For dinner this Christmas eve I made Puerco Pibil - a slow-cooked pork dish with an amazingly intense flavour. It's flavoured -and coloured- with annatto seeds; they have a distinctive, slightly sharp flavour and a deep red colour, as you can see from the photos. This is an uncompromising meal. When you eat, it rampages down your throat. When I first made it, 'twas was like nothing I had ever tasted before and it remains one of the most unique flavours I have ever encountered. It's not just the heat from the chilli, its the combination of that along with the vinegary tang and the distinctive flavour of annatto which makes it. You have to try it.


  • 5 dessertspoons annatto seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 red chillies, chopped
  • 2.5 kg pork shoulder, cut into very large chunks
  • 200 ml orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 glug tequila
  • 8 allspice
  • 5 lemons
  • 200 ml white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 large banana leaves, if avaliable
  • 8 large cloves garlic


  1. Grind the annatto seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves and allspice in a spice grinder until a fine powder is achieved.

  2. Put the spices into a large bowl in which you will marinate the meat. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, including the chunks of pork, and mix well.

  3. Leave to marinate for 4-6 hours, preferably overnight.

  4. Heat an oven to 165C/Gas mark 3. Line a roasting tin with banana leaves, if available. Pour in the meat along with the marinate, cover and cook for 4 hours. Just before serving, remove from oven and sprinkle over another tablespoon of dark brown sugar.

  5. Serve with fluffy white rice.