It’s a warm, sleepy Wednesday morning. After waking at 5:30 for the morning drop off (husband, not offspring – we share one vehicle and I need it today), returning home and eating breakfast, both Loki and I have retreated to the couch in a feeble haze.
I’m still trying to be productive, slowly editing photographs from Monday’s recipe shoot whilst sipping lukewarm tea. Loki, on the other hand, succumbed to sleep as soon as his head hit the cushions. He’s now curled up beside me in what I term his ‘biscuit’ position; head tucked against his hind legs, paws curled in, spine flexed in a half moon shape against the fabric of my summer dress.
It’s a little bit adorable, if not uncomfortably warm in this relentless weather. His slow mellow breaths lend steady texture to the soundtrack of my fingers against plastic keys, occasionally changing tempo as he repositions.
Aw. It’s alright for some.
Anyway, getting back to the reason for this recipe post – let’s talk tacos.
Soft tortillas, to be exact, filled with smoky black beans, rich guacamole, sour cream, fresh salads and the crunch of homemade spicy pickles. In my opinion, when accompanied by an ice-cold beer, you’ve reached Summer dining at its absolute best. Fresh, generous, reasonably healthy and undeniably delicious.
I realised over the weekend that it’s been a little while since I’ve posted a ‘mains dish’ on the Mess. At least eight months or so, give or take a few days.
After searching the archives, I’m pretty sure this post was my last substantial dinner post (from May 2015 – insert cringe). Pretty darn shameful for someone who not only eats dinner seven nights per week (well, don’t we all?) but also prefers savoury food over sweet.
Yeah. I’d wax lyrical about lack of sunlight, our generally-late dinner times (we eat around 7:30 – 8pm most nights) and the patriarchy, but in all honesty, I just prefer ‘real dining’ at dinnertime. I torture my family enough on weekends with endless prop searching, food holding (check out this site and video for a laugh – Aaron assures me I’m not this bad!) and lukewarm coffee (“…don’t drink it yet! I need a photo!”) without the need for food styling on weeknights.
But as it’s summertime, the nights are long and my family are trying to help me retrieve my ‘blogging mojo’ (thanks, my loves) I’m promoting some temporary change. A slightly less styled, candid snapshot into my home on any given night: what we eat, when we eat it, exactly as I’d serve it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m choosing meals that are still ‘blog worthy’ rather than five minute bowls of tuna salad, but this is definitely me on a plate. Easy to prepare, generous, lots of condiments (you get me Graz), various types of vegetable preparations (fire-roasted, fried, pickled and fresh) and a selection of ass-kicking hot sauces. Yussss.
This particular meal was prepared on a Saturday, due to the element of pickling involved. It’s not as hard as it might look, despite the multiple bowls and pickles. If your knife skills are reasonable (or if you have a mandolin with a guard) you can probably knock out all these dishes in less than two hours… including the pickles.
If you happen to keep homemade pickles in your refrigerator at all times (like me) the black beans, guac and salads can be prepared in under 60 minutes. Easy food at its finest.
So, welcome to my self-serve, vinegar-splashed (yep, that happened), Mexican inspired dinner table, free of any real styling or pretence. The first of what I hope will be a series of ‘real dinners’, from my home to yours.
^^Oh, and you may also spot a rather large platter of tender marinated beef steak on my (vegetarian) taco table, which was provided by my relentlessly omnivorous, generous mother. It went beautifully with the rest of the taco ingredients, sliced thinly and layered atop the smoky beans and salads. I’d definitely recommend that you follow suit if you’re similarly omnivore-inclined. Just a simple marinade (or even just salt and pepper) will do, due to the availability of strongly flavoured condiments.
Thanks mum (yes, I do watch my protein! I love you).
Black Bean Tacos
- 3x 400g cans organic cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 medium brown onions, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
- 1.5 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1.5 tbsp ground cumin
- 5 tbsp apple cider or white wine vinegar
- 3-4 tbsp clear maple syrup or rice malt syrup, to taste
- a few drops of liquid smoke (optional)
- sea salt and cracked black pepper, to season
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 12 soft taco tortillas (preferably corn but wheat is fine)
- boozy Tequila pickled onions (recipe below)
- spicy pickled radishes (recipe below)
- Mexican corn salad or esquites (recipe within this post)
- pickled whole chillies or sliced pickled jalapeños (optional)
- sour cream or cashew cream (I love this vegan cashew sour cream recipe from Oh She Glows)
- finely shredded red cabbage, dressed with fresh lime juice and zest, white pepper, crushed sea salt and olive oil
- fire roasted strips of red pepper
- crumbled Mexican cotija cheese (substitute feta cheese)
- fresh coriander leaves
- lime wedges
- hot Tabasco or chipotle sauce (see my recipe for the ‘skull and crossbones’ hot sauce above within this post)
Heat oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cooking for 5 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent. Add the spices, fry for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add in the vinegar, maple syrup, liquid smoke (if using) and a splash of water. Allow to cook for 2 minutes before adding the beans.
Mix well. If the mixture looks a little dry, add in a splash more water before simmering gently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and place the pan on a steady surface.
Mash half of the beans with the back of the spoon or spatula until you achieve a chunky puree (this can really be to your preference, I mashed some of the beans to a paste whilst leaving others whole for texture). Season to taste, then spoon into a serving bowl.
Serve spooned into warmed tortillas, with guacamole and your choice of toppings. This bean mix is also fantastic as a dip with corn chips or crudités.
Pickled Spicy Radishes
Makes 1 x 475mL (American pint) jar
- 1 bunch (200g) fresh radishes, washed
- 3/4 cup good quality white wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup water
- 3 tsp maple syrup or rice bran syrup
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp red chilli flakes
- half a fresh jalapeño, finely sliced
- ½ tsp whole mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
Top and tail your radishes with a sharp knife, then slice into very thin rounds (or half moons, if you have a few very large radishes like I had) using a knife or mandolin. Mix with the finely sliced jalapeño, then pack into a canning jar. Set aside as you prepare the brine.
In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, honey or maple syrup and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then add in the spices. Stir well, then pour the mixture into the packed jar of radishes.
Seal the jar immediately whilst hot if you want to store your pickles for a while. Otherwise, let the mixture cool to room temperature before serving with the tacos above. These pickles are tasty on the day they are made, but improve if left to sit in the brine for a couple of days. They will keep well in a sealed, refrigerated jar for several weeks.
- 1 large Spanish onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp (30ml) tequila
- 1/2-1 tsp agave or rice bran syrup
- chilli flakes (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pack the sliced Spanish onion into a 375mL canning jar, then set aside whilst you prepare the brine.
In a small saucepan, combine the white wine vinegar and sweetener with a good splash of water. Bring to the boil, then add in the chilli flakes (if using) and boil for one minute. Add in the tequila, salt and a grind of black pepper. Pour into the jar of onions, tilting gently to ensure that the liquid drips down to the bottom. Seal immediately, if intending to keep the pickles for a while, or allow to cool to room temperature before serving with the above spread.
These pickled sliced onions should keep in a sealed, refrigerated jar for several weeks.