When I went to Mexico last winter I was in the middle of a rough patch. I was not enjoying my job, but over time the problems there started seeping into the rest of my life, leaving me sad and anxious all over. I love being a chef because it lets me use work to explore a personal interest. But, when you aren’t happy at work, it cant taint something you once loved.
Usually when travelling I challenge myself to try as many new flavours as possible but not on this trip. I needed to focus on something besides food. Mexican food is amazing, but there is so much else to the country! I spent my days taking pictures of the visual feast around me, enjoying the sunshine and practising my dormant Spanish. Rather than planning my days around meals I ate whatever was convenient, which in Mexico usually means tacos. I ate them every day. Once I had them three times in a day. But this was a good thing!
There is value in trying a broad variety of dishes when exploring a foreign cuisine, but as my hero Gretchen Rubin says ‘the opposite of a great truth is also true.’ In Mexico I had an education that came about by eating the same dish repeatedly. The different salsas, beans, meat, tortillas – tacos are a microcosm of Mexico, and stopping to eat some on the street is a nice way to watch the world go by. Variety is the spice of life. But, sometimes the best way to discover variety is by being consistent.
Sorry for the rambling intro but that’s what I think when I think about tacos!
This is a recipe for really yummy pulled pork ones that I made with my slow cooker.
2 kg pork shoulder, skin removed
2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground fennel
2 tsp dried Ancho chili flakes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1 small red onion
2 red chillies
zest and juice of one lime
coriander, to taste
salt, to taste
Corn tortillas, to serve
Garnish, optional :
Spicy Sour Cream – 100ml sour cream mixed with 25g Valentina hot sauce
finely sliced spring onions
more fresh coriander
Pork first. Massage the meat with salt and pepper, cumin and fennel. Place in slow cooker with all the other ingredients and enough water to cover. Cook on medium for about 6 hours, until it pulls apart easily with a fork.
Remove from cooking liquid and let cool slightly before shredding the meat. Set aside. Save some of the cooking liquid too, you can cook it in this when heating it up later.
Salsa. Slice the red onion in two and chargrill on the stove until black. Do the same with the whole chillies and pineapple. Leave to cool, then finely chop the onion, chili and pineapple and mix together with the lime juice and zest, and coriander.
Before serving, briefly place the tortillas over an open flame on the stove until they are warm, and malleable and slightly charred. Shmear the base with spicy sour cream, layer on some pork and top off with salsa, coriander and spring onions.