July 6, 2021 — Family Food
I’ve used hoja santa in this vegetarian/vegan taco filling. Its name, ‘holy leaf’, alludes to Mexican legends that describe this large floppy-leafed tree’s role in the baby Messiah’s nappy routines. This makes for a fun story when introducing the dish to your guests, but it is a very alluring herb and used often in Mexican cooking. It tastes a bit of eucalyptus, anise, nutmeg, mint, tarragon, black pepper and even sassafras – the essence of root beer.
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2 large aubergines
2 large Portobello mushrooms.
1 large white onion, peeled and quartered
1 large dried ancho chilli
2 large dried guajillo chillies
2 large cloves of garlic
400g fresh tomatoes
1 tsp dried hoja santa, plus more to taste
Toasted sesame seeds
Optional taco accompaniments – amounts to suit
Chopped tomatoes – or pico de gallo (chopped tomatoes, onion, chilli, coriander)
Grated or crumbled cheese (mild cheddar, Wensleydale, hard mozzarella, feta)
Crema – Greek yoghurt, sour cream, or crème fraiche or a mix, with a little lime juice and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Chopped red or green chillies
Chilli sauces of choice…
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The Mexican way with many sauces is to ‘broil’ or char ingredients in a pan and then blitz in a blender and return to a pan to finish cooking. The traditional pan for ‘broiling’ is a ‘comal’ (cast iron flat pan). Therefore, a cast iron pan is the best tool for the job, but a normal non-stick pan can also be used providing you are happy cooking at a relatively (possibly lifetime-guaranteeing-limiting) high temperature. Otherwise, cook the ingredients on a baking sheet under the grill. The idea is to soften and partially cook, whilst charring a little – not to cook all the way through or blacken excessively.
Hoja santa is used fresh and dried in Mexican cooking. Source online, as there is no real substitute.
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