Mexican Pok Pibil

Mexican Pok Pibil.

23-11-2019Marc Fosh

Autumn reawakens the senses. Mornings feel fresher, colours appear bolder and flavours get a little deeper. As the colder weather moves in I tend to look for simple, classic food and I definitely like to start spicing up my recipes a little. The tuth is I love the smell of the gently toasted spices and the way they can fill the kitchen with the most amazing aromas. The sheer variety of flavours that they have to offer and can bring to a dish is endless, but seasoning with herbs and spices means complimenting your dishes, not overwhelming and hiding the true flavour of the food.

Mediterranean cooks have been blending spices for centuries and they were among the first of many foods brought back to Europe from the east by Marco Polo.

Spices encouraged the early voyages of Columbus and Vasco Da Gama, who succeeded in rounding the Cape of Good Hope and crossing the Indian Ocean to calicot on the coast of India.

Today, it's hard to believe when spices cost so little and we can all enjoy freshly ground black pepper and the delicious aromas of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves that these fragrant bits of bark, leaves and seeds were once so costly, so hard to track down and transport, that men were willing to risk their lives crossing oceans and waging war in an attempt to bring them back and build empires with the profits from the resulting spice trade.

Using fresh spices is a much better option than buying in ready prepared spice mixes and they also make great little gifts for your friends and family. Always buy spices whole, not ground. Spices contain essential oils that are released when lightly toasted and ground and that is where all the aromas and flavours actually come from. When ground they do detoriate quickly and lose a lot of their magical qualities so my advice is to make your spice mixes often and in small quantities as a little goes a long way. Making spice mixes is great fun. You can travel all around the world with different combinations from India, Morroco and Mexico or you can be really inventive and create your own personal spice mix.

Mexican pork pibil

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 4 hours
Serves 10


  • 2.5kl of boneless pork belly or shoulder

For the marinade:

  • 1tbsp Mexican spice mix
  • 100g achiote paste
  • 3tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1tsp dried oregano
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2tbsp sea salt
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 4 oranges

Place the achiote paste, vinegar, onion, garlic, herbs, salt, spices and olive oil in a blender and pulse to a paste. Slowly pour in the orange juice with the motor running to incorporate into the paste. Pour the marinade all over the pork ensuring it is thoroughly coated and then marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Transfer the pork belly and its marinade to a large casserole and cover with foil or a tight-fitting lid. Cook slowly for 4 hours or until the pork is soft and falling apart to the touch.

Serve the pork pibil covered with sauce with boiled potatoes or Shred the pork using 2 forks, discarding the fat to make a delicious fajita garnished with sliced red onions, chopped green chillies and sprinkled with Mexican spice mix.

Mexican spice mix

Add to chilli con carne, tacos and burritos.


  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 4 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 4 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoon chipotle chilli powder
  • 2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Add all the ingredients to the spice grinder and pulse until coarsely crushed. Store in an airtight container.

Cajun Spice mix

Cajun Spice Mix

This classic blend of Cajun spices can be used as a dry rub to flavour pork or chicken at your next barbeque. It’s also perfect sprinkled over potato wedges and vegetables or added to minced meat to make your own delicious Cajun burgers!


  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 dried red chilli, deseeded & chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

Add all the ingredients to the spice grinder and pulse until coarsely crushed. Store in an airtight container.

Pincho Moruño

Pincho Moruño

Serves 4

  • 400g boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes

Moruño spice mixture

  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot pimenton or paprika
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 200ml olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

In a mortar and pestle or food processor, combine the thyme, salt, cumin, pimenton, peppercorns, and saffron. Grind until combined and add the olive oil. Pour the spice mixture over the diced lamb; add the chopped parsley & bay leaf. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Thread the lamb cubes onto 8 long skewers and grill the “pinchos” for 6-8 minutes, turning 3 or times, until they are cooked.


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