Lamb Barbacoa Tacos & Elote

Lamb Barbacoa Tacos & Elote

We started making this recipe at Cow House after Frank received a phone call from our dear friend and curator Karla Sanchez. Karla, originally from Mexico City, asked Frank to give a cooking demonstration during her then annual Zorro Festival in Wexford Town. Frank loves cooking and had been the cook at Cow House for some time but was in no way an expert on Mexican food. Karla’s enthusiasm was impossible to resist so reluctantly, Frank took on the task. What followed were weeks of research and experimentation. In the end, the demo went well and no one called Frank out for the neophyte he was.

This is a great summer dish and it’s really hard to beat freshly made corn tortillas. We like to dress our tacos with some diced red onion, fresh coriander, and pineapple. The pineapple may seem unusual here but the sweet acidic fruit really compliments the salty, spicy, richly braised lamb. On the side, we like to prepare fresh salsa with radishes and cucumbers but you can really experiment here. You may want to add avocado and tomato or use any combination you love. The Elote is our own interpretation of the popular Mexican street food. Taking the corn off the cob makes it easier to serve to groups. This dinner is among our most popular. It seems to be universally loved as well, from our younger summer program and gap year students to our professional residency artists.

A few notes as you prepare this meal. Although you think you might need to add more water to the lamb barbacoa at the beginning when you are just about to put it in the oven, don’t. The lamb will release a good bit of liquid when cooking, taking longer to reduce later on, and if you don’t have a very steep tray, it might end up spilling over when cooking or removing the tray from the oven. When making tortillas, to keep them warm, take a sheet of tinfoil and make an envelope out of it. Wrap this foil envelope in a tea towel and add tortillas as you cook them. You can keep them this way through dinner service. For the Elote, it’s best to visit your local Mexican market to buy queso fresco. Unfortunately, we don’t have anything local so as a substitute we use this method for making queso fresco at home.

Suggested Sides

  • half a red onion, finely diced

  • one-third of a freshly cut pineapple, cored and diced

  • one lime cut into six wedges

  • a handful of fresh coriander, diced

Corn Tortillas: Ingredients

  • 3 cups masa harina

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 1/4 cups lukewarm water


Place the masa and salt in a bowl, add in the water and mix until fully incorporated. The dough shouldn’t be too sticky. If it is, add a bit more masa. If too dry, add in small amounts of water until you reach a consistency that holds together.

Knead the dough on the work counter for 2 minutes until smooth and set aside covered and leave to sit for a few mins but no longer than 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 32 equal pieces and roughly roll them into balls. Using a tortilla press, flatten the balls to a thin as possible. A good trick to prevent the tortillas from sticking to your press or rolling pin is to line it with a thin plastic bag, like the ones you get in the grocery store.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed non-stick pan on medium to medium-high heat. Gently place the corn tortilla down onto the pan, adjusting the heat along the way as necessary. When the tortilla develops some golden color, flip it over to cook the other side. Repeat this process until all the tortillas are cooked and keep them warm together under some foil and a tea towel.

Lamb Barbacoa: Ingredients

  • 2kg lamb shoulder (bone-in)

  • 1 tbs oil

  • 4 dried Arbol chiles

  • 2 dried Ancho chilies

  • 2 dried Guajillo chiles

  • 1 tsp oregano

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 4 whole cloves

  • 2 tsp salt

  • 6 cloves garlic

  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar


Preheat your oven to 175ºC. Place a large casserole dish that will fit the lamb on high heat with one tablespoon of oil. Use 1 tsp of the salt on the lamb and sear on all sides. Set aside.

Make your adobo sauce. Destem and remove the seeds of the chilies. Toast them on a pan for about 1 or 2 minutes until they begin to release their aroma. Soak the chiles in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. In a blender combine the soaked chiles, the soaking liquid, and all the remaining ingredients. Blend until it forms a smooth paste.

Pour your adobo over the lamb. Use a small amount of water to remove the excess of paste left in the blender. Ensure that the lamb and the bottom of the pan are covered in the paste. Cover the pot tightly with a lid and foil. Alternatively, seal the cooking tray with two layers of aluminum foil and place it in the oven for 2.5 hours or until the lamb pulls away from the bone very easily.

Remove the lamb from the pot and pull apart the meat. Place it into a serving plate and cover to keep warm. Gently reduce the cooking liquid by about one third. Add a splash of cider vinegar and taste for salt. Pour it over the meat and keep warm until serving.

Cucumber & Radish Salad: Ingredients

  • 1 medium cucumber, diced into chunks

  • 250g radishes, diced in quarters

  • half a red onion, diced

  • 2 handfuls of coriander, chopped

  • zest and juice of 1 lime

  • 3 Jalapeno peppers, diced, seeds removed


Place the cucumbers with 1 tsp of sea salt in a colander. Give them a quick stir and set aside for one hour. They will release some liquid so keep a plate underneath.

In a bowl, combine the red onion, jalapeno peppers, lime juice, and ½ tsp of sea salt. Mix well and set aside. In a separate bowl place the radishes, coriander, and lime zest.
Just before serving, combine everything into one serving bowl.

Elote: Ingredients

  • 4 fresh corn on the cob

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 2 tbs mayonnaise (we use Kewpie)

  • 250 g queso fresco, crumbled


Remove the corn off of the cob by slicing down the sides. Get a large pan very hot, and add one and a half tablespoons of sunflower oil. Add the corn along with 1 tsp of sea salt and cook until it starts to develop color. This should take about four to five minutes. Alternatively, to develop additional flavor, you can cook the corn on the BBQ whole and cut it off the cob afterward.

When the corn is cooked, remove from the heat and place it on a serving plate. Dress with mayo then queso fresco and serve.

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