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Ondalay!! Ondelay!! (ándale!! ándale!!)

January 2, 2013

Mexican Carnitas

Mexican Carnitas

Mexican & Spanish food is currently having a metamorphosis in Brisbane. Little Spanish cantina’s are popping up everywhere which pleases me to no end! Up until a decade ago, Mexican food consisted of “brown stuff”, “yellow stuff” and “green stuff” and I expected no less. All Mexican restaurants served up the same dreary, lifeless meals, slopped to overflowing from the plate. It wasn’t until I visited California in the early ’90’s when I discovered that us Australians were missing out big time.

Earlier in 2012, I travelled to San Diego and watched Mexican mammas rolling and grilling corn tortillas at the speed of light. We had pozole, tamales, gorditas, echiladas and carnitas. We feasted and feasted as we had seen & tasted nothing like it at home. Mexican food was a revelation – so fresh, clean, piquant and colorful! Not the ubiquitous “brown stuff”, “yellow stuff” and “green stuff” we had come to recognise as South American…

Spanish & Mexican food are so entwined. The Aztec cuisine was predominant on corn, beans and chili peppers. After the Spanish conquest, the Spanish introduced a variety of foodstuffs and cooking techniques from Europe. They introduced foods such as olive oil, rice, onions and many other herbs and spices. They brought pigs, cows, chickens, goats and sheep, raising the consumption of protein. Cheese became the most important dairy product. Google Mexican restaurants in Brisbane and you will get a list of both Spanish and Mexican establishments, and vice versa! Anyway, the great thing is that finally we are getting restaurants here in Brisbane that serves food as fresh and clean & bright. For those local, I love El Torito and La Quinta. For Spanish Tapas, I love Ortiga and Ole.

This recipe culminated from my desire to use my rice cooker for something other than cooking rice!! Since having my thermomix, I have not used my rice cooker as cooking rice in the thermomix is so much easier – and cleaner – and quicker!!

I wondered about using it as a slow cooker and trawled the net to find out if this was possible. Amazingly, sometimes Google does not always have the answers – so I had to find out for myself.

This recipe is the outcome of my research. I asked the butcher for a pork butt which is the sinewy top part of the shoulder. It contains lots of connective tissue and fat; perfect for slow cooking. I ground my own spices but you could easily use powdered ones, just make sure they are fresh.

2kg pork shoulder or butt
5 cloves garlic
1 heaped teas salt
1 teas cumin seeds
1 dried chilli
1 teas smoked paprika
1 teas black peppercorns
1 teas oregano (fresh or dried)
1/2 cinnamon quill
1 scant teas cayenne pepper (or more if you prefer)
juice of 1 lime
200g orange juice
150g beer or water
Grind the dried spices on SP 10 for 45 seconds. Add the garlic and then rub onto the pork. Place the pork into your rice cooker (or slow cooker) and add the juices and half the beer (or water). Turn on to the lowest setting and cook for 8 hours, turning once and topping up with water if required.
If you are using a rice cooker, follow as above and turn the rice cooker on to cook. It will click off to warming mode after about 20 minutes. Do not open the lid or you will lose heat, the rice cooker is designed to keep warm at 65°C. I added a dash of water and turned it back on after 2.5 hours and repeated 3 times, checking that the bottom was not dry. It worked a treat!
When the pork is ready it will easily fall apart by shredding with 2 forks.
Shredded pork for Carnitas

Shredded pork for Carnitas

If there are a few crunchy bits on the bottom, scrape them up and mix them in – they add lots of flavour. Serve the carnitas on tortillas (or my flatbread) and top with shredded lettuce, avocado and cucumber. I also added some segmented fresh orange too! Pass the Tabasco or BBQ sauce!

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