Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tacos: the perfect food for kids

One of the biggest problems about bringing up four children was getting them to eat the same food. Indulgent you might say - they should have eaten what they were given - but it doesn’t somehow work like that these days. There were meals that 3 out of 4 liked like sausage and mash but even then my eldest son bewilderingly disliked the mash. MASH! Who dislikes mash?

The most popular meals (apart from roast chicken and spag bol and even they didn’t work when the girls periodically went veggie) were dishes they could assemble themselves, top of the list being pizza and homemade doner kebabs. To this I’d have now added tacos which strike me as the perfect kids food. And thrifty too.

True you have to have the tortillas and I’m afraid wheat ones won’t do. There’s something about corn tortillas that turns this from a sandwich into an exotic, snack that makes you feel as if you're on holiday. You can of course make them yourself and that would be a fun thing to do but just as you don’t always have time to make pizza from scratch it’s good to have some ready made tortillas on standby.

I’m lucky enough to have a shop up the road in Bristol called Otomi that sells two kinds - one long-life product imported from Mexico and one from the Cool Chile Co which also sells them online. I tried both the other day and preferred the flavour of the Mexican ones but the texture of the Cool Chile ones was much better. (In both cases you need to warm them in a dry frying pan otherwise they’ll snap when you attempt to wrap them round the filling.)

The filling is the cheap bit. You can basically use what you have though I consider a fresh tomato salsa (and therefore some fresh coriander and lime) essential and some avocado nice.

As I had some chorizo, onion and potato I decided to use those, borrowing an idea from Thomasina Miers excellent Mexican Food made Simple. I’d also bought a small tin of chipotles en adobo from Otomi (£1.50) which gave them a nice smoky edge.

Chorizo and potato tacos
Enough to fill 6 tortillas
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cut into small dice
110g semi-soft chorizo (Tesco has a good one in their Finest range)
1 finely chopped chili from a tin of chipotles en adobo + some of the juice (optional) or a teaspoon of mild chilli powder or smoked pimenton
1-2 heaped tbsp fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
1 avocado and the juice of half a lime
6 soft corn tortillas
Heat a small frying pan, add the oil and fry the onion and potato over a moderate heat until soft and beginning to brown (about 8-10 minutes). Add the chorizo and finely chopped chilli and fry until the chorizo starts to char a little. Take the pan off the heat, season with salt and pepper and stir in the coriander. Peel and cut up the avocado and toss in the lime juice. Warm the tacos one by one on both sides in a hot dry frying pan (i.e. without any oil) and top with the chorizo mixture, some salsa (below) and chopped avocado. Eat in both hands. (They’re dead messy)

Salsa fresca
1/2 a small mild onion or a shallot
6 small to medium-sized ripe tomatoes, skinned if tough
juice of half a lime
1 fresh chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
Finely chop the onion, tomatoes and chilli, if using and mix together with the fresh lime juice and coriander. Season with salt and pepper. Eat with tacos or tortilla chips

This is a good veggie version. Home-cooked beans would be even better.

Red bean tacos
2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
A pinch of ground cumin
1 finely chopped chili from a tin of chipotles en adobo + some of the juice (optional) or a teaspoon of mild chilli powder or smoked pimenton
1 tbsp tomato paste or 2 tbsp passata or other tomato-based pasta sauce
1 tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed or an equivalent amount of home-cooked red or black beans
1-2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper
Grated cheddar or a white cheese like Wensleydale or Cheshire or some feta
6 soft corn tortillas
Heat the oil and fry the onion until beginning to soften and change colour. Add the cumin powder, crushed garlic and chili or chilli powder, stir, then add the tomato paste and cook for a minute. Add half a glass of water, tip in the beans and leave on a low heat while you make the salsa and prepare the avocado, as above. (The bean mixture is actually better left to cool down a bit before you use it to fill the tacos. Mash it up a bit first so the beans don't go rolling all over the place.) Heat the tortillas as above and top with the beans, grated cheese, salsa and avocado (for those who want it).

You can also make great tacos with shredded beef or chicken as they do on the taco trucks that are so popular in the US (and increasingly here) Now, kids would absolutely love that.

For more ideas for taco fillings check out Thomasina’s chicken tinga tacos which it strikes me would adapt well to turkey leftovers and Baja California fish tacos (which I reckon you could cheat and make with fish fingers and a spiced up homemade slaw). Or, even better, add the book to your Christmas list. It's got lots of other recipes I want to make.

Have you ever made tacos for the family or what dish do you find all members of the family like?


Michelle said...

I made tacos last night, didn't look nearly as good as your pictures though!

Colleen said...

When the girls were young and living at home tacos were our go to meal. Most of the time it was ground beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese and salsa rounded off with a can of re-fried beans and the hard taco shells you can buy here in the states. Might have been because that was one of the only meals the ex could prepare. Now in another life and without the girls home anymore, we will do seafood tacos with fresh tortillas and black beans.
Your tacos make me want them now! They look absolutely delicious!

Nikki said...

Definitely will try the red bean tacos soon! Love the blog and the background too by the way ;)

Sarah said...

My boys love tacos too, but without the avocado, coriander, and cheese. They like them best with meat, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber and tacos sauce.

A meal that they both eat all of... hmm, well they'll eat anything that resembles meat and potato. I can add peas and broccoli but after that it starts getting tricky.

Lasagna always goes down well, as does chicken pie (in which I hide leeks), and home-made veggie soup. They also like chicken risotto with no cheese.

I get very bored with trying to accommodate all the myriad of tastes especially as I like practically everything and can't eat a bunch of stuff unless I start making separate meals. I love it when I can indulge myself while they are staying with their dad!

Fiona Beckett said...

Bet they tasted good though, Michelle.

I LOVE seafood tacos, Colleen, especially those fish tacos you find round San Diego

Thanks NK. Hope you enjoy the red bean tacos

And lasagne has always been a winner too, you're right, Sarah.

Emily said...

My husband loves sweet potato tacos. I steam diced sweet potato, fry some pepper, red onion and chorizo together, then add the softened sweet potato along with some smoked paprika, chilli powder, ground cumin and salt and pepper. Before serving I add a squeeze of lime, some chopped fresh corriander and a drizzle of chipoltle hot sauce.

Unknown said...

we love tacos in our house, and use them for just about anything. we're strictly unpurist! Melted cheese and spring onions, even warmed with honey, banana and cinnamon! I agree, they've got to be corn ones though.

Fiona Beckett said...

Never tried sweet potato ones, Emily. they sound great.

And I generally do quesadillas with melty cheese, Crumbs. They go down well too.

Penny Saver said...

We love tacos in our house. The kids love them, the husband loves them. Always a hit. But to buy the kits were too expensive. I'm going to try some of your recipes! I also make my own taco seasoning which you can find here: http://apennysaver.blogspot.com/2011/11/homemade-spices-mixes-and-soups-for.html I like to buy the cheap tortilla chips (.49p) from Sainsbury's and create a taco salad.

Laura@howtocookgoodfood said...

I have never made tacos for my family mainly because of the fact I am not mad on flour tortillas. Now that I can order the corn ones online I shall probably give them a try. As you say, they are the perfect make your own supper. I hope for success with my three little ones!

Unknown said...

This coming Christmas, I would go over this recipes and probably prepare one on Christmas eve. If not, definitely on New Years Eve. I found the food great and good to eat.

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