This strikingly colourful dish derives its red hue from the pigment of achiote seeds, also known as annatto. This earthy, complex flavour is used by the people of the Yucatán to create one of their most famous dishes, cochinita pibil, meaning ‘little pig’. Traditionally, cochinita pibil is cooked in the ground, but here I’ve used banana leaves to steam the pork, which imparts a delicate and unique flavour.
- 1 kg pork neck (see Note) cut into 2 cm rounds
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 lemons
- 2 limes
- 1 orange
- 40 g achiote paste (see Note)
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp dried Mexican oregano
- 8 black peppercorns
- 3 whole allspice
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 80 cm banana leaves
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick, roughly broken up
Pickled red onions
- 2 small red onions, sliced into 3 mm thick rings
- ½ habanero chilli, seeds removed
- ½ tsp salt
- 50 ml lime juice
- limes wedges
- warm corn tortillas
- chopped coriander
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Marinating time Overnight
You will need to begin this recipe 1 day ahead.
Combine the juice of 1 lemon, 1 lime and ½ an orange. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and the pork, and marinate overnight in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 150°C. Place a frying pan over medium heat and dry roast the garlic, cumin, allspice and peppercorns for 2 minutes. Add the oregano and roast for a further 30 seconds, then place all the spices in a blender with the achiote paste. Squeeze the remaining lemon, lime and orange half and add to the belnder. Blend until smooth. Add the mixture to the pork and massage the marinade into the meat. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, strip the stem from the banana leaf and then hold the leaf over a flame for a few seconds until it softens. Line a baking tray with the banana leaf. Add the pork and marinade, cinnamon and bay leaves to the tray and cover with banana leaves to encase the pork. Wrap the tray in foil to seal, then transfer to the oven and cook for 3 hours until the pork is falling apart. Roughly shred the meat and cover to keep warm.
Meanwhile, blanch the onions for 30 seconds in boiling water, drain. Mix the onions with the remaining ingredients and season to taste. Allow to rest for the flavours to develop.
Serve shredded pork with warm corn tortillas, pickled onions, chopped coriander and lime wedges.
• Pork neck is also referred to as pork scotch.
• Achiote paste is available from Mexican grocers and specialty food stores.