black bean soft tacos with pickled radishes + boozy onions

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Black Bean Tacos 

Serves 4-6

Inspired by black bean tostadas from BBC Good Food

  • 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

To serve:

  • 12 soft taco tortillas (preferably corn but wheat is fine)
  • guacamole
  • 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.

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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.radishes

radishslicePickled Spicy Radishes

Makes 1 x 475mL (American pint) jar

Adapted from this recipe by Kathryn at Cookie and Kate

  • 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.

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Boozy Tequila Pickled Onions
Makes 1 x 375mL jar
  • 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.

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boozy cucumber, lime and chilli paletas

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Well, it’s Friday. The first Friday in June, to be exact. By now you’d be aware that my confessed intention to post on a weekly basis has gone less-than-swimmingly over the past three weeks. My last post has taunted me proudly as my free time has dissolved into a mess of work overtime, fatigue and a frightening ocular migraine that consumed most of last Monday.

Yes, an ocular migraine. On a public holiday, when my regular General Practitioner was probably enjoying a WA Day barbecue. Who knew that migraines could be painless and cause temporary loss of vision? I thought I was having a stroke… most probably a TIA, or at the very least my retina was detaching (yes, I have a touch of hypochondria which appears to be familial; thanks Dad).

But a few hours and $135 later, I found out that I was mostly fine; just tired and moderately stressed. Sorry, body. I should take better care of you.

limes loki

Anyway, enough about the negatives of the past two weeks. There have been some gloriously shiny positives, from productive side-project coffee date meetings with Aaron (SO EXCITED) to healthy gym days and a giant Mexican feast held with this blogging crew from last year.

Oh, the feast we had. It’s probably fortuitous that it takes us between twelve and eighteen months to organise each catch-up, as we definitely don’t skimp on courses or calories (chocolate-mousse-avocado -ream-lime-curd-crumbled-brownie-candied-lime-and-chilli-chocolate-soil-layered dessert, anyone?). We did scale down slightly from our elaborate Spanish feast, but I’m still bringing takeaway boxes to the next one (which might be an Indian night; anyone have a spare tandoori oven?).

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As per our previous posts, we’ve got a deliciously photo-heavy series of joint posts in the pipeline, full of recipe links and styling details. But for now? Here’s a tequila-soaked taster for you Northern Hemisphere people who are heading into summer’s warm embrace.

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Boozy Cucumber, Lime and Chilli Paletas

Makes 8

You will need: 8 x 3oz ice pop molds, 8 wooden popsicle sticks

  • 4 medium cucumbers, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2.5 tbsp caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp Tequila
  • chilli flakes, optional

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Place the chopped cucumbers into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 2 minutes or until the mixture resembles a fine pulp.

Strain the pulp through a fine sieve to extract all of the liquid (push down on the cucumber flesh with the back of your hand to ensure you get all of the juice).

cucumberjuice

Add the caster sugar and cayenne, then stir until all of the sugar is dissolved (you should no longer hear sugar granules scraping at the bottom of the bowl). Add the Tequila and stir thoroughly.

juice mix

Distribute the mixture between 8 clean paleta (popsicle) molds. Sprinkle in a few whole chilli flakes for decoration (optional). Carefully transfer into the freezer, ensuring the molds remain upright. Freeze for at least 1 hour before placing a wooden popsicle stick into the centre of each paleta (if you have an ice pop maker with a lid that holds the sticks in place, feel free to place the sticks in straight away).

Allow to freeze for at least 12 hours, or preferably overnight (the alcohol in these paletas significantly slows the freezing process. Don’t be tempted to unmold these paletas before they’ve had a good amount of freezing time, or you’ll be left with a cucumber and lime slushy).

To serve, run the paleta molds briefly under hot water. Firmly pull each paleta out by the wooden stick (yeah, I probably didn’t need to tell you that, but anyway…).

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barbecued chilli con carne with beer

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In case you missed my last post, Aaron and I are now three days into a European adventure which began in Paris on Wednesday 9th July, 2014. To keep the blog running during my absence, a few wonderful blogger friends have offered to contribute guest recipe posts for your reading (and cooking) pleasure over the next few months (yes, the blogger network is amazing).

First off the block is my talented friend Matt, a mutual Mexican food and beer lover who blogs over at Inspired Food. As he mentions below, we met last year at the Eat Drink Blog conference hosted by Perth City Farm and ever since, we’ve maintained a passionate dialogue about everything food and beer related (yeah, you could say that the post below perfectly encapsulates our foodie friendship!).

I’ll be posting a travel update soonish (with plenty of photographs of golden croissants, warm brioche, soft white cheese and wild strawberries… don’t hate me) but for now, it’s over-and-out as I hand over to Matt! Enjoy!


It’s mid afternoon. The sun is hidden behind an army of clouds, occasionally peeking its head through the cracks. The wind has a cold sting as it brushes past my face and I take comfort in the warmth radiating from the charcoal barbecue. Smoke fills the air as a cast iron pot simmers away, filling my soul with joy about what’s to come…

You see, I’ve been sitting here for over three hours watching the barbecue and tending to that cast iron pot of goodness (ensuring I don’t burn down the backyard!). Thankfully I’m sitting with good company and an Esky full of cold beer (I’m sure Laura would agree that it is never too cold for beer, especially when there is a barbecue involved! Yes, Laura does!).

That is all it takes: a little time, a little fire, a little beer and some of your favourite people.

Chilli Con Carne-2007

Hi, my name is Matt. For those of you who haven’t noticed me stalking this page, I too run a little recipe blog over at Inspired Food. Laura and I have known each other for quite some time now, initially coming across each others blogs in cyberspace and eventually meeting up at the Eat Drink Blog conference in 2013. Since then, there have been a number of awesome dinners (The Moroccan Table and The Spanish Table) with Laura and her husband Aaron, Jemima (from Feed your Soul, Perth) and her sister Lexi, Alyssa (my beautiful girlfriend) and of course myself. I’m sure there will be many more to come.

When Laura asked for contributions from guest bloggers while she travels the northern hemisphere, I jumped straight in and volunteered to spend some of my time rambling. This was more of a natural instinct to help a friend out and I hadn’t actually given much thought as to what I would post about. After many late nights trawling the internet, searching through my cookbooks and watching reruns of Jamie Oliver (ok, yes that is just a regular occurrence but shhh!) I finally came up with the perfect post.

Chilli Con Carne-1994

You see, Laura and I share some common interests: we both love beer, we both love Mexican food and we both love Jamie Oliver’s style of cooking. Naturally, once I realized this, all I had to do was combine these three things and I’d be onto a winner.

Combining beer, Mexican and a ‘Jamie approach’ to cooking was really easy once I came to that conclusion. I had just watched episode two of Jamie’s American Road Trip (you know, the one where he hangs out with the cowboys and makes his cowboy chilli?) and that was my inspiration for this post. I wanted to feel the heat from the barbecue, drink beer and cook something amazing.

Chilli Con Carne-2005

I have always wanted to cook something with beef brisket but it’s quite difficult to find here in Australia. Supermarkets tend to favour corned Silverside. I’d suggest you give your butcher a call a few days before to make sure they carry it (and if they don’t they will have time to get it in). Brisket is the perfect cut of beef for slow cooking; granted there is a little preparation involved but it is well worth it. The beer adds a lot of body to the chilli and depending on the type of beer you choose, the options are endless.

Below you will find my recipe for a Tex-Mex style ‘Beer Chilli Con Carne’. Inspired (of course) by Jamie Oliver’s cowboy chilli (‘Chilli Con Jamie‘).

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Barbecued Chilli Con Carne with Beer (of course)

Serves 6-8 hungry people

What you’ll need:

  • 2kg beef brisket, cut into 3 cm cubes
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 5 gloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 fresh long red chillies, chopped
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (add more if you like it hot)
  • 1 bottle of beer (pick your favourite, I used about 500ml of India Pale Ale)
  • 4x 400g tins of tomatoes 
  • 1 square of dark chocolate
  • 400g tin of red kidney beans (or your favourite bean) 
  • 2 capsicums (bell peppers), sliced
  • a handful of chopped coriander (cilantro) roots
  • sour cream, to serve
  • coriander (cilantro) leaves, to garnish 
  • rice and flat bread to serve

Now What?

This couldn’t be easier to make, simply get your barbecue started, add a splash of oil, add the onions and chillies and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened.

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Add the spices and cook for another 2 minutes.

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Then add the beer and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.

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Add the tomatoes, mashing up any whole ones with the back of the spoon. Add the chocolate, coriander (cilantro) roots and meat.

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Mix well, cover and cook for 3 hours or until the meat pulls apart with a couple of forks.

Add the beans and capsicums (and more chilli if your game). Then cook for a further 30 minutes.

Remove the lid, add the sour cream, coriander and start eating. This is best served with rice and flat bread (like warm tortillas) with plenty of cold beers. 

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Thanks again Matt for an incredible guest post… I am definitely trying this recipe as soon as I get home! For more inspiration from Matt, please check out his blog (Inspired Food) and associated facebook, Instagram and twitter!

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pork carnitas with lime and chilli guacamole

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There’s something about Summer that makes me crave Mexican food. As blistering days melt into hot, blackened evenings, my mind starts drifting towards cool guacamole, spiced brisket, fragrant coriander and salt-rimmed margaritas.

It’s an obsession that I share with my good friend Matt, who recently blogged about his Mexican New Year’s feast over at Inspired Food. Pork carnitas, home made tortilla chips, pineapple salsa and chunky guacamole… now, that’s my idea of Summer culinary heaven.

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Over the past month, I’ve revisited Matt’s post more than once to drool over his carnita recipe. Despite cooking Mexican at least once per week, I’ve historically gravitated towards brisket, chicken and black beans rather than smoky, slow-cooked pork shoulder. Though I have made carnitas, they’ve never been to the specifics of Matt’s recipe.

Last Sunday, everything changed. I woke early, arriving at the market with carnitas in mind. Negotiating the aisles, I chose pork, garlic, onion and oregano alongside items for guacamole, esquites and salsa. I checked out, drove home and ascended three flights of stairs to our apartment.

I turned on the air conditioning and started unpacking each bag of groceries. Bag one, no oranges. Bag two, limes… but no oranges. Bag three? Darn it. No oranges.

I glanced at the window, my eyes narrowing in the glare of the blazing sun. Sweat dripped from my brow as I contemplated another insufferable dash to the local store. No oranges equals no pork carnitas; well, not according to Matt’s recipe. But out of desperation (and encroaching heat stroke) I decided to improvise.

panI rummaged around in the fridge, desperately unearthing lemons, limes and a bottle of The Cidery’s still apple cider. As pork goes naturally with apple, I decided to douse the shoulder in the cider whilst exchanging the oranges for a lemon. In the back of my mind, I hoped that the sweetness of the cider would balance the lemon’s extra acidity. I had no idea if it would work.

After removing the rind from the pork, I decided to score the flesh before making small incisions to house slivers of peeled garlic. Much like my technique for slow-roasted lamb, the idea was for the garlic to slowly infuse during the cooking process, melting down into sweet, sticky goodness. As an afterthought, I grilled the crackle alongside the meat, crumbling it into pieces to add to the carnitas upon assembly.

brookfarmlimechilli

After recently sampling Brookfarm’s fragrant lime and chilli infused macadamia oil, I decided to substitute it for vegetable-based oils in both my pork carnita and guacamole recipes.

In my mind, the gentle heat, nuttiness and tang of the infused oil would add a beautiful layer of complexity to both dishes. The golden hue of the oil also looked spectacular against the creamy guacamole and vibrant splashes of paprika.

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Six and a half hours later, five boys and one girl sat around a table to eat succulent, slow-roasted pork, crispy crackling, tomatillo salsa, esquites, pickled cabbage and creamy guacamole. Piles of warm tortillas were claimed with eager hands from their nest of aluminium foil.

After sampling the meat, I’m pleased to report that the Brookfarm oil certainly added an extra layer of smoky complexity. Each bite was soft and delicious, contrasting beautifully against the pop of crackling, sweet kernels of corn, acidic cabbage and cool guacamole. In absence of required oranges, the proxy lemon and cider worked effectively to add both sweetness and tang to the meat. I was well pleased (and so were the boys, judging from their seconds… and thirds).

So; despite yet another failure in my history of following recipes, I have to admit that this was a beautiful improvised success. But next time, I’m stockpiling oranges. For Matt’s carnita recipe, of course.

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Pork Carnitas

Serves 8-10

  • 2kg boneless pork shoulder, rind removed
  • 80ml Brookfarm lime and chilli infused macadamia oil
  • 1 red onion, roughly diced
  • 4 garlic gloves, peeled and halved
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ancho chilli powder
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 500ml (2 cups) dry apple cider
  • 200ml water
  • 1 jalapeno chilli, halved (seeds left in)
  • sea salt flakes
  • freshly cracked black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano and ancho chilli powder. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, then mix well.

Place the pork into a shallow dish that will fit in your refrigerator. Cut a few shallow slashes into the surface of the meat, then rub in the spice mix (ensure that you massage the spices well into each slash and crevice). Using a sharp knife, make eight 1-cm incisions over the surface of the meat; stuff half a garlic clove into each.

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Cover and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Place the pork into a large pan or ovenproof dish, then add in the lemon zest and juice, cider, water, sliced jalapeno chilli and diced onion (add a few extra garlic cloves if you like). Drizzle over the Brookfarm lime and chilli oil, then grind over some more salt and pepper.

pan2Cover tightly with foil and place into the preheated oven; immediately reduce the oven temperature to 150 degrees C (300 degrees f).

Cook the pork for 5 1/2 hours or until the meat falls apart when poked with a fork. Uncover and cook for another 30-45 minutes, basting with the cooking liquid until the sauce reduces and the pork starts to brown.

Remove from the oven, place the pork onto a heat-proof plate and cover it with foil. Drain the sauce into a small pan and reduce it over medium heat until thickened. Shred the pork with a fork and pour over the reduced sauce. Mix well and add a little more lemon, salt or pepper according to taste.

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Serve the pork on a large platter, accompanied by warm tortillas, lime wedges, guacamole (recipe to follow), salsa, esquites (or blackened corn salad), sour cream and extra cheese if desired.

guacamole

Lime and Chilli Guacamole

  • 2 medium ripe avocadoes, peeled, stones removed
  • 1 tbsp of chopped ripe tomato (you can leave the seeds in)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped Spanish onion
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp Brookfarm lime and chilli infused macadamia oil, plus extra to drizzle
  • sea salt
  • white pepper
  • smoked paprika, to serve
  • coriander leaves, to serve

Coarsely mash the avocadoes onto a chopping board (or in a bowl, if you prefer). Squeeze over the lime juice and season well with salt and pepper. Make a well in the centre, then add in the chopped onion, tomato, macadamia oil, lime zest, garlic and cumin.

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Mix well, taste and add a little more salt and pepper or lime juice if required. Serve in a small bowl, drizzled with some extra macadamia oil, garnished with coriander and/or dusted with smoked paprika.

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Disclaimer: Brookfarm supplied me with a sample of their lime and chilli infused macadamia oil for the purpose of this recipe post. However, I was not compensated and as always, all opinions are my own.

mexican corn salad

Sunlight filters through the security door as I sit listening to the low hum of the air-conditioner on the wall. It’s the final week of October and… well, I think Summer is well and truly on the way. Yesterday the barometer hit 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and today’s predicted to be 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit). Definitely the right weather for icy mojitos, trips to the beach and dinners on the balcony as the sun dips beneath the trees.

If you’re one of those nice people who read my last post, you might remember that I contemplated starting a new Summer recipe series. Well, this is the first installment of that series, which I’ve entitled ‘Summer Salads’ for the sake of giving it a name. At my house, salads are eaten all year round, mostly due to the fact that we’re fortunate enough to have mild winters here in Western Australia. Due to this fact, I’ve developed an obscenely large repertoire of salads, both warm and cold, the latter of which I’m going to be sharing with you over the pending Summer months.

Today’s salad is one that I’ve made (possibly) hundreds of times, mostly due to the ease of assembly and the fact that it goes fantastically well with everything from grilled fish to barbecued chicken, tortillas and tacos. I’ve called it a ‘Mexican Corn Salad’ as it’s core ingredients echo those found in many Mexican recipes… but with a slight alteration of ingredients you can transform it into any corn salad you like. I’ve included some of my own variations below, which I hope will be welcome additions to your recipe repertoire over the Summer months. However, as with all of my recipes, I’d encourage experimentation… just remember that with salad recipes, freshness, colour and a balance of ingredients is the key to success.

Mexican Corn Salad

Serves 4

  • 2 ears of corn, husked
  • 1 avocado, peeled and roughly chopped (or scooped out of the skins with a spoon)
  • 1/2 small Spanish (red) onion,  finely sliced
  • 1/2 punnet (about 150g) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice from 1 lime (or lemon)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (use less if you can’t tolerate chilli)
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Place your corn cobs in a medium saucepan on the stovetop and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes, then drain and immediately refresh in cold water to stop the cooking process. When your corn cobs are cool enough to handle, place them upright onto a chopping board and use a sharp knife to remove the kernels (see below). Place the kernels into a medium-sized bowl to continue the cooling process.

Once your corn has sufficiently cooled, add your remaining vegetables to the bowl. Mix together your lime or lemon juice, lime zest, olive oil, salt and pepper in a screw-top jar. Replace the lid and shake briefly. Taste and adjust as necessary (if you find that your dressing is too acidic, you can add in a little bit of honey). Pour over your salad and toss to combine.

So that’s your finished salad. For a Mexican-style feast, I’d suggest that you serve a spoonful wrapped in warm flour tortillas with some sliced grilled chicken, guacamole, shaved queso manchego viejo (delicious Mexican hard cheese, substitute with Cheddar or Parmesan) and some herb-infused sour cream. To make the lemony, herby sour cream, just place about 100ml of sour cream into a bowl and add in the juice of half a lemon, freshly chopped mint and coriander, a pinch of dried mint, a little ground cumin, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Top with a drizzle of lemon oil, then dollop over your tortilla filling. Deliciously easy and a great crowd-pleaser.

Notes:

  • As above-mentioned, this salad is very open to adjustments and substitutions. To keep with the Mexican theme, you can feel free to add in some sliced red peppers (capsicum), finely chopped cucumber or grated cheese. To transform it into a more traditionally Australian salad, omit the tomatoes, lime, Spanish onion and chilli, then substitute in some quartered baby beets, crumbled feta and sliced spring onions. The dressing stays the same, except that I’d recommend using lemon instead of lime. This is a delicious accompaniment to barbecues.
  • If you’d like to serve this salad as a main meal with some grilled chicken or fish, just add in about half a cup of cooked white quinoa or brown rice. Double the dressing, and add in a squeeze of honey for sweetness. This is great with a spoonful of the herb-infused sour cream on the side.
  • Another delicious serving suggestion is to pile a spoonful of this salad into a taco shell with fried ground beef or Chili Con Carne, grated cheese and some herb-infused sour cream. Add salsa or guacamole as desired.
  • The normal ratio of oil to acid (vinegar or citrus juice) in salad dressings is 3:1, however in this recipe I’ve reduced the oil component as I like the freshness of the vegetables to be unobscured by oiliness. Test your salad and adjust it to suit your personal taste.
  • There’s no replacement for fresh corn in this salad. Frozen and canned corn kernels will do in a pinch, but they won’t have the sweet juiciness that fresh corn kernels have. If you’re going to use frozen corn, I’d suggest cooking the kernels as briefly as possible to prevent them from becoming waterlogged.

So that’s the first installment of my ‘Summer Salads’ series completed… check back here in a couple of weeks for the next recipe: Baby Beet Salad with balsamic onions, goat’s feta, soft herbs and toasted walnuts.

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