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Lamb Barbacoa

Mexican food has at last come of age. Come and learn the ancient food of the Aztecs, as Tommi Miers of London’s Wahaca Mexican cantina showcases some of her modern Mexican favourites, from slow-cooked lamb barbacoa with the hottest salsa ever, to citrussy-fresh ceviche tostadas and smoky crab fideus – plus the lowdown on how to drink tequila.

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  • Ancho Marinade

  • 5 ancho chillies

  • 200ml best quality cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

  • 8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken up

  • 2/3 tsp cumin seeds

  • ½ tsp peppercorns

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • 40g dark cooking chocolate

  • 200ml olive oil

  • sea salt and pepper

  • Lamb

  • approx. 1.8kg shoulder of lamb or mutton

  • ancho marinade

  • ½ bottle of medium-bodied red wine

  • 4-5 tomatoes, roughly chopped

  • 8 large floury potatoes

  • Radish Salad

  • 3/4 medium white cabbage

  • bunch of radishes, thinly sliced

  • ½ red onion, finely sliced

  • handful of chopped coriander

  • extra virgin olive oil

  • sea salt and pepper

  • 1-2 tbsp sherry vinegar

  • To Serve

  • 2 limes, quartered

  • chile de arbol salsa (extremely hot chilli salsa)

  • Chile de Arbol Salsa

  • 40g small chile de arbol

  • 250ml cider vinegar (or a mix of white wine and rice vinegar)

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

  • 1 tsp peppercorns

  • 2 tsp sea salt

  • a couple of good pinches castor sugar


  • 1.

    Tear out the stems from the chillies and discard the seeds. Tear the flesh into a few flattish pieces.

  • 2.

    Warm a dry frying pan and, when medium hot, gently heat the chilli pieces for about 30-40 seconds, turning to heat on both sides. Be careful not to burn them. The heat brings out the flavour of the chillies (as you would warm spices before grinding them). They are ready when you can smell the oils from the chillies and the skin starts to soften.

  • 3.

    Put the chillies in a small saucepan, cover with boiling water and simmer for 10-15 minutes until soft. Blend them in an upright food blender with about a third of the soaking water until smooth. Add the vinegar, spices, herbs and chocolate to the blender and purée with the olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper and leave to cool.

  • 4.

    Put the meat in a plastic bag with the marinade the day before you are going to cook it and leave refrigerated overnight, or at least a few hours (check there are no holes or you will get into a real mess – double wrapping is sometimes a safe bet).

  • 5.

    The following day, put the lamb, marinade, wine and tomatoes into a large pan and cover with water. Put a piece of pierced cling-film and a tight-fitting lid on the pan, so that none of the liquid can evaporate. Bring to simmering point, cooking over a low, gentle heat (so that the liquid is barely breaking a bubble).

  • 6.

    After three hours remove the cling film and add the potatoes so that they have time to cook in the broth. Cook for about another hour until the meat is completely tender and the potatoes are cooked. Remove the lamb and potatoes from the broth and whizz it up with a stick blender.

  • 7.

    When you want to eat, make the cabbage and radish salad by slicing the cabbage very, very finely with a sharp knife or mandolin so that the slices are almost transparent. Cut the radish in the same way (they can be kept in icy water in the fridge and made a few hours ahead). Toss the cabbage, radish, onion and coriander in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil with salt and pepper and the sherry vinegar.

  • 8.

    Bring the lamb up to heat and serve in deep bowls surrounded by the potatoes and the broth, with a handful of the bright salad on top. Drizzle a little of the fiery chile de arbol salsa on the salad.

  • Chile de Arbol Salsa:

  • 1.

    Remove the stems from the chillies and simmer in 100ml of water for five minutes. Whiz up with all the other ingredients.

  • To Serve:

  • 1.

    This salsa is searingly hot, but totally delicious. It is a beautiful counterpoint to the meatiness of the rich lamb barbacoa. Pass it around so that people can drizzle as much as they dare.

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