Beef mole. No, really!

It’s funny what you can end up cooking when you’re looking for inspiration.  What began as a search for a fun chocolate recipe ended as a mini voyage into one of my favourite cuisines; Mexican!

I was looking for some ideas for a recipe that made use of what I already had in the cupboard and I specifically wanted to use some dark chocolate that’s been looking at me for a few weeks now.  Before I knew it, I was reading about mole and beginning to feel inspired.  In Central America, a mole is a thick, often spicy sauce made with numerous ingredients that can include chillies and dark chocolate.  There seemed to be a handful of variations and each of them sounded delightful.  Being a nacho fiend, I was beginning to see a serious dipping opportunity.

Having made the decision to use only what I had in the cupboards and fridge, the mole I made included minced beef.  Mole is especially popular because of its complex flavours and satisfying kick.  I couldn’t wait to experiment with it.  What ensued was an attack on my cupboards as the ingredient list grew and grew.  As always, I’m conscious that the recipe I’m sharing with you today is not necessarily a traditional mole, but one that I came up with over the course of a very hot afternoon.  With that in mind, some of the ingredients may alarm you, but trust me when I say, the taste is not disappointing!  I managed to surprise myself and I hope this recipe surprises you too.

This is one recipe that I’ll be making for years to come and I suspect that I’ll be trying other moles using chicken, pork and all kinds of chilies.  The sauce itself is more like a chilli con carne in consistency and I’m not saying that it can compete with an authentic Oaxacan mole.  It is however, fun to make, delicious and open to all kinds of adaptions.  Get ready then, for something different, something that I wasn’t expecting.  Is it a chocolate recipe?  Well, not exactly, but I hope you love it as much as I do!

Beef mole

400g chopped tomatoes

250g minced beef

200g tinned kidney beans

2 onions (quartered)

2 Chipotles (soaked in water)

1 red pepper (roughly chopped)

4 garlic cloves

1 medium red chili (roughly chopped)

35g dark chocolate

1 tblspoon smoked paprika

2 tspoons coriander seeds

2 tspoons chili flakes

1 tspoon ground allspice powder

1 tspoon garlic salt

1 tspoon dried oregano

2 tspoons mint sauce

1 and a half tablespoons peanut butter

black pepper

1 tbslpoon sunflower oil

olive oil

sea salt

I began by browning the beef mince with plenty of black pepper in a little olive oil and then setting it aside.

Next, I gently toasted the coriander seeds in a dry pan until they began to release their flavour.  I added them to a container with every ingredient except for the beef, Chipotles, kidney beans, chocolate and sea salt.  Using a handblender, I made a puree and then heated it in a heavy based pot for about twenty minutes on a low heat.  During this time, I added the Chipotles and the water they’d been soaking in, the kidney beans and all of the beef.  I also grated the dark chocolate into the mole and stirred it occasionally so that the sauce didn’t stick.  I removed the Chipotles when the sauce was cooked.

Once the mole was thick, I tasted it and seasoned it with sea salt.  I wanted to use the mole as a dip, so I didn’t add too much salt- my tortillas are already salted.  This mole is not very spicy, but you could add more chilies if you want a real kick.  This has just enough fire to make it fun.  Let me know if you make it.  I’d love to hear what you think!

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Folklore in the kitchen.

It has been one heck of a Christmas and believe me when I say that it is highly unlikely that anyone in the Northern Hemisphere was the recipient of more chutney than me.  I’m in the enviable position of needing more and more things to put the chutney on.  Spicy tomato chutney vies for my attention with rich, roasted flavours and a chilli kick. Pear and honey chutney jumps out with sweetness and subtlety.  What to do?  Decisions, decisions.  It gets tougher still:  good friends presented me with a chutney packing a real punch.  A chutney simply known as Folklore–  chunky, fruity and full of depth from the dark, yet noble real ale that it is made with.  It is formidable to say the least.

Cast into this fruit-filled arena a newcomer, an unknown from the cupboards of a kitchen in the north of England.  It was time to make my own chutney, one that I would be proud of, one that I could share with you and my family at Christmas.  I’m very happy with what I came up with.  It contains all of the flavours that I love at Christmas with a little chipotle for  fun and goes particularly well with my pork and apricot terrine.  Without further delay, I present to you my Christmas chutney and wish you all the very best for the New Year!

Christmas chutney

250ml red wine vinegar

230g soft light brown sugar

200ml cider vinegar

200g dried apricots (chopped)

1 onion (chopped)

1 chipotle chilli

3 cloves garlic (chopped)

2 tblspoons grated ginger

2 tspoons coriander seeds

zest and juice of 1 orange

1 tspoon salt

Before you begin this recipe, be aware that your kitchen will smell of vinegar from the moment you begin heating the mixture.  You may want to open the windows at the beginning.

Put everything except the coriander seeds into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.  Meanwhile, heat the coriander seeds in a dry pan until they begin to crackle (but not burn) and then grind them using a pestle and mortar.  Add the powder to the chutney pan.

Bring the mixture to the boil and then simmer gently for an hour with the lid on.  Stir the chutney every now and again. Take the chutney off the heat when you are happy with the consistency.  Chunky and tender with not too much liquid is best.  Transfer to a glass jar to cool and thicken and remember to remove the chipotle.  Serve with your favourite meat and cheese.  This chutney is great with pork.  Liven up your sausage sandwiches or pair it with a pork pie!

Oh, you expected a full jar nicely labelled? Sorry, this chutney is in constant use!

Cherry chipotle pulled pork rolls.

“You’re gonna cook pork in Cherry Coke?”, my brother exclaimed.  “Why would you do that?”  Well, my little well-meaning bro, because it’s gonna taste great!  As you may have gathered, I’m a big brisket fan and I get quite excited at the prospect of cooking large pieces of meat over long periods of time.  I usually build up to these moments.  I’ll spend a few weeks just cooking regular meals and pottering around with sauces, cakes, bread and other recipes.  Then, I begin to get an idea in my head about the next slow-cooked meat dish and I think through all of the details and ingredients.  When it’s all clear in my head, I set a date, and that, my friends, is when I know that I won’t rest until that dish is cooked.  Today is that day.

When my dear brother comes round to visit (and therefore, to eat), I cook meat.  G is a big food fan, but has a special place in his stomach for meat.  He keeps his emotions well hidden for the most part, but meat can move him.  I’ve been planning to make some pulled pork and when I had a look online, I saw what could be the most comforting pulled pork recipe ever.  It won’t surprise you to learn that it came from The Pioneer Woman.  Being a southern girl, her recipe calls for Dr. Pepper, but I’ve always been a Cherry Coke kinda fella.  I figured that a good glug of Cherry Cola would be just the ticket for a big shoulder of pork.

So then, got my three-month old boy in his car seat, windows down and we drove over the hill towards the butcher’s with The Goonies chase theme playing just loud enough that he could sleep and daddy could feel giddy.  I got 1.5kg of pork, a bottle of Cherry Coke and hopped back in the car with a huge grin on my face.  Back home, it was less than five minutes before a lot of pork and plenty of flavour was in the oven for the long haul.

Once it was done, I decided to use it in a rather unexpected way.  I made little filo rolls!  I reckon these could be made in miniature and served as a starter.

So with a nod to The Pioneer Woman, I present one of the tastiest ways to enjoy pork shoulder.  I have a feeling that I’ll be posting another recipe or two this week using the pulled pork, unless I eat it all in one night, that is!

Cherry chipotle pulled pork rolls (pulled pork adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

1.5kg pork shoulder

500ml Cherry Coke

2 onions (quartered)

200g chipotles in adobo sauce

filo pastry

melted butter

salt

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The meat needs to cook for six hours, so start early!  Spread the onions on the bottom of a casserole and place the meat on top.  Rub plenty of salt onto the pork and then pour the chipotles over it.  Rub the sauce over the pork with the back of a spoon and then tip all of the Cherry Coke over it.  That bad boy is ready for the oven; 150 degrees Celsius for six hours.  It’s a good idea to turn the meat every hour or so to let all of that flavourful loveliness get into it.

When the pork is done, remove it from the gravy and use two forks to shred the soft meat.  Put all of the meat back in gravy and mix well.  I found that there was enough meat to soak up the gravy and my butcher had trimmed most of the fat of the pork.  This meant that I didn’t have to skim off excess fat from the gravy.  You may have to, depending on how fatty the cut of meat is.

Obviously, it’s gonna be hard to resist eating some of the pork, but once you’ve done that, move onto preparing the rolls.  Place a sheet of filo on a dry work top and gently score down the middle using a plastic spatula.  This will create two lengths that you can roll up.  Brush melted butter over the entire piece of filo and then spoon a generous amount of the pork at one end of the pastry.  Begin to roll the pastry up and gently tuck in the sides as you go.  Place the rolls gently onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and brush with more melted butter.  Cook them for thirty minutes at 190 degrees Celsius on the middle shelf until golden.

It’s up to you how many you make.  With 1.5kg of boneless pork shoulder, you could make one heck of a lot!  I made six good-sized rolls with a generous amount of pork inside.  That’s because I’ve got plans for the remaining pulled pork and filo pastry.  I served the rolls with a little salad and a cool dollop of mayo.  My word, I was a happy lad.  Don’t worry, I saved a few for my little brother.  He ain’t heavy…but a he will be after a few of these beauties!