Spice and all things nice: Mexican-inspired recipes to liven up the warmer months

Fresh and vibrant: Spiced salmon with chipotle butter potatoes and greens.
Fresh and vibrant: Spiced salmon with chipotle butter potatoes and greens. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Mexican flavours are sublime. The heat, the lime, the freshness and the richness. I love the vibrancy and the hand-me-an-icy-beer and good times that seem to go hand in hand with these flavours. These recipes will help us hurtle into the warmer months, with my enthusiasm for and quest for flavour at the forefront, rather than any claimed expertise in Mexican food. My trips to Mexico were fleeting rather than extensive but what I lack in experience I make up for in enthusiasm and I think you will find these recipes to be fun and lip-smacking in flavour.

Spiced salmon with chipotle butter potatoes, greens and all the sauces

The key here is the saucy goodness that you layer over your salmon – creamy smoked paprika mayo and the bright and fresh ginger, jalapeno and mint pesto. The salmon is the perfect host for all the glorious smoky spices.

The seasoning makes more than you need for this recipe, thankfully. Rub it over brisket or marinate some chicken thighs – it's the most brilliant all-rounder. I like to think that one day, I will be super organised for holidays and throw a batch of this in, just in case.

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g side of salmon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Seasoning

  • ½ tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly ground
  • ½ tbsp coriander seeds, toasted and roughly ground
  • ½ tbsp sweet smoked paprika
  • pinch ground chipotle
  • ½ tbsp salt
  • ½ tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tbsp ground coffee

Potatoes

  • about 300g sebago or other roasting potatoes, cut into large bite-sized pieces
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground chipotle
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Pimenton aioli

  • 1 cup store-bought aioli
  • 2 tsp pimenton (sweet smoked paprika) 
  • pinch ground chipotle (optional)

Jalapeno, ginger and mint pesto

  • 3 fresh jalapenos, deseeded and minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • ½ cup finely chopped coriander
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 5cm piece fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt
  • juice of 2 limes

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional).
  2. Add the potatoes, butter, olive oil and spices to a bowl and toss to combine. Spread out on a large baking tray, one that's big enough for the potatoes and the salmon, lined with baking paper and pop in the oven for 20 minutes.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, combine the marinade ingredients for the salmon in a bowl and spread over the top side of salmon, massaging them in for maximum flavour. 
  4. Once the potatoes have taken on a light golden colour, remove the tray and, working quickly, add the salmon and return the tray to the oven. Reduce the heat to 130C fan-forced (150C conventional) and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked to your liking. 
  5. While the salmon is roasting, add the peso ingredients to a blender and blitz to combine then set aside until ready to serve. You can prepare this earlier, just refresh the pesto with a few tablespoons of finely diced mint.
  6. Add the pimento aioli ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine.
  7. Once cooked, removed the salmon from the oven. Transfer to a serving platter with the potatoes, drizzling over the pesto and creamy aioli generously. Scatter with a few extra leaves of coriander and any extra aioli and pesto to the side. Best served hot but is also glorious, and almost deeper in flavour the next day, in a salad.
  8. You can also sling this straight into corn tortillas if you felt like a fish taco spin.

Serves 4

Cauliflower tacos 
Katrina Meynink's Mexican-inspired recipes for Good Food November 2021. Please credit Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only.

These tacos have the right amount of crunch and chew and lime and cream and heat. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Cauliflower tacos 

These tacos are the exact right amount of crunch and chew and lime and cream and heat. All the things we are looking for in a taco, and I believe they would convert the most ardent of meat eaters. Serve with icy cold beers. 

The sauce makes more than you need, but it keeps for a few weeks in a screw-top jar in the fridge and is delightful over anything from breakfast eggs to other dinners or as a salad dressing. 

You can marinate the cauliflower in advance – it holds well in the fridge overnight ready to roast the next day.

INGREDIENTS

Cauliflower

  • 1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • ½ tbsp ancho chilli (or ground chipotle)
  • ½ tbsp sweet smoked paprika
  • ½ tbsp ground cumin
  • ½ tbsp maple syrup
  • olive oil

Sauce

  • ½ can (200g) diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 large roasted sweet red pepper (jarred marinated capsicum) 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ cup smoked almonds
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo

Quick pickled onions

  • 1 red onion, halved lengthways and finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 3 limes
  • salt and pepper

For assembly and serving

  • 10 corn tortillas
  • 1-2 avocados
  • ¼ purple cabbage, finely shredded
  • ½ cup queso fresco or Danish feta, crumbled
  • fresh coriander sprigs
  • lime wedges

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional).
  2. Toss the cauliflower ingredients in a bowl so that the florets are coated in the spices. Set aside for 20 minutes.
  3. For the sauce add all the ingredients to a blender and blitz to combine – it should be relatively smooth and creamy in consistency. Check for seasoning and set aside until ready to use. This keeps for 2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.
  4. Place the sliced onions to a glass jar, cover in lime juice and add the apple cider vinegar. Put the lid on and give it a shake.
  5. Spread the cauliflower on a large roasting tray lined with baking paper. Roast for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is lightly charred on the edges and cooked through.
  6. Warm the tortillas and add the fillings. Top with pieces of warm cauliflower and dollop over some of the sauce, pickled onion and extra fillings. Serve with extra lime cheeks.

Serves 3-4 (makes about 10 tacos)

Tex Mex of sorts salad
Katrina Meynink's Mexican-inspired recipes for Good Food November 2021. Please credit Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only.

The salad version of Tex Mex dip. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Tex Mex of sorts salad

You know that Tex Mex dip – the guilty pleasure we all have? This is the salad version.

Now I am the first to say, make your own seasoning for tacos, but there is something about the store-bought stuff here – having a big waddle in some sour cream – that has its place. You can't replicate it in fullness, so instead of fighting it, embrace it. Tex Mex GLORY.

We've got an all-important double dressing situation going on here. One dresses the leaves and greenery, the other adds that dip-like creamy decadence. It's a happy family when all the elements work together. If you want to give leftovers a new life, simply add some freshly chopped herbs and a fresh batch of corn chips. Happy, happy days.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 corn cobs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 400g can black beans, rinsed thoroughly
  • 2 cups Tuscan kale leaves, large leaves deveined, coarsely torn
  • ½ bunch coriander, leaves picked, roughly torn
  • 1 bunch mint, leaves picked
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • ½ cup crumbly feta 
  • 250g punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
  • bag of corn chips (175-200g)

Chipotle lime vinaigrette

  • 2 tsp ground chipotle
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and roughly ground
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly ground
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • salt and pepper

Taco ranch dressing

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1-2 tbsp taco seasoning

METHOD

  1. Combine the chipotle lime vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine the taco ranch dressing ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Brush the corn with olive oil. Place a pan over high heat and cook, turning regularly, until the corn is charring in spots.
  4. Use a knife to remove the kernels directly into a large bowl. Add the remaining salad ingredients, except for the corn chips, to the bowl. Pour over the chipotle lime vinaigrette and toss to combine.
  5. Coarsely crush the corn chips into the salad. Season generously with salt and pepper. Dollop over some of the taco dressing – it will be quite thick – and serve immediately. If you need to revive the salad after an hour or so, simply add fresh corn chips and herbs for a second life.

Serves 4