The Mexican theme continues...Neil and I have begun a quest to lunch at every Mexican place within striking distance. A couple of weeks ago we ate at Taqueria - and a fabulous lunch it was. Annoyingly, they wouldn't let me take photos. I was mildly cross at the start of the meal and even crosser by the end, because the food was so good. I kicked off with Callos al mojo de ajo - garlicky scallops with chipotle and avacado mash - which was seriously good. But Neil had hit the jackpot with his choice of Cochinita pibil - slow-cooked pork with achiote and citrus juice and pickled pink onions. One bite and I was having one of those 'ohmygodwhatisTHAT??' moments when your palate lands on something new and heavenly and tantalising. After scanning the menu again, I guessed it was the achiote seeds that were the key ingrediant. Luckily the people who run Taqueria also run the Cool Chile Company, and the restuarant sells ingrediants. So I headed back to work with a tin of the special seeds.
Rick Bayless has become my authority on serious Mexican nosh, and he didn't let me down with a recipe for pibil that called for quite a lot of work for a fine reward. There's one version of his recipe here, although it's a bit different from the one I used from his book Mexican Kitchen. First, take your spices. That's the achiote seeds, brick red and just as hard, black pepper, allspice and oregano, and whizz them to a powder. Smash some garlic with salt and add...then add some cider vinegar to create a paste.
Then add orange and lime juice to the paste, and insert your pork shoulder joint to marinate for at least four hours.
Then it's into the oven at around gas mark 3 for several hours - it's the tenderness that's part of the dish. Then you can get on with the pink pickled onions.
Simply steep sliced red onion in boiling water for a minute, then add a spice mix of black pepper, cumin and oregano to the drained onions and add garlic and cider vinegar. Stow in the fridge while the scent of achiote fills the house. Three hours later and the pork is ready.
The joint will now be falling apart, which is fine, because you're after that north American pulled meat thing. Gently shred the pork and reserve the achiote liquid from the bottom of the pan.
Then you can compose your meal. I put some of the pork into a warmed tortilla, poured over some of the basting juice and topped with the day-glo onion. Sides were refried beans with sour cream, grated Manchego and tomatilla salso, together with some un-Mexican but delicious runner beans from my allotment. A feast! This pork is so good.