“Cochinita pibil is the emblematic dish of Yucatan. Cochinita, the whole suckling pig, is doused in achiote marinade, wrapped in banana leaves and slow-roasted in a pit. Achiote paste, a mix of crushed annatto seeds and spices, has a deep, vibrant red colour and a unique peppery, musky flavour which pairs beautifully with pork. In Yucatan, sour oranges are used for the marinade. Try this with the bitter juices of Seville oranges, or mix together orange and lime juice. This marinade works particularly well with spare ribs. If you can get hold of banana leaves, they will add extra flavour, but the ribs can still be slow-cooked to succulence simply wrapped in baking parchment and foil. A word of warning: the habanero chillies used in the marinade give these spare ribs a good kick. ”
Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender and blend until smooth. Place the ribs in a large non-reactive container – a glass or porcelain dish is best. Cover with the marinade and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove the ribs from the refrigerator about 1 hour before cooking them. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/325°F/gas mark 3 and line a roasting tray (pan) with a large piece of tin (aluminium) foil, big enough to enclose the ribs. Place a large sheet of baking parchment on top of the foil, then place the ribs on the baking parchment. Scrape out any marinade left in the dish and pour it over the top of the ribs, along with 200 ml (7 fl oz/scant 1 cup) of water. Cover with a second piece of baking parchment and wrap the ribs in the paper and foil. Crumple the edges of the foil to seal.
Place in the oven and bake for 2 hours, then open the foil and paper and check that the meat is well cooked and is falling off the bone. Increase the oven temperature to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas mark 5. Lightly brush the ribs with oil and bake for a further 20 minutes, in the open parcel, until the top of the meat has a slight crust.