We recently had the pleasure of going to the Tlacolula Sunday market about 45 minutes outside of Oaxaca. It’s one of the biggest markets in the region and is full of amazing produce and little stalls selling everything from locally brewed mezcal to huge pots filled with slow cooked goat. I had read about this slow cooked goat (Barbacoa de Chivo) and knew it had be sampled.
Around 11am in the morning we sat down to a bowl at Adolfa’s in the main market building. Served in a broth, the goat meat was melt in your mouth and came along with little chunks of liver, fat and various other bits of unidentified goat. The broth was served with tortillas, salsa, coleslaw and fresh lime. It was so good that I had to get the recipe from Adolfa herself. The below recipe is faithful to what Adolfa told me but obviously requires significant adjustment to be suitable for home cooking.
1 whole small goat, broken down into 1kg chunks (including the head, liver and heart)
1kg whole guajillo chiles, toasted, de-seeded and de-veined
1 cup cumin seeds, lightly roasted
2 sticks of cinnamon, lightly roasted
1/4 cup of cloves
1/2 cup of thyme leaves
1/4 cup of oregano leaves
3 white onions, pealed and roughly chopped
2 heads of garlic, cloves peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup cider vinegar
30-40 avocado leaves (fresh)**
10-15 agave leaves (roasted)***
- Adolfa cooks her goat in an earthen fire pit / oven which is dug deep enough to hold a large stock pot. The pit is lined with stones in order to hold in the heat as the goat is cooked overnight. The pot itself is fitted with a grill about halfway down on top of which sits the goat meat.
- 3 hours before cooking time, a large fire is built in the pit on top of the rocks. This allows time for it to burn down to coals but also time to heat up the rocks sufficiently.
- While the fire is burning down, the quajillo chiles, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, thyme, oregano, onion and garlic get blended in a food processor with the vinegar to a smooth paste. A little water is added if the paste is too dry.
- The paste is rubbed all over the goat to ensure it’s well covered and is then set aside to marinate for 2-2.5 hours while the fire burns down.
- About 30 mins before the fire pit is ready, the pot is filled with around 5-7L of water and then fitted with a grill covered with avocado leaves. The marinated goat meat then sits on top of the grill and is covered with more avocado leaves. The whole thing is now ready.
- Roasted agave leaves are placed over the hot rocks and coals. The pot and goat are lowered down to sit on top of this. More agave leaves and a soaked agave fibre mat are used to cover the goat to prevent any dirt falling in.
- All of this is then covered with earth to seal in the heat and left overnight to cook. As the meat is set above the broth, it actually bakes / steams and the juices drop down to enrich the broth. As the whole thing is sealed the meat is infused with the flavours from the broth along with the avocado leaves which imparts an almost anise type flavour.
- To serve, Adolfa would flesh off a few choice morsels of meat, liver and bone into a small ceramic bowl and cover the lot with a ladle of the steaming broth. The broth comes with a plate of tortillas, fresh onion and chile salsa, cabbage and coriander coleslaw, slices of fresh radish and fresh lime. A bowl of tangy guacamole was also on hand if you wanted.
*DISCLAIMER: We’re still on the road so recipe is yet to be tested. We’ll get to it as soon as we can. Any feedback welcome.
**NOTE: Avocado leaves from native Mexican avocado trees are often used in Oaxacan cooking to add a delicious anise type of flavour. The native Mexican avocado leaves can be used raw but other types of avocado leaves are toxic and need to roasted or dried before using. If in the likely case you can’t find native Mexican avocado leaves, a combination of bayleaf and star anise could be used or even just fresh fennel leaves. The flavour won’t be exactly the same but will still be delicious.
***NOTE: Once again, you will probably struggle to find a ready supply of agave leaves to roast but you can easily do without.