I think it’s fair to say that regional foods lose some of their identity as they cross borders. I often wonder whether you get an authentic experience when you don’t eat something on its home turf. Whilst the ingredients you can buy and the restaurants you can visit have changed immeasurably across my lifetime it’s still not quite the same, is it?
The professionals certainly have the upper hand compared to us home cooks. If they want a certain ingredient they can ask their suppliers to do the hard work. The rest of us are very much beholden to our supermarkets and speciality stores. We can only ever do our best with what we can get. Such is the way with this recipe for Chicken Mole, which is a much simpler version of the Mexican original.
The simplicity starts with one of the key ingredients: chillies. I’ve seen recipes for Mole which use four or five different types of chilli – most of which I’ve never heard of, let alone seen in the shops. Here I use a combination of dried Ancho chillies and a Chipotle paste. These are both available in larger branches of the main supermarkets where we live. But they can also be found quite easily online. Or in Waitrose…
The Ancho chillies need to be rehydrated before you can do anything with them. This takes about 30 minutes in very hot water, taken straight from a boiled kettle. But times can vary, so do be patient and wait for them to be soft before using them. Otherwise you’ll get gritty bits in the paste which won’t go away – I’ve made that mistake before!
The chillies are then used as the base of a spice paste to which the other ingredients are added. This paste is mostly made up from dried fruits and nuts, which are blended until smooth. The paste isn’t too spicy either – bringing enough of a kick without being offensively hot. Of course if you like a very hot chilli you could add a bit more chipotle paste – though I really don’t think you need that much heat here.
After being cooked for an hour or so the sauce thickens down and becomes glossy and sticky, clinging to the shredded chicken. Once it reaches this stage you add the not-so-secret ingredient: dark chocolate. The addition of chocolate to the sauce darkens the colour and brings a deep, almost savoury note. You wouldn’t know it was there unless someone told you, but without it the sauce just feels like it’s lacking something. It’s a small amount but a vital ingredient. Don’t get carried away though -it’s a bit like adding anchovies tp a recipe and you can have too much if you’re not careful. This is a savoury dish after all…
As you can see from the picture below I made this just before we went away camping for a few days. Served alongside some lemon and coriander rice, and plenty of Easter sunshine, it was the perfect way to end our first day in the countryside. If you want something a little different to a normal chilli then this Chicken Mole might be right up your street.
For the Mole Sauce
- 3 dried Ancho Chillies
- 3 cloves Garlic peeled
- 75 g Raisins or Sultanas
- 75 g Flaked Almonds
- 1½ tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1½ tbsp Chipotle Paste
- 1 tbsp Tomato Purée
- 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 1 Onion peeled and chopped
- 1½ tsp ground Cumin
- 1 tsp ground Cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground Coriander
- 2 tsp dried Oregano
- 350 g Passata Rustica Crushed Tomatoes
- 200 ml Water
- 40 g good quality Dark Chocolate
For the Chicken
- 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 8 Skinless and Boneless Chicken Thigh Fillets
- Start by rehydrating the chillies. Put them into a mug, then cover with boiling water and cover with a small plate (to ensure they’re submerged). Leave for 30 minutes until softened. Take the chillies out of the water then remove the stalks and seeds.
- Put the chillies into a food processor, along with the garlic, raisins, flaked almonds, smoked paprika, chipotle paste and tomato purée. Whizz until you have a smooth paste.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan. Add the onion and sauté for 5-10 minutes until starting to soften. Sprinkle in the spices and oregano, then fry for further minute until fragrant.
- Pour in the chilli paste and stir through the onion mixture. Cook for a few more minutes to allow the flavours to develop, then pour in the passata rustica and water. Bring to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan, then add the chicken thighs and fry for a few minutes on each side until browned all over. Do this in batches if needed.
- Transfer the browned chicken to the mole sauce, then cover and cook on a low simmer for 45 minutes.
- Remove the chicken thighs from the sauce and shred using two forks. Return the shredded chicken the sauce, then add the dark chocolate. Stir through until the chocolate has melted.
- Serve with the sides of your choice.
|Estimated Values per Serving|
|of which Saturates||7||g|
|of which Sugars||15||g|
|Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.|