Barbacoa is a celebratory dish from central Mexico: the marinade of chillies, spices and garlic is slathered over goat or lamb and cooked overnight in a deep pit. Ancho chillies are often used for their sweet, earthy flavour, along with other chilli varieties, depending on the region and the cook. We made a mutton barbacoa at The Good Life Experience (a festival of music, food and books in Wales) this autumn, spreading the marinade over cauliflower for the non meat-eaters. I loved the result: a vegetarian supper full of deeply complex flavours and wonderful sweetness.
Barbacoa roast cauliflower with coriander rice and almonds
This makes an excellent plant-based meal if you leave out the sour cream; and a delicious vegetarian one if you don’t.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr
250g short-grain brown rice
120ml olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp salt
Small bunch coriander, leaves picked and stalks finely chopped
3 ancho chillies
60ml cider vinegar
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 large heads cauliflower, broken into large florets, along with any tender leaves
1 handful toasted, skin-on almonds, chopped
1 lime, quartered
Soured cream or Greek yoghurt (optional)
Heat the oven to 220C (200C)/gas 7. Rinse the rice well in several changes of cold water. Put two tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat, and add a third of the chopped garlic, half the salt, the coriander stalks and the rice. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until the grains start to darken, then add 600ml water. Bring to simmering point and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed. Turn down the heat to its lowest setting, cover and leave the rice to finish cooking.
Meanwhile, remove the stem and seeds from the chillies and open them up like a book. Warm a dry frying pan over a medium-high heat and, when hot, toast the chillies on both sides for about 30-40 seconds, until they are smelling fragrant and the skin softens – be careful not to burn them or they will taste bitter. Pop them into a small bowl and cover with boiling water for 10 minutes, until soft.
Put the chillies in a blender with 50ml of the soaking water, and blend until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients apart from the cauliflower, and puree until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, tip in the cauliflower florets, any young, tender leaves and the rest of the salt, and use your hands to coat the cauliflower in the marinade. Spread out on to one large oven tray lined with baking paper, and roast for 30-35 minutes, until dark and charred around the edges.
Use a fork to fluff up the rice and serve with the cauliflower, a scattering of almonds and coriander leaves, lime wedges and some soured cream, if you like.
And for the rest of the week
The barbacoa marinade is delicious slathered over everything from pumpkin wedges and celeriac to chicken thighs and lamb shoulder – experiment. Mix leftover cider vinegar with farmhouse apple juice and sparkling water for a gut-friendly, non-alcoholic cocktail.