The smoky smell of flames licking carne asada and the al pastor spit loaded with thinly sliced pork shoulder on the streets of our adopted neighbourhood of Eagle Rock in Los Angeles are almost a dream now.
A couple of months back in Ireland, I'm grateful for home comforts like truly fresh seafood, local cheese and the many things we've missed in the five years away from home. Although our move is still fresh in our minds, there are days I don't think about our life in California.
Sure, we miss the weather, the endless days of sunshine, and our close friends, but what I miss the most is the tacos. Oh, the tacos - I could write love letters to the ladies who pressed masa in wooden presses and toasted them on the giant iron coma, particularly the kind lady who used to make one filled with queso to keep Noah occupied while we waited in line to put in our order.
My favourite taco spot was Angel's Tijuana-style tacos that popped up outside the local Target on Friday nights. Instantly recognisable from it's neon-green splodge of super smooth guacamole and charred meat, it's probably one of the most popular taco styles in the city, with bricks and mortar joints like Taco's 1986 making their mark.
In an effort to recreate a little taco joy here in Ireland, here is my attempt at the carne asada taco with all the trimmings.
To try these I only ask three things: first, remove all thoughts of supermarket taco kits; second, track down good corn tortillas (I get mine from Picado, which you can order online or pick up in their Dublin store); lastly, cook the meat over hot coals. The flavour is incomparable to anything you will pan fry and worth giving a go next time the BBQ is out.
Carne asada is one of the most common and popular tacos you can order from more taco trucks. Grilled and seared meat marinated in spices with plenty of garlic, salt and lime to bring the flavour. A perfect recipe for your next BBQ dinner.
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lime, zest and juice
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp sugar
½ red onion, very finely chopped
250g green tomatoes, diced
Large handful fresh coriander
600g sirloin steak
12 mini corn tortillas, warmed
1. In a dish, mix the garlic, oil, half the lime, spices and sugar. Finely chop half the coriander and stir into the dish then season well. Add the steaks to the marinade and sit while you make the guac and salsa, turning occasionally.
2. In a small bowl, mix the red onion with the tomatoes, rest of the lime, coriander leaves and some sea salt and set aside.
3. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat until smoking. Remove the steaks from the marinade, pat dry and drizzle with oil. Sear for 1-2 minutes each side until charred but still rare inside. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
4. Slice the steak and serve in the warm tortillas with the tomato and red onion salsa, the taco shop guacamole and the pineapple salsa.
A super smooth guacamole, that's perfect on its own as a dip with tortilla chips or scooped on top of any taco of your choice.
1 fresh serrano or jalapeno green chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
Large handful coriander leaves
1 fat clove garlic, bashed
4 spring onions, white parts only
2 large avocados, pitted and peeled
Juice of a lime
Plenty of sea salt, to taste
1. Make the guacamole in a food processor - blitz the chilli, coriander leaves, garlic and spring onions until as smooth as possible. Add the avocado and lime juice and blitz until super smooth. Season to taste.
Tacos Al Pastor - thinly sliced pork shoulder cooked on a spit - is one of my favourites to order and features little slivers of charred pineapple sliced on top. In the absence of spinning a giant spit in my kitchen, this simple salsa will get you the smoky sweet flavour you're after and makes a great topping to almost any taco.
1 small pineapple, peeled
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic cloves, crushed
Juice 1 lime
Small handful mint leaves, finely chopped
1. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat.
2. Cut the pineapple into quarters lengthways, core and arrange on the griddle pan to char for 10 minutes, turning to ensure all sides are browned.
3. Once cooled a little, dice the pineapple and combine all the ingredients apart from the mint. Toss the mint in just before serving.
Ireland is lucky to have Lily Ramirez-Foran & Alan Foran's Picado Mexican grocer and cookery school. Lily (above) comes from a long line of tortilla bakers and her passion for the ingredients that make up Mexico's diverse cuisine is clear in the products that line the shelves of Picado. Tortillas, salsas, chillies and much more are available in store or on their easy to use website.
Forest Avenue Bread
We devoured three loaves of bread from Forest Avenue last week, a gift from my uncle. Husband and wife team John and Sandy Wyer have been running the restaurant as a green grocer during lockdown and providing locals with access to a curated list of wonderful items like gravlax, terrines, vegetables and breads.
We have such great memories of taking Noah to eat at some of our favourite spots in LA but he, like me, always had a soft spot for tacos! This photo was at our favourite spot in the city, Angel's Tijuana Tacos.