Cochinita Pibil with Pickled Corn

Wednesday, 1st October 2014

Cochinita Pibil Tacos

I’ve been thinking hard about how I’m going to use up my three huge jars of pickled corn. I’ve been gnawing the kernels straight off the cobs but it’s starting to feel like a missed opportunity.

I thought they’d make an excellent taco topping, and originally wanted to do some kind of breakfast tacos, before realising that the idea of breakfast tacos is kind of gross, actually. I feel the same way about breakfast burritos. I love eggs, but I don’t want them all squished inside a tortilla like a big farty roll up.

So here we are with cochinita pibil, a Mexican dish of slow cooked pork – traditionally a whole suckling pig – rubbed with annatto and sour orange juice, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a pit. Annatto is a seed which colours everything orangey-red. In Mexico it is used in cooking but also to make dyes and body paints, and in the UK it has been used to colour cheese (such as Red Leicester) for centuries, as it was thought that the more orange the cheese, the better the quality. There’s a rather obvious lesson here, which is that annatto is extremely effective at colouring things, particularly hands, clothes, cats, whatever happens to be nearby. I wouldn’t advise accidentally snorting it either, as I did when I was enthusiastically smelling my spice blend; it reminded me of a time in Iceland (THE COUNTRY) when I was given some snuff by a man in a bar and I thought I’d ‘give it a go’. Possibly the most painful half hour of my life.

Anyway, this recipe for cochinita pibil is made with a pork shoulder, and cooked in the oven wrapped in foil, although you could do it on a BBQ. Quite why it has taken me so long to re-create a recipe I thought was so, so fine the first time around I have no idea. This version is even better as I’ve tweaked it here and there. If you’ve never made it then get yourself some annatto off that there internets and get rubbing (after you’ve put your gloves on). You’ll inhale the results.

Once we’d pulled the meat apart, and rubbed it around in the glorious juices, it went onto tacos with a dollop of guac, some mild red onions and that pickled corn, which is sweet, sour and spicy enough to give you electric tingles. New. Favourite. Pickle.

Cochinita Pibil Tacos

Cochinita Pibil Tacos

Cochinita Pibil Tacos

Cochinita Pibil Tacos

Cochinita Pibil with Pickled Corn

1 x 3.25 kg pork shoulder

For the paste

2 tablespoons achiote powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano (decent leaves, not the dusty stuff)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons salt
6 whole allspice
6 cloves garlic, crushed in a pestle and mortar with a large pinch of sea
1/2 tablespoon ground piquin chillies or other dried chillies, ground (Diana Kennedy says you should use powdered ‘chilli seco yucateco’ or paprika)
3 tablespoons orange juice mixed with the juice of 6 limes (should be about half and half) for rubbing the pork and making the paste. Use ? for rubbing over the pork, save the rest for making the paste. This mixture is a substitute for sour orange juice. I you can get sour oranges, then obviously use them.

Rub the pork all over with the orange and lime juice followed by the salt.

Make the paste by grinding the allspice berries, cumin seeds and piquin chillies to a powder and mixing with the crushed garlic and a tablespoon of the orange juice and lime mix, the pork should be quite moist so the paste doesn’t need to be that wet.

Smother this all over the shoulder, rubbing well in. Make a parcel by layering tin foil, put the shoulder into it and refrigerate, preferably overnight. Bring out of the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 135C. Get a big roasting tin and put a rack inside it (I just put a cooling rack in a tin) then put enough water in to fill the base of the tin to about 0.5cm. Place the pork package on top of the rack and cover it tightly with foil. Cook for 7 hours, refilling the water occasionally.

Carefully remove the shoulder from the parcel, taking care to save those precious juices. Tip the juices into a bowl and set aside. break up the meat and set aside in a bowl then pour the juices over and give it a good mix.

This is now ready to serve with the sauce, guacamole, and pickled corn.

Pickled corn recipe here.
Guacamole recipe here.

15 comments | Main Dishes, Meat, Mexican Food

Pickled Corn with Scotch Bonnets

Friday, 26th September 2014

Pickled Corn

I have adored pickles since I was a little girl. Apparently, at one of my birthday parties I refused to join in with anything because I wanted to hide on the stairs and concentrate on consuming a jar of pickled onions. I didn’t want anyone else to have any. Thinking about it now, I’m not sure too many other 6 year olds were that into them.

Back then I remember only pickled onions, beetroot, cucumbers and red cabbage being widely available in the UK, but nowadays pickling is fashionable. We preserve everything from carrots to American-style watermelon rinds. Corn is particularly good as a pickle. In my recipe there’s a whack around the chops from the scotch bonnet chillies, but they’ve been crucially mellowed by the vinegar, and I can’t wait to finely chop them to use as a garnish. Spring onions and coriander went in too. This pickle is great straight from the jar but I’m going to try it on breakfast tacos. Recipe soon.

Pickled Corn with Scotch Bonnets and Spring Onions  (Fills 3 x 1 litre jars)

6 ears of corn, 4 sliced into chunks, 2 shaved of the kernels
1 scotch bonnet chilli, de-seeded and sliced
2 spring onions, sliced into large pieces
Handful coriander
75ml lime juice
15 peppercorns
500ml distilled white vinegar
4 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons sugar

Simmer the corn chunks for 4 minutes, then plunge into ice water (leave the shaved corn raw). In a pan, heat the vinegar, sugar and salt until boiling. *See note below if using old style Kilner jars.

Divide the lime juice, chilli slices, coriander, spring onions and peppercorns between sterilised jars. Add the corn and divide the pickling liquid between them. Top up with water if necessary.

Seal the jars and leave for a few days before trying.

* A note about Kilner jars: the new ones have clip seals but if you’re using the old style, it suggests you heat your liquid to 82C rather than boiling, before pouring it into your jars. You then put the round disc on top and screw on the outside bit. The instructions say that a vacuum will be formed inside, and the top will be pressed down and sealed (not popped up so you can press it down with your fingers). What no-one tells you, is that this doesn’t always happen straight away, sometimes it takes a few hours. This is pretty obvious when you think about it. Maybe I was just being a bit dense.

8 comments | Pickles, Vegetables

Sunday Leftovers No. 8

Monday, 22nd September 2014

Buffalo Wings

I’m on a roll with this again, so here’s a round-up of things that passed my lips or caught my attention last week…

– If you’re into buffalo wings then you must visit Sticky Wings on Brick Lane. These guys used to have a place in Lewisham, which I tried to visit several times, only to find it shut for increasingly random reasons. I remember rocking up once, on a really hot day, having schlepped across London (yeah okay from Peckham but whatever) only to find the place ‘closed for the duration of the Olympics’. I did my best unimpressed face. Then I went home.

They’re now on Brick Lane and damn, those wings are fiiiiine. You might think it’s easy to make a decent buffalo wing, and it is, but that doesn’t stop people from constantly stuffing it up. These are some healthy sized wings (no freakish turkey sizes or scrawny runts), given a good slap about in Frank’s hot sauce and butter. Blue cheese dip comes with (though not celery which you need to order). I also tried their ‘chilli hot’ wings which are made with pickled ghost chillies; fiery, obviously, but with a hoof of chilli flavour too. No mean feat. Go.

– The locals among you might be interested in The Nunhead Food Assembly, which is a new way to do your food shopping. You pre-order the items you want on the website and then collect them once a week from the producers, who all come together in one place. Everything is made locally, you get to talk directly to the person who produced the food, and there are some big hitters involved like Kappacasein. Well worth checking out if you’re a SE Londoner.

– The Terrence Higgins Trust have been running a sort of restaurant crawl/supper club event for something like fourteen years and yet I’d never heard of it until they invited me to experience it this week. Fifty of London’s top restaurants participate in the event including high flyers like The Square and Bob Bob Ricard. Angela Hartnett is Ambassador. You can find out more about it on the THT website.

– I’ve been guzzling the fantastic Ali Baba Juices like there’s no tomorrow. They have restored my faith in juicing. Yuh huh. The apple, kale and basil was my favourite of the week. Basil and kale, eh? Who knew?

– Yianni Papoutsis and Scott Collins have released their book, The Meatliquor Chronicles, which basically details the story of their outrageous meat-oriented success. It’s also edited and partly written by DBC Pierre, who wrote one of my favourite books, Vernon God Little. There’s also a recipe from yours truly inside – a curry goat sandwich with gravy dip and coconut coleslaw.

– Here’s a random picture of one of my cats. Until next week…


Comment | Sunday Leftovers

Steamed Chinese Sandwich Bread (Mantou)

Saturday, 20th September 2014

Pork Belly Steamed Bun from Yum Bun

Bao from Yum Bun

I have an intense, borderline unhealthy affection for those Chinese sandwich buns peddled by the likes of Yum Bun and Bao London; there’s just something about that pudgy steamed bread that is so addictive. Yes, I adore a sourdough with a crackly crust and a chew that could shave inches off the jowls of a bloodhound but there’s a lot to be said for the super soft and doughy. In Northern China they have nailed this texture in the form of the mantou. I can’t get enough of them, so last weekend I went to a cookery class at School of Wok in Covent Garden to learn some tricks which would hopefully enhance my buns.

The Chinese use much whiter (bleached) flour, which is banned in the UK. A lot of places in Chinatown still use it however as there’s a legal loophole somewhere along the importing chain. You’ll see that the buns I’ve made have a yellow tinge to them, yet those that you see in restaurants are snowy white; the latter are mostly made in Chinatown with the imported flour, and then supplied to the restaurants. Apparently it’s also possible to buy the flour for home use, but recently there’s been some kind of shortage. If the yellow colour really bothers you, then add a tiny splash of rice vinegar to the water when you steam your buns, and that will whiten them slightly.

The dough is a bit of a bugger to work with, and I break out in a sweat kneading it until smooth; the idea is to work the gluten so that it becomes nice and stretchy. When it’s done you should be able to push your fingers gently into the surface of the dough without it cracking straight away. Once risen it’s rolled out into an oval shape, then oiled and folded over a chopstick; the oiling is important to stop the dough sticking together during steaming.


Sandwich buns resting in the steaming trays

We try steaming them two ways for comparative purposes, firstly in a bamboo steamer over a wok full of water, and secondly in a snazzy steam oven which I am fascinated by. The steam oven has more of an all engulfing heat, obviously, which surrounds the buns and cooks them evenly – best for the sandwich bread. The bamboo steamers are over direct heat, which makes the dough more likely to crack as it cooks – this is desirable when cooking buns like char siu bao, when you want that classic split-open top.

Red Cooked Pork

Red cooked pork with fermented tofu

After 8 minutes we had perfectly steamed, if not quite perfectly shaped mantou, ready to be rammed with pork braised in a fermented tofu sauce, a quick cucumber pickle (recipes below), lettuce and Japanese mayo. I ate three and felt the oof; despite their fluffy appearance they are incredibly filling and considering that we also made char siu and custard buns…is someone had pushed me out of the door I could’ve rolled to the bus stop.

The steamed bun class is the most technical of all the classes at School of Wok, and I learned a huge amount, including some dim sum techniques which Jeremy, our teacher, said experts generally refuse to demonstrate until people have had much more experience. He’s all about making this kind of cooking more accessible, is our Jez. The class is very relaxed, friendly and fun, and there were only three of us there, so everyone got lots of attention (I believe the maximum class size is 8). I was on the course with two young guys who wanted to start a street food stall selling bao, having made them only once before. Considering their limited knowledge of cooking, and the fact they were both knackered by lunch time, I’m not sure how well that venture is going to work out. One of them did say however that the class was the first time he’d EVER enjoyed cooking, which is a damn good advert for Jeremy’s classes, if perhaps not the foundation for a successful street food business…

School of Wok
61 Chandos Place

The steamed bun fun class runs from 10.30am-4.30pm and costs £130. I was invited to the review the class. 

Steamed Sandwich Buns (Mantou) (recipe courtesy of School of Wok)

530g medium gluten wheat flour
5g dried yeast mixed with 100g warm water to activate
50g milk
3 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
120g water
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp baking powder
Flavourless oil

Activate the yeast and then add to rest of the ingredients and knead well.

Allow to rest in a warm place covered with a damp cloth for 2 hours, or until the
dough has doubled in size.

Just before shaping, add 1tsp baking powder to the dough and knead well.

Roll the dough into a cylinder, then cut pieces off this, and roll out into oval shapes. Lightly oil the top of the dough, then put a chopstick at the half way mark, fold over and remove. Allow to rest in a warm place, under a damp cloth, for 30 minutes or until 1.5 times the size.

Line a bamboo steamer with greaseproof paper and steam for 8 minutes. Do not lift the lid in the first 4 minutes.

Braised Pork Belly in Fermented Tofu (recipe courtesy of School of Wok)

300g Pork belly
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 cube of fermented bean curd
1 tbsp fermented bean curd liquid
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
Dash of sesame oil
1 tbsp black vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
Roughly 450ml hot water

Finely chop the garlic and place in a small prep bowl. Using the base of a teaspoon, crush the fermented bean curd into the sauce until a
thick paste is formed. Mix the soy sauce, black vinegar, sugar and sesame oil together.

Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a saucepan to high heat. Add the garlic to the pot and stir.

Turn the heat down to a medium heat and then add the fermented bean curd paste.

Sear the pork belly piece on all sides in a separate pan, ensuring the skin is well
sealed and golden brown. Once seared, place the pork into the saucepan and stir until the whole piece is
covered in sauce.

Add the soy sauce/black vinegar & sugar mixture to the pork and bubble through for
2-3 minutes. Now turn heat down to low.

Turn the pork over so that the skin is touching the bottom of the saucepan. Pour enough hot water over the pork to just about cover. Stir well and then cover with lid. Simmer on low heat for 1 ½ hours – 2 hours until the pork is soft and succulent and full of colour. Turn occasionally to allow sauce to absorb into the whole piece.

Cucumber & Spring Onion Pickle (recipe courtesy of School of Wok)

3 spring onions, finely sliced into strips
½ cucumber, finely sliced
Pickling liquid
4 tbsp honey
½ tsp salt
4 tbsp red rice vinegar
2 tbsp hot water
15 crushed sichuan pepper corns

Combine everything and let sit for half an hour or so.

6 comments | Bread, Pickles, Sandwiches

Sunday Leftovers No. 7

Sunday, 14th September 2014


At least, I think it’s No. 7. I haven’t done one of these for a while. I shall get right into it…

– I must first say that I am obviously thrilled, ecstatic and beyond delighted that Peckham Bazaar re-opened on Friday. My bank manager no doubt feels the same way. It boasts a swanky new interior, a gorgeous shiny grill and the same incredible food and wine. Do please go and feast.

– In case you missed it, I caused a little bit of a stir by calling out the burger chain Almost Famous on their idiotic attitude towards women. Just for the record, it wasn’t ALL about those toilets. My rant was picked up by The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Metro and various other Northern publications, apparently. Some of the comments on my original post (and naturally, on the Guardian) illustrate Lewis’ Law perfectly.

– For a while there, I had a bit of a thing for afternoon tea. The best I’ve had recently was at the gorgeous Warren House in Kingston. Second rounds of excellent finger sandwiches, crumbly scones with superb jam (made on site) and well judged cakes. I was also impressed by the presence of the Twinings tea brewing timer, with different timings for black, white and green tea; something like that should come as standard, I reckon. When the sheer quantity of sugar got the better of us, we took the leftovers away, hopped on a river cruise down to Hampton Court Palace and polished them off in the rose garden with some bubbly. How English summer is that?

– If you’re interested in hot men and sandwiches from Guadalupe (who isn’t?), check out my review of Bokit’La on The London Review of Sandwiches. You can also see my Top 10 Sandwiches in London on Chowzter here.

– Some bits and bobs I’ve enjoyed recently include: the ‘Fuck, That’s Delicious‘ series on Vice Munchies, this piece by Tim Hayward in the FT about making your own knife, and this video on the Blok Knives website, which is beautiful.

– Finally, I apologise to everyone trying to get their mitts on Peckham Jerk Marinade, it will be back with full force come the end of October.

7 comments | Sunday Leftovers

BBQ Leg of Lamb with a Hibiscus Marinade

Friday, 12th September 2014


I have a Big Green Egg BBQ. I know. It’s okay, you can hate me. In all fairness, you should be grateful, actually. You heard. You should be grateful I haven’t been boasting about this for the past year because that’s just about the amount of time I’ve owned this piece of exceptional BBQ equipment. I’ve actually been very kind, if you think about it properly. I can contain it no longer, however: BGE’s are incredible. Everyone should sell an organ (might need two actually) in order to buy one.

Anyway, this recipe. I’m always seeing hibiscus flowers around Peckham but I’d never bought them. I knew that they’re used to flavour the ‘sorrel drink’ that one finds in Caribbean takeaways but…yeah that was the limit of my knowledge. They also love them in Mexico though I’ve since found out, which is where my flowers actually came from, brought back as a gift by a friend. Apparently they use them a lot more in cooking there, and also eat them candied as sweets.

The amount of flavour and shocking red colour that leaches from a handful of the dried flowers once soaked, is staggering. The flavour is a bit like red berries, with a tart, lemony edge and it occurred to me that this might work very well indeed with lamb.


I steeped the flowers with an assortment of Mexican chillies: piquin (quite hot), guajillo (fruity), puya (similar to guajillo but hotter) and pasilla (literally: ‘little raisin’). Then I added garlic (because it’s lamb, and it’s the law) and bay. The resultant liquid was a frankly terrifying shade of red which stained the meat the colour of those curly pigs’ tails, tongues and penis shaped things (penises?) you see piled up in Brixton market. Thankfully, it was also extremely tasty: a sort of fruity, floral (yes I know), smoky thing going on.

I dunked the lamb into its bath for 24 hours, then drained it, rubbed the meat with more chillies and rammed with more garlic before cooking low and slow in the Egg. The marinade I reserved, reduced until syrupy and used for basting. That gave it a lovely sticky glaze. The leftovers were mixed with juices from the drip tray to serve at the table. We ate it in a sort of feverish caveman style, hunched over, fingers in, after-dark.

Oh and those things wrapped in foil around the outside of the lamb? Yeah they’re called ‘Death Star Onions’. They need work.




BBQ Leg of Lamb in a Hibiscus Marinade

The idea here was to get a subtle flavour seeping in from the marinade, then add the rub for more of an aggressive ‘crust’ to form during the first part of cooking, then add the glaze after that. Seemed to work.

1 x 2kg bone-in leg of lamb

For the marinade and basting liquid

50g dried hibiscus flowers
2 bay leaves, torn in half
4 cloves garlic
A few peppercorns
1 dried guajillo chilli
1 teaspoon dried piquin chillies
1 dried puya chilli
1 dried pasilla chilli
100g golden caster sugar, plus 2 tablespoons

For the rub

1 dried guajillo chilli, de-seeded
1 teaspoon dried piquin chillies
1 dried puya chilli, de-seeded
1 dried pasilla chilli, de-seeded
2 tsp sea salt
10 black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic

In a saucepan, combine the hibiscus flowers with 1 litre of water, plus 2 cloves of garlic peeled and bashed a bit, the bay leaf, sugar and the chillies. Simmer this mixture for 5 minutes. Allow the marinade to cool then make slits all over the lamb, submerge it and refrigerate overnight. I had mine in there for 24 hours and I turned it once and basted it a few times.

When ready to cook the lamb, remove it from the marinade, pat dry, then strain the marinade into a bowl through a sieve. Add the extra sugar and reduce the marinade by about half until it starts to look thicker and more syrupy.

Prepare the BBQ. You want it at about 150C. You want to set up a drip pan too. This is going to be different depending on the type of BBQ you have.

Blitz the chillies, salt and peppercorns for the rub in a spice grinder. Rub this all over the lamb. Slice the 2 cloves of garlic and push the slices into the slits in the lamb.

Cook the lamb for about 2.5-3 hours until tender. After the first hour start basting it with the marinade mixture every 20 minutes or so. There will be marinade left over, so mix this with the lamb juices from the drip tray and serve at the table.

7 comments | Barbecue, Big Green Egg, Main Dishes, Meat

Fries with Your Misogyny, Madam?

Monday, 1st September 2014

EDIT 02/09/2014 16.53: Almost Famous have posted a statement on their website saying that they are removing the offensive statements from their ladies’ loos! Result. 

Go here to see the statement and a picture of them being removed. 

Almost Famous is the name of a chain of restaurants serving burgers that aren’t very good. That doesn’t bother me, because I just don’t go there. What does bother me is the way they go about their business, because when it comes to decorating their restaurants, video advertising on their website or naming the dishes on their menu, they never miss an opportunity to either sexually objectify women, or use derogatory terms to describe them.

I’ve written about this before. The reason I am writing again is because I was angered by an e-mail I received from a friend who visited their latest opening in Leeds and was seriously offended by what she found in the ladies loos. Painted large and loud on the wall were these messages to women who thought they were okay to just go for a pee in a restaurant.

Almost Famous

Your eyes do not deceive you. It’s a list of women’s potential insecurities, written on a toilet wall. What could motivate someone to do this? And surely more than one person is responsible. Surely this piss poor excuse for interior design wasn’t dreamt up and sanctioned by a single person? A committee of people must have sat around a table and agreed this was a great idea. Apparently there is nothing equivalent in the men’s toilets. Quelle fucking surprise.

This kind of pathetic woman-bashing is straight out of the Almost Famous school of ‘edgy design’. But what about the people that don’t get angered by this, like me, or my friends? What about the people who are affected and as a result feel awful about themselves and whichever part of their body Almost Famous has reminded them they’re not satisfied with? As my friend put it, ‘we have enough of this shit already in magazines and other media’.

As I mentioned in my other post, their menu writing is equally anti-female. Fancy some ‘slut sauce’ for your burger? How about some ‘bitch juice’ to wash it down? Yes, items on their menu are gleefully named after derogatory terms for women. Almost Famous think that misogyny and sexism is cool. This is completely unacceptable; it’s ignorant and lazy and it should not be allowed to continue. There isn’t anyone to police this kind of amateur bullshit so people need to speak up. People need to complain, because this is 2014. Women are equal members of society now guys! We don’t sit back and let insults wash over us. We don’t tolerate being belittled, or judged sexually and aesthetically. We don’t need you to pitch in with the evaluation of our self-image, and neither do we need to be portrayed as weak or submissive. Do catch up.

173 comments | Rants

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