Cochinita Pibil

A classic dish from the Yucatán region of Mexico, transforming a shoulder of pork into meltingly tender strands of piggy bliss. It’s traditionally cooked in the pib, a pit lined with hot stones. The meat is wrapped in banana leaves, dropped onto the searing stones, then covered with wet sacking, followed by more hot rocks and embers, then a final topping of earth to fill the pit. This could prove impractical in the average British kitchen, so a slow oven is fine. Achiote paste (made from the small red seeds of the annatto tree) gives the all-important red colour and a good depth of flavour. Seville orange juice is best for the marinade, but it has only a short winter season. Fresh orange juice (not that horrible concentrated stuff) mixed with a little lemon is a good substitute.

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  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 10 cloves
  • 85 g/3 oz recado de achiote paste (
  • 500 ml/18 fl oz Seville orange juice (or, if out of season, 400 ml/14 fl oz freshly squeezed orange juice and 100 ml/ fl oz lemon juice)
  • sea salt
  • 1 large pork shoulder, boned, cut into large cubes
  • 1 packet of banana leaves ( (optional)
  • cooked tortillas, to serve
  • salsa, to serve
  • For chilli-pickled red onions
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or habanero
  • chilli, very thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar


Grind the cumin, juniper berries and cloves in a coffee grinder. Blend the spice mix, achiote paste and orange juice in a food processor. Season with salt to taste.

Marinate the cubes of pork shoulder in the spiced orange juice, covered, in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas 3.

Wash the banana leaves, if using, and quickly pass them over a burner to soften them or blanch them in a pan of boiling water. Line a roasting tin with the banana leaves, making sure that you’ll be able to fold them over the pork once you place it in the tin. (If you can’t get banana leaves, cook the pork in a covered casserole or a dish tightly covered with a double thickness of foil.) Add the pork and the marinade, cover with foil and cook in the oven for about 4-4½hours, until tender. Ideally, leave it to cool, then put it in the fridge, covered, overnight. The next day, reheat thoroughly, adding a touch of oil.

An hour before you are going to eat the pork, make the chilli-pickled onion. Rinse the red onion in a strainer under cold water for a couple of minutes; leave to dry. Place the chilli in a bowl with the onion and cover with the cider vinegar. To serve, remove the onion from the vinegar.

When the pork is ready, use a fork to shred the meat, removing big chunks of fat. Serve with the juices, fresh tortillas and salsa.