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!

Meatless Mexican munchables.

Are you sure this is vegetarian?

If there’s one thing that my little brother loves to eat, it’s meat.  There are few things that he would prefer to have on his plate and to have a meal without it is not something he relishes.  Therefore, my invitations have usually contained a reference to an exciting meat dish that we can share while we catch up on what’s been going on in our lives and have a laugh.  It was with some trepidation, then, that I arranged to cook a meal for him that did not contain the magic ingredient.  My anxiety was heightened because I had only decided at the last minute to cook a vegetarian meal and I wasn’t sure how he would react.

My wife is a vegetarian and  loves Mexican food.  I’ve managed to cook up some Mexican style stuff on a regular basis using veggie ingredients and even I don’t miss the meat because there’s always lots going on flavour-wise.  I make sure that I’ve got lots of fresh coriander, red chillies and tomato salsa to keep things interesting.  If we’re having fajitas, I use Quorn chicken pieces.  If we are in the mood for chilli, I use Quorn mince or something similar from other supermarkets.  At first, I found it disappointing and slightly strange, but I’ve stopped thinking of Quorn as a replacement for meat and just use it like an ingredient.  The taste is good.  It’s the texture that doesn’t always work in certain dishes.  I’m very confident when cooking with Quorn now because I’ve used trial and error to learn how to use it best.  Mexican food is perfect for it because the cooking methods stay the same as with meat and the results are very good indeed.

For my bro, I served up two dishes hoping to hit the mark with at least one of them.  Chilli beef tacos made with Quorn mince and chicken quesadillas made with Quorn chicken style pieces.  He loved the quesadillas, so that’s the recipe I’ve included below.  I’m slightly embarrassed because as you’ll see, it’s hardly a recipe at all.  However, it is a very quick meal to prepare and they’re surprisingly filling.  Quesadillas are also about as versatile as it gets so they’re great for using up ingredients or just experimenting.  My carnivorous sibling certainly ate his fill!

Veggie quesadillas (made with Quorn pieces)

300g Quorn chicken style pieces

6 flour tortillas

1 red chilli (sliced)

handful of fresh coriander (chopped)

1 bunch spring onions (sliced)

1 red pepper (sliced)

1 tspoon smoked paprika

1 tspoon dried oregano

300g Cheddar cheese (grated)

vegetable oil

salt & pepper

Heat a little oil in a wok or frying pan until almost smoking and then add the Quorn pieces, paprika and oregano.  Toss until the pieces are coated and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a large frying pan and place a tortilla in it without any oil.  Sprinkle large amounts of grated cheese onto the tortilla and top with the remaining ingredients.  Add more cheese on top and press another tortilla onto this to make something resembling a pizza-sandwich.  When the cheese has melted and the bottom is golden, turn the quesadilla over and continue to heat it gently.

These are great with the usual suspects: guacamole, sour cream and salsa.  Cut them into quarters and serve immediately.

Summer is definitely here!