Happy spring! We made it through another winter, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with some lentil tacos that fuse east African and Mexican cuisines.
Before we get into discussions of food, though, let’s chat briefly about setting some intentions. I prefer to set my ‘new year’s resolutions,’ at the beginning of spring. It just feels more natural to hit the reset button when the earth is, quite literally, springing back to life, than it does during the darkest time of the year at the beginning of January.
Here are some of my goals for the next 12 months:
1) Graduate from university (for once and for all).
2) Continue working towards my dream of living and working on an organic farmstead/owning a tiny home/working as a chef at retreats.
3) Grow this website into a community of friends who simply love wholesome, vegan food and living a healthy life.
4) Run a sub-3:20 marathon in the fall.
5) Practice gratitude every day.
6) Live in the present moment and get out of the habit of overthinking.
I used to be excellent at setting goals, but poor at following through with them. For the past couple of years, I have fallen out of the habit of setting lofty goals or even writing to-do lists, because I would overthink them and inevitably come up short. But that, I’ve come to realize, isn’t the best approach, either: I thrive on working towards a goal. This year, my focus is on incremental progress every day rather than perfection. I’m also going in with the mindset that none of my goals are set in stone. They may evolve as the year progresses, and I’m okay with adapting them as necessary.
Now, on to the food. I created this recipe the week before the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, and the tragic coincidence was not lost on me that we had just finished eating these Ethiopian-inspired tacos the day before the plane crash. Out of sensitivity to the victims and the country itself, I held off on publishing the recipe in the week following. I just wanted to mention this, as I do not take the tragedy lightly, and my heart aches for all those who were affected.
This recipe evolved out of my attempt to recreate my friend Victoria‘s favourite dish: injera. Injera is an Ethiopian sour flatbread made with teff flour. Victoria loves Ethiopian food, and has scoped out almost every restaurant in the city to find the best injera. Well, let me just say that I’m going to have to leave injera to the pros: my first attempt fermented beautifully, and I was so excited to cook them. But the moment the batter hit the hot cast iron skillet, it adhered to it, and my hopes of removing it from the pan in one piece were dashed.
Fear not, though! I’m consciously trying to see every lemon life hands me as an opportunity to make lemonade. 😉 I already had a concept for my injera accompaniments, and I also had a pretty mean taco craving.
And that’s how Berbere-Spiced Lentil Sweet Potato Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Crema were born!
These tacos are in “OMG you must make them now” territory. They contain the following components:
fragrant, perfectly spiced Berbere-spiced lentils;
crunchy purple cabbage slaw;
melt-in-your mouth roasted sweet potato;
sour-sweet pickled onions;
and a cool and tangy cilantro lime crema…
all wrapped up in either corn or flour tortillas.
The Berbere lentils are a staple dish that can serve many purposes outside of tacos. Try them in a grains/greens/beans bowl with the cilantro lime crema as a sauce if you’re looking to change things up. They’re actually crave-worthy. Yup, I just referred to lentils as crave-worthy. You’re welcome. But seriously, I urge you to make them, because the flavours just work so well together. And the fragrant spice blend will make your kitchen smell divine!
Hungry yet? Same.
Berbere-Spiced Lentil Sweet Potato Tacos with Cilantro Lime Crema
For the Berbere-Spiced Lentils:
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, or refined coconut oil
- 2 medium red or yellow onions, finely diced
- 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar or pure maple syrup (helps round out flavours; don’t skip!)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 3/4 tsp turmeric
- 3/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups cooked green lentils (from 1 1/2 cups dry green lentils) OR 2 15-oz cans lentils, rinsed and drained
For the roasted sweet potatoes:
- 4 small or 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 3/4-inch cubes
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Simple Cabbage Slaw
- 3 cups finely shredded purple cabbage
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- Pinch of fine sea salt
For the Cilantro-Lime Crema:
- 1 cup cashews, soaked in hot water for at least 45 minutes or cold water for 4 hours
- 1 cup cilantro
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 large clove garlic
- 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup filtered water
For the Quick-Pickled Onions:
- 1 large or 2 small red onions
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup filtered water
- 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 12 6-inch corn or flour tortillas
- Hot sauce of choice
- Prepare the lentils: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add celery. Meanwhile, whisk together tomato paste, vegetable broth, and sugar or maple syrup in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the spices, salt, and pepper. Add the tomato paste mixture to the skillet, followed by the spice mixture. Add lentils and stir to combine. Then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until some of the liquid has absorbed/evaporated, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside until ready to use. This will allow the flavours to meld.
- Prepare the sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the diced sweet potatoes on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat. Roast for 25-35 minutes, or until fork-tender and crispy around the edges.
- While the sweet potatoes are roasting, you will have time to prepare the remaining components. To make the cabbage slaw, toss together cabbage, oil, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside until ready to use.
- Make the Cilantro-Lime Crema: Blend cashews, cilantro, lime juice, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, and water in a blender until smooth and a thick, sour cream-like consistency is achieved. If it seems too thick, add more water, 1 tbsp at a time.
- Make the Quick Pickled Onions: Peel and thinly slice the onions. Place them in a 16-oz/500 mL glass jar. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegars, water, maple syrup, salt, and red pepper flakes over high heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and pour over top of the onions in the jar. Make sure that the liquid is covering all of the onions. Secure a lid on the jar and set aside to pickle for at least 10 minutes, preferably longer (the onions will soften and their sharpness will mellow the longer you allow them to pickle). Make ahead: Onions will keep in the fridge for at least a week.
- Warm up the tortillas in a covered dish in a 300 degree F oven for 5 minutes prior to eating, if desired.
- To assemble a taco, spoon desired amount of lentils, followed by sweet potato, cabbage slaw, pickled onions, and cilantro-lime crema onto a tortilla. Repeat as desired.
If you make these tacos, take a photo and post it on Instagram with #holisticallie and @holisticallie!