A few years back my wife and I spent some time in Merida in Mexico's Yucatan. It's a beautifully quaint city that has shyed away from conventional resort tourism for the most part and was a breath of fresh air for the three and a half months we spent living there. I strongly urge anyone contemplating visiting Mexico to stop by Merida and experience it's wonderful charm.
During our stint out there we uncovered some fantastic taquerias and even more amazing new favourite meals, not to mention serving plenty of time on the porcelain throne. Before long my wimpy, delicate stomach manned up and I was chowing down the habaneros like the best of them. Although I remember being caught agog at an old local man who at 9am in the morning bought a paper bag full of yellow and red habaneros and walked off down the road throwing them into his mouth like sweeties. Perhaps I wasn't habaneroing as well as I first thought. The Yucatan has so many regional dishes that have to be tried, Panuchos, Salbutes, Poc-chuc and Pibil chicken to name but a few. La Virgen Morena in Santiago Plaza became our favourite taqueria in the city, there I ate Gringas, which are tacos filled with marinated pork grilled with cheese and topped with salsa and lime juice, almost everyday. Salbutes
Pozole is dish more often found in Northern Mexico. However, people travel and with them they bring their food, so wherever you are in Mexico, the chances are, there will be somewhere selling bowls of the stuff. My wife and I had made a friend in a painter and decorator called Jose-Luis Bolio who as well as painting the outside of buildings in plain colours, also painted magnificent oil paintings, some of which were in an exhibition that was touring the world. I bashfully practiced my Spanish on Jose, he had studied in San Francisco and spoke perfect English and was a great teacher, although I'm very rusty on my Spanish now. Jose was very proud of Merida and upon discovering my fascination with food, invited us round to cook us pozole. We arrived one evening, a few days later and had one of the most interesting and lovely nights I can remember, one I will never forget. Not because of the food, so you are spared the long winded, Mills & Boone-esque descriptions of pozole, but more memorably so because of the 6 inch black scorpions that scuttled under the table whilst we played Cuban dominoes after dinner and the proceeding scorpion massacre that ensued thereafter of Jose-Luis and his slipper. He also plays guitar better than anyone I have ever seen.
That was a few years ago now and I often wish I could taste the food again here but am usually let down with the non-authentic taste of badly reproduced tortillas which to be honest don't taste a thing like the good stuff in Mexico. I was lucky enough recently to get in contact with Tansy who is not only a fellow Mexican food enthusiast, but also head chef at a very cool local cafe in Boscombe called Boscanova. Tansy not only helped me get hold of several different types of corn tortillas to try but also gave me some of her chipotle chilli jam, which is amazing on or with anything. I have been eating it on its own with a spoon and am becoming quietly addicted. Tansy also gave me a nice block of Achiote paste which I now recognize as one of the main ingredients to the Poc Chuc marinade and also Gringas. In my search for Hominy, the white corn kernels for Pozole, ScottCanCook had directed me to CoolChile in London. Fortunately, just before I was about to part with my hard earned, a phone call came in from Poppa Baines saying he was coming back from a business trip in Mexico and did I want him to bring anything back with him. My dad has gotten used to ferrying strange food products with him from overseas trips now and without him my store cupboard would be much less diverse. So the Hominy was procured!
A few of the ingredients for my pozole recipe may be hard to find but they are available. It really is worth the wait or the extra money to get hold of corn tortillas and hominy. Achiote paste is also my new favourite store cupboard essential and I can't see me being able to live without it anymore. Pozole is a regional dish in Mexico, and like many dishes around the world there are sometimes several different variations. This is my variation which I have tried to make as authentic as possible
2 white onions, finely chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and grated into a paste
2 tsp oregano
1 small white cabbage, finely sliced
1 bunch radishes finely sliced
2 lemons cut into wedges
chunk of achiote paste
bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
juice from half a small orange
1.5lb pork loin on the bone
1kg hominy/pozole corn
First trim off the skin from the loin and cut away the bones, you should be left with a very lean piece of loin with a few extra bits trimmed from the bones. Roast your bones for 20 minutes in a very hot oven, gas 8-9. Meanwhile fry off some of the onion in a high sided stockpot. Throw your roasted bones in along with the pig skin/fat that you trimmed off earlier. Cover with water and leave on a simmer for about an hour.
Slice your pork into thin slices and chunks, squeeze the orange juice over and break off a nice chunk of achiote paste and massage and rub it all into your orange juiced pork.
Strain your quick pork stock, (if you have any dense pork stock left over from cooking before use that, the best I have yet to use was the stock I made using a pigs head. Such an intense stock and great value for money.)
Place a high sided pan over a medium heat and soften your onions in vegetable oil with the oregano, grated garlic paste. Once softened, drop your marinated pork, drained hominy and cover with pork stock, top up with water if necessary. Bring to a gentle simmer and leave for half an hour to an hour. The pozole should turn almost see-through.
Serve your pozole in bowls with plenty of soup juice, Put your sliced radishes, cabbage, tortillas, coriander and cut lemon wedges in bowls for everyone to help themselves from. Add handfuls of the accompaniments to your pozole and fold it all in so the hot soup can soften the cabbage and tortilla shreds. We had some fresh sliced habaneros which were amazing, if not a little too spicy and overpowering. Pozole is a very humble dish more traditionally associated with the poor, but then most of the best food usually is.