##What a crazy month February is! Love is still in the air, along with the wind; it is a fine little concoction. The weather after Valentine’s Day was glamorous! “Spring has sprung!” I thought, and then the wind blew it all away again. Very perplexing was my dilemma, to write for warmer weather, or for colder?
Over a Mexican feed one night, at home with family, it hit me, I would just write about all of it. Why not? Food brings us together, especially when we’re not sick, it breaks down barriers and puts us in a place where we can enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures – eating.
Post-Covid, I would like to plan a dinner party to suit the weather, the friends, and the occasion. The purpose of the Mexican feed is simple; we can eat with our hands! And, if there’s kids involved, this is a big plus! The recipe I’m going to share here is also really easy, it takes some time to cook, but it cooks by itself, so while it’s cooking, you can get back to doing what ever else it is that needs to be done. And it tastes fantastic! Bring family together to share this around the table.
‘MEXICAN-STYLE’ SLOW-COOKED MEAT IN SOFT TACOS (CARNITAS)
Serves 4. Cooking time approx 1.5-2.5hrs.
For the meat:
1.5kg beef tenderloin, chuck roast, or pork shoulder/tenderloin (boneless).
I can chipolte peppers*
2-3 limes **
3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed (don’t put them in the press!)
Sea salt to taste
For the rest:
2 pack Mexican soft flour (or corn) fajitas.
2 cans black beans, drained.
2 cups grated cheddar cheese – queso naranja.
1 red pepper/capsicum/pimiento
1 bunch coriander/cilantro
1 red onion/cebolla
1 jar green chili salsa*
1 small handful of cherry tomatoes
*Available from the Mexican section in most large supermarkets here.
** If using pork you can try it with orange juice as well for a sweeter, smoky flavor.
1. In a heavy-based saucepan arrange the meat, cut into large strips, in a single layer, if possible, in the bottom of the pan. Put the can of chipotle peppers in a blender and puree, pour this over the meat. Zest 1, and juice both the limes (or oranges if using pork), and add to the pot. (NB: rolling a lime on the counter-top with the palm of your hand, using a little pressure, will loosen all the juice inside and you will never have to try and squeeze a dry lime again!)
2. Smash the cloves of garlic with the flat of your knife to remove the skin and add to the pot as well. (NB: if you have a good stainless steel knife, immediately after chopping garlic, clean the blade with your fingers under cold running water and the garlic smell will also be removed from your fingers).
3. Sprinkle over a good pinch of sea salt and put enough water in the pot to barely cover the meat. Cover and bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low and let simmer slowly, partly covered until the water has evaporated and there’s a nice sticky sauce in the bottom of the pan. If the meat is not fork tender, add a bit more water and continue cooking, depending on the meat you are using, this will take between 1 and 2 hours.
4. While the meat is cooking you can puree the black beans and put them, in a small ovenproof dish, in the oven on low so they can get all yummy and hot and develop a crust on the top. Dice up the red pepper, red onion, tomato, and mix up with the green chili salsa for a nice little salsa fresco. Add some chopped cilantro to this too.
5. To make some guacamole, roughly mash the avocadoes, squeeze some lemon juice over it, add a good pinch of sea salt and a grinding of fresh black pepper and some finely chopped garlic. Mix this all together and if you want you can add some chopped cilantro and some finely chopped cherry tomatoes. This is simply the tastiest way to make guacamole! Never fuss over guacamole, keep it simple to keep it tasty. Leave the seed in the mix to stop it from browning as well!
6. Once the meat is falling apart, you will be able to shred it with a couple of forks and set it in a warm bowl ready to serve.
7. When you’re ready to serve: warm the tortillas, grate the cheese, and set the meat, salsa, and guacamole all out on the table in a variety of bowls and everyone can sit down and build their own soft taco!
This is a really simple recipe and I hope you try it and enjoy it. I think you will get a lot of satisfaction sharing this with a bunch of people (post-COVID), especially if someone is bringing tequila and limes with them for margaritas!