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One of our favourite dishes at the resort we stayed in in Mexico this summer was the Lamb Birria: a rich, brothy, slow cooked lamb dish seasoned with plenty of chillies and fresh rosemary it came piping hot in a stone bowl with plenty of corn tortillas on the side for dipping and taco building, and avocado salsa and plenty of finely chopped pickled red onions. And now it is slow cooking season, it is a dish from our travels I’ve been excited to reproduce!
I’ve put a fair bit of research into birria recipes, as well as consulted my own notes I scribbled down the second and third times I ordered it in the resort’s Mexican grill and steakhouse, and I’m really pleased with the result: for something that was so easy to make (you don’t even have to brown off the meat!) I can’t believe the flavour is so good. It’s also almost exactly how we remember it: the only big change I’ve made is to reduce the amount of stock added to make the sauce thick enough not to collapse flour tortillas, which are J’s preference over corn.
But, feel free to up the amount by 100ml or so if you’re looking for something a bit more traditional!
How to use dried chillies
The flavour of dried chillies are essential to this Lamb Birria recipe, and if you’ve never used them before there is a bit of know-how involved. The key is to soak them in boiling water for 15-20 minutes until they’re soft; then you’ll be able to chop them or blitz them, and deseed them if needed.
Many recipes that call of dried chillies – like this one – will ask you to measure the soaking liquid carefully as it will be added into the recipe for an extra layer of flavour!
Where to buy dried chillies
Sadly Whole Foods (which you can only find in London) is the only supermarket that sells dried Mexican chillies, but the good news is that they’re really easy to buy online!
Another brand of dried chillies I love is Tajin (yes, the same people who make the seasoning that is delicious sprinkled over fresh melon you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever been to Mexico) who also do a chilli bundle with the chillies you need on Amazon (affiliate link). And the Amazon link you’ll need for the chipotle peppers (same brand that I always use) can be found here(affiliate link).
What should I serve this Lamb Birria with?
As I mentioned, I’ve reduced the liquid in this Lamb Birria recipe a little so it won’t soak through flour tortillas, either the small taco sized ones or the big ones to build wraps which is usually how we eat this at home. Of course corn tortillas are also excellent here, either yellow or the purple ones this was served to us with in Mexico – again, I source these from Cool Chile Co. but this time on Ocado.
We were not a fan of the slightly runny avocado salsa out Lamb Birria came with in the resort, so I’ve kept things simple with diced avocado, though guacamole would also be a good shout here.
Pink pickled onions would be my preference here and they should be yours too (this is how I make them), but again, dinner has to please everyone and J prefers them simply sliced and served raw, but soaked in cold water for 20 minutes before. being drained and patted dry to remove that raw onion ‘bite’.
If you’ve made this the first time leaving the seeds of the chillies in and find it is a bit too hot, a dollop of sour cream will always tone things down a bit – if I like to serve it with my birria depends on my mood. Also, nowhere near traditional or even Mexican, J also informs me spoked grated cheddar is also delicious here so if you happen to have some in the fridge, do bring it to the table!
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I substitute for the dried chillies in this recipe?
I’m afraid this really is a recipe that needs dried chillies, but I’ve included some tips for how to use them and links to where to buy them above!
Lamb is tricky to get hold of where I live. Does this work with any other type of meat?
Whilst I have chosen the seasonings in this recipe to work best with lamb, diced stewing steak (beef) or pork shoulder would also be delicious here.
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