Cordero a la barbacoa en adobo – Mexican slow-cooked lamb


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Barbacoa is the ancient tradition of slow-cooking meat over an open fire for hours until it falls off the bone or, according to the most conventional method, in a pit dug in the ground covered with agave leaves.

Lamb barbecue in adobo is a central Mexican dish and perhaps the most famous example of this ancient technique, as well as the most easily adaptable at home, as it can be made either in the oven or a slow cooker. Choosing a fattier cut of lamb is the key to success since the longer the meat cooks, the better, and you don't want dry meat. Both shoulder and leg work well.

Preparing the adobo (or marinade), with its pungent blend of Mexican chilies and spices, is by far the best part of this recipe. Any leftover marinade will keep for several days in the fridge and can be used for other Mexican recipes such as enchiladas, chilaquiles, tacos and tamales.

The banana leaves encapsulate the earthiness and grassy aromatics of the agave leaves used in a traditional barbacoa. Frozen banana leaves can be found in most Latin American or Thai shops, or you can find them online.




Lamb shoulder

Mexican adobo

Start by making the adobo or marinade. In a shallow frying pan, dry-fry the de-seeded chillies for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not burn them. Set aside
Add some oil to a separate pan and cook the tomato, onion and garlic for 15 minutes until the mixture turns a light golden brown colour
Reduce the heat, add the fried chillies and water and cook for a further 5 to 7 minutes. Leave the mix to cool
Blend the tomato and chilli mixture, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend again at a fast speed. If the sauce is too thick, add some more water
Season and allow to cool completely. At this point, the adobo paste can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or 4 months in the freezer
Smear the adobo paste all over the lamb shoulder and leave to marinate overnight, covered with cling film
After that time, lay the meat out on the kitchen counter and let it reach room temperature, which should take about 1 hour
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6
Place a metal rack over a deep oven tray filled with water or stock and put it in the oven
Wrap the meat in banana leaves (or foil) and place on the rack in the oven. Lower the heat to 160°C/gas mark 3
Cook the lamb for about 3 and a half to 4 hours, until cooked and tender
Cordero a la barbacoa en adobo
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