Mexican stew: Birria
Birria is a spicy Mexican meat stew often served during festive periods, such as Christmas, New Year's Eve, Mother's Day, and weddings. Originally from Jalisco, it is a common dish in Mexican food outlets. It is served with corn tortillas, onion, coriander, and lime wedges.
Birria is made using a base of dried roasted peppers. This gives birria both its characteristic savouriness as well as its remarkable variety, as different cooks will choose different peppers to use for the stock base. Birria is served by combining a bowl of broth with freshly chopped roasted meat of the customer's choice.
Eat it by filling a corn tortilla with meat, onions and coriander, seasoning with fresh squeezed lime juice, and then dipping it into the broth before eating it. The broth itself is also eaten with a spoon or by drinking from the bowl.
see Chef's notes
For the stew
- 4 ancho chiles
- 4 guajillo chiles
- If using dried chillies, reconstitute by just covering with just-boiled water and leave for an hour or so.
- If using fresh chillies, roast with the sweet peppers
- 1 large red pepper, roasted, skin and seeds removed.
- 1 large green pepper, roasted, skin and seeds removed.
- After roasting the peppers, add most of the burnt skin back as it gives a true smoky, roasted flavour.
- 1 cup hot water
- 450 g (1 lb) rump steak, cubed
- 450 g (1 lb) (pork) baby back ribs or spare ribs cut into 2.5 cm (1") pieces
- 2 litres (3.5 pints) cold water
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- Olive oil for browning
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground cumin
- optionally, 1 teaspoon freshly ground annatto seeds gives a little more colour
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Good splash of Red wine vinegar
for the sauce
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 teaspoon hot chilli powder
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- 2 limes cut into wedges
- ½ cup coriander leaves finely chopped (stems removed)
- Cornmeal tortillas
- Add the hot chillies to a food processor together with a half a cup of hot water and blitz to a purée. If you used dried chillies, use the water they were soaked in.
- In a large iron casserole dish or Dutch oven, heat a little olive oil and in batches, brown the steak and the ribs with the onions and garlic.
- Add the water and bring to the boil, reduce the heat, add the remaining ingredients, cover and simmer for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, remove the cover and simmer for a remaining 45 minutes, keeping your eye on it but allowing it to reduce a little.
- Blend the vinegar, garlic and chilli powder, salt and sugar. IF possible leave for an hour or so to allow the flavours to develop.
I have to say I found this a fairly disappointing recipe after all the effort involved. I reduced the amount of water from the original by almost a litre and it was still fairly bland. Next time I will make it more substantial by adding potatoes at the end. Vegetable stock or chicken stock, instead of water would have lifted it a little and finally, I would add some hot chillies to the mole to make it a more robust dish. I need to go to Mexico to try the original!