It’s a special day today: it’s exactly 11 years since I first met my husband. In a dingy indie club in Southampton, in case you’re wondering. He’s working today, so we’re waiting until tomorrow to celebrate.
It was my husband that introduced me to proper Mexican food; when I first went to visit him in Los Angeles in 2006, when he was there recording his first album. Before this, my experience of it was limited to one dreadful Tex Mex restaurant – the kind that offers some kind of green puree as guacamole and uses pre-made margarita mix – and some home experimentation with Old El Paso. I was actually thrown out of this restaurant on my 21st birthday for climbing up onto the table after one too many chilli tequilas and trying to convince the other diners to embark upon a Mexican wave, but that’s a story for another day.
You could argue that anything would shine in comparison to this, but the food in LA was truly incredible. Crispy fish tacos, those little slivers of pink pickled onions, proper guacamole studded with onion, tomato and chilli and hot sauce made with chipotles, a word that had never even permeated into my consciousness until then. Of course, feasting as we were in California was only going to lead to disappointment when we returned home to find Mexican restaurants in the UK a poor imitation – Wahaca didn’t even exist back then – so we took to our own kitchen to try and replicate it.
Fast forward ten years or so; through countless pork shoulders slow cooked in our temperamental oven, a quest for the perfect pico de gallo, and several avocado stone-related knife injuries; and here I am making tacos with root vegetables. Of all things. My husband has a gift for those slow cooked meats you really, really want in your burrito, but I tend to experiment more with vegetables and fish. There are purists who would tell you that root vegetables do not really belong in a taco, even some that would claim that adding a parsnip was sacrilegious, but being able to experiment within a cuisine is what moves it on and evolves it.
These tacos fulfil both my love of Mexican flavours and my seasonal craving for the root vegetables that are in abundance at this time of year. It’s not your traditional taco, no, but a taco it is, still. Label it an abomination if you want, but do give it a go.
Root Vegetable Tacos
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 parsnips, peeled and diced
½ a butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
½ tsp salt
Pico de gallo, or salsa
Guacamole, or smashed avocado
Coriander leaves, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 200°c. Combine all the sweet potatoes, parsnips, butternut squash, olive oil, ground cumin, smoked paprika, dried oregano, dried chilli flakes and salt in a bowl and toss together so that the vegetables become coated in the spices. Spread out on a baking tray in a single layer (you may find you need to use two) and roast in the oven for 20 minutes until browned.
Serve the vegetables alongside the taco shells and other accompaniments.
One year ago: Chicken and Dumplings for the Overworked Soul
Other vegetarian dishes on More than Just Toast:
Late summer grilled vegetables with halloumi
Red lentil, pea and potato curry
Spiced lentils and tomatoes with kale and baked eggs