Pork Carnitas with Lime and Chilli Guacamole

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There’s something about Summer that makes me crave Mexican food. As blistering days melt into hot, blackened evenings, my mind starts drifting towards cool guacamole, spiced brisket, fragrant coriander and salt-rimmed margaritas.

It’s an obsession that I share with my good friend Matt, who recently blogged about his Mexican New Year’s feast over at Inspired Food. Pork carnitas, home made tortilla chips, pineapple salsa and chunky guacamole… now, that’s my idea of Summer culinary heaven.

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Over the past month, I’ve revisited Matt’s post more than once to drool over his carnita recipe. Despite cooking Mexican at least once per week, I’ve historically gravitated towards brisket, chicken and black beans rather than smoky, slow-cooked pork shoulder. Though I have made carnitas, they’ve never been to the specifics of Matt’s recipe.

Last Sunday, everything changed. I woke early, arriving at the market with carnitas in mind. Negotiating the aisles, I chose pork, garlic, onion and oregano alongside items for guacamole, esquites and salsa. I checked out, drove home and ascended three flights of stairs to our apartment.

I turned on the air conditioning and started unpacking each bag of groceries. Bag one, no oranges. Bag two, limes… but no oranges. Bag three? Darn it. No oranges.

I glanced at the window, my eyes narrowing in the glare of the blazing sun. Sweat dripped from my brow as I contemplated another insufferable dash to the local store. No oranges equals no pork carnitas; well, not according to Matt’s recipe. But out of desperation (and encroaching heat stroke) I decided to improvise.

panI rummaged around in the fridge, desperately unearthing lemons, limes and a bottle of The Cidery’s still apple cider. As pork goes naturally with apple, I decided to douse the shoulder in the cider whilst exchanging the oranges for a lemon. In the back of my mind, I hoped that the sweetness of the cider would balance the lemon’s extra acidity. I had no idea if it would work.

After removing the rind from the pork, I decided to score the flesh before making small incisions to house slivers of peeled garlic. Much like my technique for slow-roasted lamb, the idea was for the garlic to slowly infuse during the cooking process, melting down into sweet, sticky goodness. As an afterthought, I grilled the crackle alongside the meat, crumbling it into pieces to add to the carnitas upon assembly.

brookfarmlimechilli

After recently sampling Brookfarm’s fragrant lime and chilli infused macadamia oil, I decided to substitute it for vegetable-based oils in both my pork carnita and guacamole recipes.

In my mind, the gentle heat, nuttiness and tang of the infused oil would add a beautiful layer of complexity to both dishes. The golden hue of the oil also looked spectacular against the creamy guacamole and vibrant splashes of paprika.

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Six and a half hours later, five boys and one girl sat around a table to eat succulent, slow-roasted pork, crispy crackling, tomatillo salsa, esquites, pickled cabbage and creamy guacamole. Piles of warm tortillas were claimed with eager hands from their nest of aluminium foil.

After sampling the meat, I’m pleased to report that the Brookfarm oil certainly added an extra layer of smoky complexity. Each bite was soft and delicious, contrasting beautifully against the pop of crackling, sweet kernels of corn, acidic cabbage and cool guacamole. In absence of required oranges, the proxy lemon and cider worked effectively to add both sweetness and tang to the meat. I was well pleased (and so were the boys, judging from their seconds… and thirds).

So; despite yet another failure in my history of following recipes, I have to admit that this was a beautiful improvised success. But next time, I’m stockpiling oranges. For Matt’s carnita recipe, of course.

meat2

Pork Carnitas

Serves 8-10

  • 2kg boneless pork shoulder, rind removed
  • 80ml Brookfarm lime and chilli infused macadamia oil
  • 1 red onion, roughly diced
  • 4 garlic gloves, peeled and halved
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ancho chilli powder
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 500ml (2 cups) dry apple cider
  • 200ml water
  • 1 jalapeno chilli, halved (seeds left in)
  • sea salt flakes
  • freshly cracked black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano and ancho chilli powder. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, then mix well.

Place the pork into a shallow dish that will fit in your refrigerator. Cut a few shallow slashes into the surface of the meat, then rub in the spice mix (ensure that you massage the spices well into each slash and crevice). Using a sharp knife, make eight 1-cm incisions over the surface of the meat; stuff half a garlic clove into each.

porkrub

Cover and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Place the pork into a large pan or ovenproof dish, then add in the lemon zest and juice, cider, water, sliced jalapeno chilli and diced onion (add a few extra garlic cloves if you like). Drizzle over the Brookfarm lime and chilli oil, then grind over some more salt and pepper.

pan2Cover tightly with foil and place into the preheated oven; immediately reduce the oven temperature to 150 degrees C (300 degrees f).

Cook the pork for 5 1/2 hours or until the meat falls apart when poked with a fork. Uncover and cook for another 30-45 minutes, basting with the cooking liquid until the sauce reduces and the pork starts to brown.

Remove from the oven, place the pork onto a heat-proof plate and cover it with foil. Drain the sauce into a small pan and reduce it over medium heat until thickened. Shred the pork with a fork and pour over the reduced sauce. Mix well and add a little more lemon, salt or pepper according to taste.

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Serve the pork on a large platter, accompanied by warm tortillas, lime wedges, guacamole (recipe to follow), salsa, esquites (or blackened corn salad), sour cream and extra cheese if desired.

guacamole

Lime and Chilli Guacamole

  • 2 medium ripe avocadoes, peeled, stones removed
  • 1 tbsp of chopped ripe tomato (you can leave the seeds in)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped Spanish onion
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp Brookfarm lime and chilli infused macadamia oil, plus extra to drizzle
  • sea salt
  • white pepper
  • smoked paprika, to serve
  • coriander leaves, to serve

Coarsely mash the avocadoes onto a chopping board (or in a bowl, if you prefer). Squeeze over the lime juice and season well with salt and pepper. Make a well in the centre, then add in the chopped onion, tomato, macadamia oil, lime zest, garlic and cumin.

guacconstruction

Mix well, taste and add a little more salt and pepper or lime juice if required. Serve in a small bowl, drizzled with some extra macadamia oil, garnished with coriander and/or dusted with smoked paprika.

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Disclaimer: Brookfarm supplied me with a sample of their lime and chilli infused macadamia oil for the purpose of this recipe post. However, I was not compensated and as always, all opinions are my own.

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82 responses

    • Yeah definitely, it’d be perfect for a slow cooker! I don’t actually have one so I couldn’t advise you of a method but it’s a perfect recipe to improvise with. The spice rub is divine.

  1. No oranges?? That is pretty impossible here in Spain ;) Both the pork and the guacamole look amazing! Shall have to try the pork. I’ve been making tons guacamole lately. xx

      • Haha, yeah Spanish oranges are pretty well renowned Sofia! Yum. We don’t actually eat many oranges in our household so I only buy them for recipe purposes. Hence why there were none in the fruitbowl, frustratingly!! Glad to have another improv sister to bounce ideas off xxx

    • Thanks for the lovely comment. Yes, I’ve heard of the ready availability of good Mexican where you are! I’d probably just eat out too if I lived in Vegas. Unfortunately most of the Mexican here in Western Australia is ‘tex mex’ style, laden in cheese and lacking in authenticity. Not to say that this recipe is authentic (with my improv skills, haha) but I do try and make ‘real’ Mexican food on a regular basis… it’s so much fresher and healthier than the packet tex mex stuff. Thanks for the pin! x

    • Thanks Suzanne. It was definitely a delicious rub, it added a lot of depth of flavour to the pork. Yay for slow cooking… and for cold weather, which means that your house won’t resemble a furnace after a few hours!! I was sweating like a race horse (I was going to say pig but decided that race horse was slightly more elegant, haha) xx

  2. Laura, you’ve done it again. This looks absolutely amazing! Love the photos and the improvisation of the recipe. Mexican, summer, beer and good company go hand in hand :)

    • Thanks for the inspiration Matt, I’ve been drooling over your carnita recipe for weeks! Definitely agree re Mexican + summer + beer + friends. I’m going to take advantage of these summer nights for as long as possible :)

  3. A beautiful meal Laura, you have me craving Mexican now… it’s almost lunchtime here! I can imagine how wonderful your kitchen must have smelt with the slow-roasting pork and all the other aromatics floating through the air! Yum…

    • Oh, the house smelt divine! The only drawback was the temperature… we have an old gas stove that seems to radiate heat all through the house when it’s been on for a while. As it’s summer and we have almost no air conditioning, I definitely felt a bit overheated by the end of the day. But the tasty meal made it a little more bearable :) x

  4. Summer makes me crave Mexican food too. What is it about a hot day that does that? Maybe the margaritas!! :-) I make carnitas every summer when all the kids come to visit – it’s perfect for a crowd! I’m saving this one to make next time. Love!

    • I have no idea why the heat leads to Mexican food cravings, but it always does it to me! Glad to know that I’m not the only one (mmm, margaritas!). Hope that the recipe works well for you lovely. It was absolutely delicious! x

  5. reading how you were inspired and then forced to improvise and ultimately ended up with something wonderful is like peaking into a chef’s mind to see how recipes are made — a bit of inspiration and a bit of improvisation. looks absolutely delicious, and if i i trusted myself at all, i would definitely try it :) until then, drool over your pictures and try to find a restaurant with something similar…

    • I think you underestimate your cooking ability Jen! You’re a wonderful creative type, so I do think that you could achieve something just as delicious as this with no problems! Thanks for your lovely words of encouragement though. Wish you two could come over for dinner! xx

  6. It must be carnitas week! Now, I can understand me wanting to make carnitas in the midst of our bitter cold snowy winter, but I can’t imagine what inspired you in the heat. And what is that thing you call “the sun” and “sweat from your brow”? I really can’t remember any longer :-)

    And your recipe looks lovely!

  7. I crave Mexican food in the summer too, well..in winter also. Bookmarked this one Laura. Your Pork Carnitas is to die for! I happen to be on a Mexican spiced food kick right now and I’m adding this to the top of my list. Lovely.

    • I saw that Seana! You’ve made some incredible things on your blog… I was positively drooling over that polenta with the slow-cooked mole! Thanks for the kind words xxx

  8. This post makes me feel festive! This post also makes me feel hungry! There’s such a delicious freshness to tex-mex inspired food and a delicious combination of great saucy meats (along with) the crispy greens too.

    Delicious…did I just say that 3 times ;)

    • Hahahaa, I always find that I say the same descriptive words several times over. But it’s a good thing – strong positives rock!! Thanks heaps for the sweet words Alice, hugs xx

  9. Reading this post is torture in the best way! I am dying for summer here. Pork Carnitas/Mexican food are two of my warm weather favorites as well. I’m pretty sure Ben would propose to you if you made this for him… Consider yourself warned.

    • I hope it warms up soon for you Erin, argh… I can’t even imagine what your winters are like. We’re lucky to have relatively mild weather over here in Perth in winter. If it helps, the summers are excruciating… I felt like I was going to die when the pork was slow-cooking. Imagine a third-storey hot box, gas stove, bad air conditioning, 40 degrees C. Horrible. But the end result was worth it :) xx

  10. Hi dear Laura! I must apologize as I owe you answers to your super kind comments of a while ago and I also need to catch up with a few posts of yours, which I am in the process of doing… The last two and a half months have been crazier than usual and I fell behind with pretty much everything and everyone: please bear with me! :-)
    As always, a wonderful recipe with beautiful photographs to illustrate it.
    Have a fabulous weekend, Laura! :-)

    • Oh, hello Stefano! So sorry to hear that life has been so frantic. There is no need to apologise whatsoever… life gets on top of us at times, I know that I have struggled to keep up with my favourite blogging friends on many occasions. I do hope that things will get a bit calmer for you and Francesca though. I’ve loved your beautiful posts regardless. Thanks for taking the time to write, my friend. I appreciate you very much!

  11. I adore Mexican food too (although alas it isn’t summer here ;-) ) but can you believe, I’d never heard of carnitas. This looks so good I can taste it. I reminds me of when we used to vacation in Mexico in the winter. I must try this – too good to pass up.

    • Carnitas definitely seem to receive less publicity than quesadillas, burritos, fajitas and tacos. Not sure why, but I definitely love them… one of my all time favourite Mexican foods. Hope that the weather warms up soon over there! xx

  12. Love it! I don’t think I’ve ever cooked Mexican food (I mean, I’ve rolled a few things in a tortilla before, but that doesn’t count ;) ) but I really should as the sound of all the flavours and the beautiful colours are just amazing!!
    I’ve also never added cumin to guacamole but am DEFINITELY going to try it.

    • I LOVE cumin in guacamole! It’s my regular recipe… not sure if I read it somewhere or if I came up within myself but I always crush the seeds with my garlic and salt (and sometimes chilli flakes, depending upon my mood). Oh, and once you start making Mexican food, you can’t stop. It’s so, so good… authentic stuff is completely different to burrito mixes in packets :) xx

      • They’re showing Masterchef Australia on one of our UK channels atm (the 2012 one with Mindy and Audra – it’s very exciting!!) and Ben is ALWAYS cooking Mexican. It looks yum though, so I forgive him for never changing his style
        You should go on MC. You’d win. No doubt :)

      • Oh that was a great series of MasterChef! I won’t tell you who wins… but yep, the Mexican did get a bit overdone. He was amazing with the tacos and stuff though! As for ME entering MasterChef? Uh.. I think I’d end up being the contestant who’s always crying. And that would be embarrassing…

  13. We make our guacamole nearly the same way & your delicious pork looks amazing & ooh so tasty too! Yum Yum Yummm! Perfect to enjoy in these colder Wintermonths with lots of rain to bring the Sunshine out! Ha!

  14. I’m so please that I have so many wonderful recipes of yours to catch up on! And I thought this one was the perfect place to start. Oh my…this looks so delicious! And I absolutely love all of the photos, Laura. Beautiful! I can just imagine sitting around a table outside on a lovely Summer’s evening, tucking into these with a nice cold drink by my side. And well done on your improvisation…you did an excellent job! xo

  15. I couldn’t agree with you more! This summer I’ve been seriously indulging in Mexican goodness- guacamole is ma lifeee :)
    Your recipe looks heavenly and I am definatley adding it to the ‘to make’ dinner list!
    Thanks for the recipe Laura!
    And great photos as always :)
    Xx

  16. This I want for lunch … today!!!! I love pork and this is a version of pulled pork. This will take fare too long time for me … to cook for myself only. But I can buy ready made pulled pork from Denmark, so I will do that and serve it like yours here .. like the idea of making a Mexican dish out of something British. *smile – Your photos …. so fantastic.

    • Haha, yes I agree… pulled pork is too much trouble for one person. Glad that you can get it readymade, yum! So easy and delicious. And of course, fusion food is all the go these days ;) xx

    • Hahaaa, yes do it! Totally pull out a chunk of pork! I love the fact that you can just stick it in the oven and leave it to ‘do its thing’ for hours. Slow-cooking is a new obsession of mine xx

      • Call me crazy- have you ever stuck a frozen roast in a slow cooker? I haven’t even googled it myself. I imagine trying to sear it and throwing it in the crock. I’ve heard steaks are good and rare when you cook them from frozen but have never tried it (and not sure I would).

      • Sorry for the delayed reply to this Wendy! Nope I’ve never done it before… did it work? I’ve cooked a half-frozen steak and that’s been ok (as we like our meat rare) but I can’t imagine a huge, frozen lump of meat working out well!

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