Cochinita pibil with pickled pink onions

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Danny serves his traditional Mexican cochinita pibil recipe, with pickled pink onions, for a welcome fresh and tangy flavour. The pork shoulder becomes meltingly tender after slow-cooking for seven hours.

Some time ago, I was asked to appear on the now defunct food show ‘Market Kitchen: Big Adventure’ in my capacity as a blogger and as a resident within the glorious county of Essex. The series highlighted produce from different regions across the UK and prior to filming I did wonder what we would focus on. Well, the three ingredients tied to Essex were Maldon Sea salt, which was sort of a given, followed by goats’ cheese and um.....leeks?

If only Rosanna Pink onions had made the grade as an Essexian (sic) vegetable to celebrate. For they are grown in the surrounds of Colchester, Britain’s oldest town. I really do wish that Rosanna onions had popped up because as alliums go, they are pretty nifty and versatile. Being slighter milder in flavour than conventional brown or red onions, I would definitely recommend them as a stalwart base ingredient for stocks, sauces and soups.

But because of their colour it would be a shame to dismiss this blushing onion to that purpose alone.

Light, quick pickling is always a good step forward in my opinion. Visually, this technique tends to bring out the best in a vegetable, making it look bright and punchy. Plus, it’s simple and easy to do. I pickled some Rosanna onions the other day to accompany some cochinita pibil and it really was a match made in heaven. For the uninitiated, cochinita pibil is a gorgeous slow-cooked dish originating from Mexico - or the Yucatán peninsula to be precise.

Traditionally it consists of pork shoulder that has been marinated in a mixture of sour citrus juices, herbs, spices, garlic and the all-important addition of a luminous paste blended from annatto seed. Then it is gently roasted in a parcel of banana leaves for hours and hours.

A slightly tweaked recipe for this succulent meal will follow, but the most important part at the end is the addition of pickled onions which cut through the richness of the meat perfectly.





First prepare the pork by rubbing all over with salt and pepper and then place into a large casserole. Pour the orange and lime juice over and rub in, holding just a little bit back
Combine the achiote paste, garlic paste, oregano, chilli and paprika in a small bowl, adding the remaining citrus juice to loosen a touch. Then rub all over the meat. Gloves might be useful here because the achiote can stain. Cover with the lid and leave to marinade for 2 hours
Preheat the oven to 120°C/gas mark 1/2
Remove the lid and place a rough cartouche of greaseproof paper on top of the meat, tucking in all around. Pop the lid back on, put the casserole in the oven and leave to slowly cook for 7-8 hours (I usually leave it overnight)
When ready, the pork should be on the point of collapsing and can be roughly shredded into ribbons
While the meat cooks, you can also make your pickled onions in advance. Pour the white wine vinegar into a saucepan and bring it to the boil. Add the pink onions and simmer for just a minute as you want to retain the crunch
Remove from the heat and leave to cool. We like to serve cochinita pubil in tortilla wraps, with guacamole, toasted corn (kernels dry-fried in a pan), and of course, with pickled pink onions

Danny is a food adventurer, home grower, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurean blog, Food Urchin.

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