Spicing it up with Simple Chicken Mole:
A simple mole is something of a contradiction in terms. According to Wiki an authentic mole will have anything from 20 to over 30 ingredients and will comprise at least 3 different chillis, in addition to ingredients to create a balance of five different taste sensations, including hot (from the chillis) sour (tomatillo or lime), sweet (dried fruit, sugar or sweetened chocolate), spices and thickeners (corn tortillas or nuts). I love mole and have tried a Puebla regional chicken mole as part of the Mexican gastronomic festival at Mestizo last year. After that event I wasn’t suprised to discover that the term mole covers a whole range of chilli spiced sauces used in regional Mexican cookery. Mostly far too complicated for me to try making for myself, unless I was cooking for a special event. But, challenged by Schwartz and McCormick to create and test a recipe to showcase one of their 2014 flavour themes, I picked ‘Mexican World Tour’. And, a good selection of spices in the store cupboard does make this kind of cookery much easier. I suspected this recipe would freeze well too – and since I made enough for four, I did just that and like many stews the texture and flavours actually seem to improve if anything once frozen and reheated.
I’ve spent hours surfing the net, looking for different mole recipes and trying to find how the basic components should be mixed together. In the end I took this recipe and adapted it to create something that I hope is close to the ‘five pillars’ concept by adding back in lime(I couldn’t find tomatillos, even in Waitrose!) and more chilli varieties, cheating just a little by using Luchito chilli paste which is made from three chilli varieties as well as oil, onions, agave, balsamic, garlic, salt and spices. Then, I added in a few dried smoked chipotle chillis for extra depth and balanced out the spices with cumin and cinnamon together with some dried oregano. My sauce was thick enough with just the peanut butter so I didn’t add tortilla or bread and, perhaps because I used up some Green and Blacks cooking chocolate rather than finding authentic Mexican chocolate, together with the agave sweetened Luchito, I didn’t need to add sugar or dried fruit.
- 1 Lime This is a substitute for tomatillas which I couldn't find.
- 2 teaspoons Cocoa powder unsweetened
- 4-6 Chicken thighs with skin on Or if you prefer, you can joint your own chicken!
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Medium Onions
- 1 tablespoon Unsweetened Peanut Butter
- 50 g Dark Chocolate At least 70%
- 1 can Chopped Tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons Luchito chilli paste Or chilli powder - start with 1 teaspoon and adjust to taste
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Granules Or 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 Small Smoked Chipotle Chillis If you are using chilli powder try to get hold of these to add a smokey richness.
- 1 tablespoon Sesame Seeds
- If you are using them,soak the chipotle chillis in warm water for 10 minutes then remove stalks and chop finely. While the chillis are soaking, chop the onion and soften over a low heat in a heavy based saucepan for 5 minutes in half the olive oil.
- Add the garlic and spices and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes to release the flavours of the spices and soften the garlic
- Stir through the tomatoes, lime juice, peanut butter, chipotle chillis, oragano, and add about 300ml of water or stock
- Cook for 10 - 20 minutes to reduce down, then stir through chocolate, and cocoa powder. Blitz with a stick blender or in your food processor till you have a rich sauce.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, adding additional chilli powder if you want a hotter mole. The sauce can be kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen
- Brown the chicken thighs quickly in an ovenproof casserole, then cover with the mole and put in the oven at 160c
- Cook for at least 40 minutes, till the chicken is tender
- Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds, with steamed rice with a little fresh coriander.
The result is a spicy, deep, rich sauce that is ‘long on the palate’. I’m mildly disappointed that it isn’t as dark brown or as smooth (apparently I should be straining it through a fine sieve for that) as the version I tried at Mestizo, but it works very well in terms of flavour. It’s probably a little lighter than a classic mole too, simply because the base is tomato and nuts rather than corn-bread or tortilla.
I’m quite impressed with myself. If I hadn’t had the Luchito in the fridge , I’d have hunted around a little more for some different dried chillis to compliment the chipotle chillis, as it was a combination of the Luchito and my range of Schwartz spices worked a treat. The mole sauce by itself can be used with a variety of different bases. I’d be quite happy eating it spooned over a jacket potato!
Right now Schwartz are looking for your own flavour stories too. It’s all part of a massive birthday party! In 2014, McCormick, parent company of the herbs and spices brand Schwartz that we know so well in the UK, is celebrating its 125th anniversary. The year long celebration kicks off with the launch of the 125th Anniversary Edition of the Flavour Forecast and the Flavour of Together programme, with the goal of connecting people around the world as they share 1.25 million stories about the special role food and flavour plays in our lives through. The company has pledged to donate $1 to United Way Worldwide and it’s UK partner Focus on Food, for every story shared on the Schwartz website, Facebook page or other social channels, so if you’d like to take part why not check out the Schwartz Cooking Club on Facebook or their own website. This particular post is an entry into the Foodies100/Schwartz Flavour of Together challenge.
Disclaimer: I was provided with spices and a supermarket voucher as contribution to my costs for developing and testing this recipe.