Sexy feast

We’re taking summer dining across the border to hot and spicy Mexico. Olé!

Sesame crunch chicken tacos

Serves 6

4 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp sea salt
500g panko breadcrumbs
150g sesame seeds
Sunflower oil, for deep-frying
2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
500g boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2cm pieces
12 flour tortillas
1 whole cos lettuce, cut into 8 wedges
1 small avocado, cut into wedges
Squeeze of lime

Zesty crema
1 cup low-fat sour cream
Juice of 2 lemons
Zest and juice of 2 limes

Preheat the oven to 180°C. To prepare the chicken, place the egg and salt in a shallow bowl and mix well. Combine the breadcrumbs and sesame seeds in a separate shallow bowl.
Half-fill a large heavy-based saucepan or deep-fryer with oil, set over a medium heat and bring to 180°C.
Combine the flour, chilli and cumin in a zip-lock bag, add the chicken and shake to coat. Remove the chicken pieces and coat one by one in the beaten egg and then the breadcrumb mixture.
Fry the chicken pieces in batches for 4 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove using a slotted spoon or tongs and place on paper towels to drain, then transfer to the oven to keep warm.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Lightly spray with oil, then add the tortillas and briefly fry to warm them. Stack the tortillas, wrap them in a warm, damp tea towel and set aside to keep warm.
Toss the lettuce and avocado together in a bowl with a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of salt. To make the crema, combine the ingredients in a bowl with a pinch of salt.
To serve, transfer the warm tortillas onto taco stands or plates and top with a few pieces of crispy chicken, a little of the salad and spoonfuls of the zesty crema.

Hot tips
For a lighter version, the chicken can be grilled with the same seasoning minus the breadcrumbs – it just won’t be as crispy.
Dial up the flavour each time you make these tacos by experimenting with different types of salsa.

Streetcorn with avocado crema & bacon crumbs

Serves 4-6

4-6 corn cobs in their husks

Avocado crema
200g streaky bacon or pancetta, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 ripe avocados, stones removed
Juice of 4 limes, plus extra to serve
⅓ cup sour cream
1 garlic clove, grated
1½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp ground allspice
Pinch of onion powder
Pinch of ground coriander
Sea salt, to taste
160g salted ricotta, grated

To prepare the corn, preheat a barbecue chargrill (ideally a wood and charcoal combination) to medium. Moisten the husks with water to help prevent burning, then place the corn on the barbecue, cover with a lid and grill, turning occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the husks are charred and the corn appears tender. Leave the cobs to cool slightly while you prepare the avocado topping.
To make the crema, fry the bacon in the oil until crispy, then drain. Combine the avocados, lime juice, sour cream, garlic and spices in a food processor and blend to make a smooth, thick sauce. Season to taste, then add a little water to reduce the mixture to a coating consistency.
Serve the crispy bacon, avocado crema and salted ricotta alongside the corn, allowing your guests to help themselves, adding squeezes of lime if desired.

Mexican-style pickles

Makes 2 cups pickling solution

2 cloves
¼ tsp whole black peppercorns
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
2 garlic cloves, smashed
½ tsp dried oregano
1 cinnamon stick

For pickling you could try:
Small red onions, halved, quartered or sliced
Radishes, thinly sliced
Carrots, thinly sliced
Jalapeños, thinly sliced
Cherry tomatoes, peeled
Nectarines, thinly sliced

Dry-fry the cloves, peppercorns and cumin seeds in a small frying pan over a low heat until fragrant, then grind to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle.
Meanwhile, combine the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Add the orange zest and juice, garlic, oregano, cinnamon and ground spices, and set aside to cool.
To prepare the vegetables and/or fruit for pickling, place them in a bowl and sprinkle generously with salt; you’ll need 2 tbsp of salt for every 500g of produce. Cover with ice cubes and leave to brine for 1 hour, then drain and rinse briefly in cold water.
Return the pickling liquid to the boil and pour over the brined vegetables and/or fruit to cover. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Note: this recipe makes 2 cups of pickling solution. If you wish to use more produce than can be covered by this amount, you’ll need to make a double or triple batch of pickling liquid.

Recipes Paul Wilson
Photography Chris Middleton

Edited extract from
Taqueria, by Paul Wilson. Published
by Hardie Grant Books, $50.

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