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Thoughts On Dry January, Diets and a Recipe for Salmon Tacos

Homemade Salmon Tacos (Recipe)

Homemade Salmon Tacos

It won’t surprise you, but I don’t do dry January. Nor do I do diets. I reign myself in, become a little more pragmatic and try and restore balance by eating a little lighter but still in normal amounts. Or rather, I start eating normal amounts. Replacing sour cream with yogurt. Eating more fish and less meat. A bit more salad. Lots of avocados. Frying less, although still a little. Lighter Brighter cooking is what I shall call it. It is all about being aware that every little bit makes a difference but not killing the enjoyment of it. Food is sustenance and a source of great pleasure. The key to health is home cooking, moderation and exercise. And good sleep.

With diets, I think a lot of people feel better not because they have cut out a food group (don’t get me started), but because they have started paying attention to what they eat, and what they cook. One very big thing is cutting out processed food. Some go from not cooking at all to eating predominantly home cooked food. I bet that if you speak to a lot of very successful dieters, you will discover that they transitioned from not really thinking about what they ate to being a lot more considerate about what they cooked, and eating less processed food. They almost certainly exercised a lot more.

The reality (certainly for me) is that even when you think about what you cook (and I do a lot), it doesn’t mean that you are necessarily eating well. But when you do think about it from a health perspective, and start to feel the benefits of Lighter Brighter cooking, when you can see exactly what you are eating, not through a film in a plastic tray spinning around in a microwave, but because you have cooked it and see just how much of everything has gone in, that is empowering. When you cook, you can also adapt your recipes to make them lighter and no less delicious.

Enter salmon tacos. I am lucky that I live near a great fishmonger (and I have a great butcher too). Last Saturday I went late and there was not much left, but there was some lovely salmon. I did two things with it it, a teriyaki (a simple combination of 50ml soy sauce & 50 ml mirin with 1 tsp of honey, reduced by half over a medium heat, and then used to glaze a just-cooked piece of salmon, delicious) and also some lovely light salmon tacos.

These were speedy, so great for a quick lunch or supper. I used corn tortillas because I prefer the flavour, and natural yogurt in place of richer crema or cheese. I did fry the salmon, not in a batter but coated lightly in a seasoned spiced flour. The rest was salad, including the very virtuous and fabulous avocado. The result was a delicious taco, full of goodness, and lovely little crisp bits of fried salmon, which given the worthiness of everything else in there, was acceptable.

Enjoy and don’t be too hard on yourselves and your dinner. Don’t judge yourself or worry about anyone else judging you. Life is very short and we should enjoy it. Added to all of that, January is the one month of the year that should not be dry. Long nights and short days demand the occasional drink and lovely dinners. Just make your food Lighter & Brighter to compensate. (I will be publishing more Lighter Brighter recipes as the month goes on too).

Recipe: Salmon Tacos

Serves 1

Ingredients

2 tortillas (corn or flour,  whatever your preference)
200g salmon, diced sliced into bite size chunks
a few fine slices of red onion
a lime
half an avocado
a pinch of dried chipotle chilli or some fresh chilli, sauteed
a few slices of cucumber, with seeds removed
a handful of sliced romaine lettuce
2 tbsp natural yogurt
3 tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder
light flavourless oil for frying – groundnut or sunflower are good
sea salt

Method

Prepare your filling by dicing the avocado and mixing with the onion. Sprinkle with the juice of half the lime and mix. This will keep the avocado fresh and green and will take the sharp edge off the onions.
Heat about 2 inches of oil to 180 deg C in a pot using a thermometer or a deep fat fryer (if you don’t have either, it will be roughly ready when a piece of bread starts to sizzle immediately when you put it in). Combine the flour, chilli, cumin and some sea salt, ensuring it is thoroughly mixed. Coat the salmon in the flour and fry for a few minutes (in batches if you must to make sure there is just one layer of salmon), until it is starting to brown and is a little crisp (it won’t crisp completely as it is only a light flour coating). Drain on kitchen paper.
Heat the tortillas in a a hot frying pan for about a minute on each side.
Prepare your taco by dividing the ingredients between the two tortillas and serve with one tbsp of natural yogurt and a sprinkling of chilli on each. Squeeze the remaining lie juice on top and eat immediately, while the salmon is still hot.
Enjoy!

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I like food. I like to make food. Eat food. Photograph food. Write about food. Mainly in London but when I am lucky or organised further afield.

13 Comments

  1. Agree I think if you pay attention, you eat better, as most of really know what is ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’. It won’t be a dry January as that would be plain wrong in this business…also I’m not brilliant at deprivation so try to up the exercise instead – it’s all about balance :)

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  2. Sounds gorgeous. Love the zingy freshness of lime and red onion, a perfect antidote to these January blues. Oh and you’ve pretty much made me think it’s ok just to quit booze during the week rather than for the month haha!!! (Friday is obviously the weekend).

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  3. I’m so with you. Just about to start teaching my new cooking class which similar to your category name for this type of food – mine is called ‘Bright and Clean’. The biggest thing I tell people to do is to focus on nourishing themselves with food that is made with love – either by themselves of by somewhere small and local. Focusing on what you’re not eating only leads to bad times (I know I’ve been there). Build recipes from the ingredients that are naturally good for you and avoid anything that is processed. Especially fake processed ‘healthy’ version of an unhealthy food. If you want a burger (and as I work in america that is the usual craving for my students) have one. But have a small one from a fabulous place that uses grass-fed beef and yummy bread or make it yourself. BTW I’m so with you on the dry January thing – as if January isn’t dark enough! I need my wine to get me through, in moderation of course ;) Good luck with your year ahead Niamh – you’ve inspired me in the last one.

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  4. Do do agree with all the sentiments of this post. It’s all about balance isn’t it. “The key to health is home cooking, moderation and exercise. And good sleep.” I think we all want wonder cures; common sense is not trendy enough. Happy New Year (raises a glass of good red wine).

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  5. Agreed on all counts. Such a delightful escape from the ridiculous “Total Food Replacement” fads that always seem to pop up at this time of year!

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  6. Nice one, beautiful simple clean, looks very tasty.Wild salmon I hope, would this work with another fish? Cant get my head on weather trout would work. I can get wild trout easier than Salmon. I am not in to farmed salmon, I don’t have salmon that often.
    On a fishy note ,our Day boats are grounded at the moment, bad weather ,no dry January here in Devon. Actually I am 11 years clean of alcohol, I was an alcoholic though. I still cook with alcohol. Great photo.

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  7. This is a great post … really enjoyed reading it!
    You’re totally right about ‘balance’ being the key. I hate calorie-watching or denying myself something I really fancy eating, preferring just to keep health vaguely in mind when I cook! Let’s face it, the little crispy, fatty, saucy bits of meals are usually what make them extra specially tasty!

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  8. We like fish tacos ever since we were introduced to them 20+ years ago at a ‘gourmet gas station’ (it was on the cover of the now-defunct Gourmet magazine) outside of Yosemite Nat’l Park. Now here in Scotland we have them mainly in the summer, but you’ve reminded me that they are great to eat year-round, and with crispy salmon. Whole-heartedly agree with the sentiments here. January abstinence is rather a sticking plaster. I like to think that eating well and using/buying real foods most of the time negates the need for all that penitence. Like you said, January is dreary enough. Although…I have bought smaller wine glasses.

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