Barbocoa | Mexican Food Made Simple

For week two of this month’s book club, I’ve chosen something a little less obvious.  Last week’s steak burritos were great, but to me burritos, fajitas and tacos are a very familiar sight in the brightly coloured, artificial tex-mex section at the supermarket.  Not that Thomasina Mier’s recipes resemble anything LIKE those pre packaged versions, but I wanted to cook something that was perhaps a bit more traditional and less well known.

Barbocoa translates literally to ‘barbeque’ but is a word used in Mexico to describe slow-cooked meat.  Thomasina describes this recipe as ‘a rich, exotically spiced dish that melts in the mouth’. Sounds good to me!

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This time I read the recipe WELL in advance, so knew that I had to make the marinade the day before!  You start with ancho chilles: large, but mild, almost black, dried chillies that sound like maracas when you shack them they contain so many seeds!

The chillies are gently heated in a pan for a few seconds before being simmered in a pan of water to soften. When ready, they are whizzed up to a puree with plenty of garlic, a cinnamon stick, cumin, peppercorns, dried oregano, dark chocolate and a HUGE amount of olive oil! 300ml! I read, and reread the recipe, but she definitely says 300ml. Dieters, step away from the Baracoa, it wont end well.

Verity wanted to help, so as I held the lamb shoulder in its packet, she poured over the marinade. She’d seen me put the chocolate in, and well it did look a little like chocolate sauce now that it was all blended, so she asked if she could try some. Well maybe I’m a bad mommy, but I said ‘yeah sure!’ and she stuck her little four year old finger into the sauce and had a taste: her face was classic! Let’s just say she wasn’t keen! Ha!

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The next morning, I removed the lamb from the fridge. The marinade, because of the HUGE amount of oil, had completely solidified, encasing the meat. I left it to come back to room temperature a little while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.

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I found the biggest pan that I own, and put in the meat in it’s marinade, half a bottle of red wine and five roughly chopped tomatoes, before covering in water.  This was then left on the lowest heat for three hours, after which, I added whole floury potatoes and cooked for another hour.

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Well my house smelt great! But when it came to the big reveal, we were a bit underwhelmed. Confronted with a huge pan of rich gravy, meat and potatoes, it was going to need some help in the aesthetics department.

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The cavalry arrived in the form of a cabbage and radish salad, and chile de arbol salsa.  Dished up, with all of it’s accompaniments, it looked nothing less than delicious! And it was.

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The salad made with very finely sliced white cabbage, radishes, red onion and coriander, dressed with olive oil and sherry vinger, was THE best contrast to the barbocoa.  It was crunchy and fresh, and the slight vinegar hit balanced perfectly with the rich flavours and soft textures of the dish. Heavenly.

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But the star of the show was the Chile de Arbol Salsa. This stuff is blow-your-head-off hot, but oh my, it’s beautiful! And again, complimented the whole dish perfectly. Made using a massive amount of chiles de arbol, cider vinegar, oregano, garlic, peppercorns, sugar and salt, this is a sauce for chilli lovers.

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This recipe really has opened my eyes to how diverse Mexican food must be, it’s a keeper! I’m looking forward, more than ever now, to cooking even more recipes from Mexican Food Made Simple this month. Bring it on!

Next Week : Smoky Stuffed Peppers

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