Mexican street food tacos al pastor is hauntingly complex and delicious and a fine example of how recipes journey across continents, stealthily travelling in the hearts and minds of migrants and travellers, who exchange ideas, borrow cooking methods and create entirely new dishes of their own. In Mexico, Lebanese immigrants cooked kebabs to remind them of home and the Mexicans then made them with pork, marinating the meat in local ingredients. These succulent lamb tacos are inspired by that Middle Eastern-Mexican culinary fusion.
Caramelised ancho lamb kebab tacos with dill yoghurt
A rich, rounded, aromatic marinade works well with this fatty cut of lamb; pair with a sharp slaw and pile into warm, pliant tortillas.
Prep 30 min, plus soaking
Marinate 2 hr+
Cook 25 min
2 large ancho chillies
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
400g lamb or mutton neck fillets
350g natural yoghurt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 handful dill, finely chopped, plus extra, to serve
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp date syrup or pomegranate molasses
Very finely shredded red cabbage
12 flour tortillas
Tear open the chillies like a book, remove the stems and seeds, then rip each one into a few large, flattish pieces. Put a frying pan on a medium heat and, once hot, toast the chilli pieces for 20-30 seconds on each side, until fragrant. Tip into a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 10-15 minutes. Toast the spices in the same frying pan for a minute or two, until aromatic, then tip into a mortar with two garlic cloves and half a teaspoon of sea salt, and pound to a paste.
Slice the lamb fillets lengthways into thinner pieces, then bash out between two sheets of greaseproof paper to tenderise.
Drain and finely chop the chillies, then pound to a paste in a mortar (if your mortar is too small for this, transfer to a small blender and blitz instead). Stir in four large tablespoons of the yoghurt, season to taste, then rub all over the lamb and leave to marinate for a few hours or, if you have time, put in the fridge overnight.
Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9. Line a baking tray with foil, spread out the lamb on top and drizzle with the oil. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until golden and caramelised, then remove, cover with foil and leave to rest. (The lamb would be delicious cooked over fire, too.)
Mix the remaining yoghurt with the last garlic clove, which you have judiciously crushed, the dill, juice of half a lemon and tahini, and season to taste.
Drizzle all but a teaspoon of the date syrup over the lamb, then drizzle the rest over the cabbage with one to two tablespoons of lemon juice, and toss lightly. Serve the lamb with warm tortillas or flatbreads, the yoghurt and slaw; a few pickled chillies wouldn’t go amiss, either.
And for the rest of the week …
The marinade works well on lamb chops, grilled chicken and pork chops; I also love it rubbed into cauliflower or carrots before roasting them.