against the cool of the salad.  The black of the beans against the white of the rice – in Cuba black beans in rice is called Moors and Christians, you can work out why for yourself.

I haven’t over-seasoned this, but I might add salt to some elements and salsa on top of the salad to lift the “heat”.  This is one of those classic dishes that you can also adjust to suit your own tastes.

If you don’t fancy the frozen battered fish, try it with strips of fresh tuna lightly fried then finished in a chipotle sauce, for a totally different yet very familiar eating experience.  

Enjoy.

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