Birria (Chilli Goat Stew)
Ask most Brits about Mexican food and they’ll think of a classic chilli con carne. Birria is also a meat stew, rich and deep in flavour, and is excellent served on corn tortillas – it’s served this way as a street food in Guadalajara – but it’s usually made from goat meat or mutton and the method of cooking is unlike any other I’ve encountered. Rather than mincing the meat, it’s literally cooked to shreds – marinated and slow-braised. Begin with a butterflied leg. You’ll need at least 5 hours to cook this and it’s even better after an overnight rest.
|2kg||goat, mutton or lamb leg, butterflied|
|6||dried hot chillies|
|4||dried fragrant chillies|
|6||cloves of garlic|
|½ tsp||cumin seeds|
|½ tsp||dried oregano|
|45ml||white wine vinegar|
|6||squares of dark chocolate|
You will need a pestle and mortar, or a spice grinder, and a stick blender.
Salt the meat well, rubbing it into all surfaces. Remove the seeds and ribs from the chillies, then toast them in a hot dry pan. Allow them to scorch a little, then drop them into a cup of boiling water and let them rehydrate.
Drop the garlic cloves, still in their skins, into the same dry pan. Let the skins burn a little and then lift them out. Peel off the burnt skins.
Put the cumin seeds, cloves and cinnamon stick into the same dry pan and parch them until the first seed pops, then remove and leave to cool.
Grind the dry spices and oregano in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. Once they’re powdered, add the garlic and the soaked chillies and work into a smooth paste, slowly adding the soaking water from the chillies and the vinegar.
Rub the paste over the meat, put into a freezer bag and allow to marinate overnight in the fridge.
Put the marinated meat on a rack in a roasting tin and pour 4–5cm of water into the bottom. Add any drained marinade from the freezer bag to the water, drop in the bay leaves and the onion, peeled and roughly chopped. Build a tent over the meat and the tray with a double thickness of foil, making sure all edges are sealed. Put the tray into a low oven – about 140°C – and leave for around 4 hours or until the meat falls apart.
Roughly chop the tomatoes and cook in a hot pan until they break down, then add the liquid from the bottom of the roasting tin along with the now braised onion, squares of chocolate and a glug of olive oil. Cook everything down a little and then use a stick blender to reduce to a smooth, glossy dressing. Pour this back over the meat and stir it through, breaking the meat up further as you go.
Serve with hot corn tortillas, chopped coriander, crumbled ricotta and lime wedges.