Slow-cooked shredded spicy lamb: Thomasina Miers’ recipe for lamb birria
Birria is a sensational dish from northern Mexico. It’s designed for scraggy, cheap cuts of lamb, goat or beef, which is marinated in a blend of dried chillies, herbs and classic Mexican spices, then slow-cooked. This produces a rich broth that is served on the side for sipping or for dipping tacos into. Use a pressure cooker for speed, or simply a low oven, and serve at the table with hot tortillas, slaw, lime wedges, diced onion and chilli sauce for a meal to end all meals.
Encourage people to make their own tacos, filled with the birria, slaw, onions and fresh lime, sprinkling with hot sauce and dunking into the bowls of consommé. Heaven.
Prep 20 min
Cook 4 hr +
1kg neck of lamb
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
For the birria adobo
3-4 guajillo chillies
1 ancho chilli (optional)
1 tbsp chipotle en adobo
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 large white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3-4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 small handful fresh thyme, picked
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground allspice
A large pinch of ground cloves
80g natural yoghurt
1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
2 limes, cut into wedges
Soured cream or creme fraiche
Remove and discard the stalks and seeds from the guajillo chillies, and ancho, if using. Put the chillies in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut away and discard any excess fat from around the lamb, then cut the meat into large pieces and set aside. Heat the oven to 170C (150C fan)/325F/gas 3.
Drain the soaked chillies, then tip them into at blender and add the chipotle, vinegar, white onion and garlic. Blitz, scraping down the sides as you go, then add half the thyme leaves, the bay, spices and half the yoghurt. Blitz again, then add the rest of the yoghurt to make a smooth paste.
Put the lamb in a deep baking tray and pour over the adobo mix, rubbing it into the meat with your hands. Pour over the stock, cover the tray with foil and bake for four to five hours, until the meat is soft and falling apart. (You can also do this very successfully in a pressure cooker in a fraction of the time.)
While the meat is cooking, melt the butter in a frying pan and add the red onions and the rest of the thyme leaves. Season generously, then cook slowly, stirring, for about 10-12 minutes, until soft and sweet. Once the meat is tender, lift it out of the tray, leaving behind the consommé. Pull the meat apart and mix it with the onions.
To serve, skim off any fat from the consommé and heat it through gently. Heat the meat under a grill or in a large frying pan, until caramelised and crisp in parts. Serve at the table with small bowls of the consommé, tortillas and all the accompanying bits and pieces.