As a student, and really just as a person in this economy, I think it’s important that we recycle. As someone who constantly makes more food than she can actually eat (I have chronic eyes-bigger-than-my-stomach disorder) I think it’s particularly important to recycle our food. For me, a delicious dinner is like a one night stand. No matter how sexy and delicious it might have been for one night, seeing it in the harsh florescent light of a fridge the next morning – it never looks as appealing.
The antidote to this is to use these old ingredients to make a new dish. Last night we celebrated the return of my family all to one time-zone with a rolled shoulder of lamb roasted in star anise and fennel seeds. Fresh from the oven it was mouth-wateringly tender, succulent and moreish; but this morning the juices had congealed and the meat was looking sad and dry.
Loath to throw anything out, no matter how grim the situation, and as always craving Mexican, I decided lamb carnitas were in order. I can’t make any claims as to the authenticity to my version of the classic dish, but I can make some pretty impressive boasts about the fact that each and every family member went back for seconds and thirds. I flavoured it with guacamole in mind, and after not finding any online consensus about what seasonings I should be using: went with my gut. Coriander, cinnamon, cumin, chilli and paprika, all simmered in a rich braising liquid of orange juice and chicken stock. Sound a little like an odd combination? Trust me, it works. The acidity of the orange juice cuts through the richness of the meat and the sweetness of the cinnamon plays off of the chilli in the lamb. It’s all about balance.
The meat is meltingly tender and reminiscent of pulled pork. Add a little smashed avocado and tomato salsa (my personal favourite way of making salsa is simply to dice cherry tomatoes, season heavily with salt and pepper and then douse in vinegar) and wrap it all up in a tortilla and you have dinner sorted.I’ve also included instructions for making this recipe if not using leftovers, it’s pretty much the same recipe just make sure you brown the meat off first and you’ll need to cook for a little while longer to achieve the same tenderness.
I decided to make mini flour tortillas as well, just the size of my palm so that you could pick the tacos up in your hand. I’ve always been on the mind that many small bites beat a few big ones, and the mini tortillas let you play with your combinations so much more than having one big taco. There’s a secret conspiracy that you need a tortilla press in order to make homemade tortillas, but that is a lie. Use a cast iron skillet or a rolling pin; you can really use anything with a flat bottomed surface to press the tortillas flat. Don’t stress about them being perfectly round – you made your own tortillas! That is impressive enough.
600 grams lamb shoulder
1 large white onion
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground chilli powder
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup low sodium chicken stock
Slice the onion and fry off in a sauté pan over a low heat until translucent but not browned. If you’re using leftover meat, chop it roughly and add to the pan. If using uncooked meat, remove the onions from the pan; dice the lamb into small cubes and brown the meat before adding the onions back to the pan.
Bring the heat up to a high heat, add the spices and season to taste. Quickly stir the meat and onions so that they are coated in the spices and cook for three minutes while stirring. If the meat or onions begin to stick you can deglaze the pan with a little of the chicken stock, this will help loosen them up as well as adding flavour. After three minutes add the orange juice and chicken stock and bring to the boil. As soon as the liquids boil bring the heat down to the lowest possible so that it is just barely simmering. Put a lid on the pan and leave to cook for a minimum of three hours, adding more stock as necessary when the liquid absorbs.
If you aren’t starting from leftovers it will take longer for the meat to tenderise, I’d recommend letting it cook for at least four or five hours and once cooked use a pair of forks to pull the meat apart.
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cold butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup warm water
Using the back of fork, mix the flour, baking power, salt and butter in a bowl until it starts to look like coarse breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water while continually mixing the dough – depending on how absorbant your flour is you may need more of less water to form a soft dough. Knead for 5 minutes. Separate into 12 golf ball sized balls for small tortillas and 6 balls for large tortillas. Heat a skillet or flat bottomed frying pan.
Roll the tortillas out between two pieces of baking powder until very thin, they will puff up during cooking or alternately use the bottom of a flat bottomed bowl to press the tortillas down into shape.
Cook the tortillas on the hot skilled on each side for about 1 minute. If it puffs up at all, you can poke a hole in the puffed area to release the steam. Cook it until it is no longer doughy and browned in patches. Place onto a plate covered by a towel to keep warm until you’re ready to use them.