City Farm is a not-for-profit community organisation that has been running an Urban Farm for over 25 years located only a few minutes from the centre of Perth. This unique urban sanctuary is a working urban farm that focuses on recycling, sustainability and community support. One service they offer is a small commercial kitchen and (larger) dining area. In this space has popped up an excellent Mexican food stall – the Tizoc Taqueria. Tizoc offers a genuine slice of Mexico to a land that thinks Old El Paso is Mexican food.
The taqueria does not just offer Perthites a taste of Mexico through their most excellent comida callejera (1) but they also supply a little something to take home via Malena’s Kitchen.
- street food
Today I will be cooking their Mole de Xico.
Mole de Xico is from the state of Veracruz (1) on the east coast of Mexico
- Originally the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz.
Mole de Xico is likely the sweetest mole you will come across. Many moles contain fruit of some variety (plantains, raisins and even prunes or pineapple) and more than a few contain chocolate (1).
- Mexican chocolate that is, not Cadbury Dairy Milk. Mexican chocolate is at its simplest ground cacao beans and sugar. Almonds and cinnamon are often added. The chocolate is gritty and if broken, whole sugar grains can be seen. It is quite different to chocolate as it is known in the West.
The mole paste was much softer than the pre-prepared moles I have encountered in the past (1). Pastes like those produced by Doña Maria are typically brick hard. The paste diluted well and although it appeared somewhat gritty it was quite smooth. I used nearly a litre of chicken stock to get the mole to its desired consistency.
- See Post Pre-made Mole. Blessing or Curse? Homage or Travesty?
Mole is sometimes compared to curries from the country of India. There are some valid correlations as each dish contains a selection of dried spices and fresh herbs and/or vegetables. Each dish will usually contain one or more varieties of chile. That’s about where it ends though. With a curry the main ingredient (other than the actual sauce) whether that be vegetables or meat is cooked in the sauce itself. With mole the dish is all about the sauce. The mole is the dish. The ingredients it is served with (whether they be meat or vegetables) are secondary to the mole.
Today I will be using poached and shredded chicken breast.
I will be injecting a little flavour into the chicken by adding
- bay leaves (these ones came from a friends tree)
- 1/2 an onion – skin left on
- 2 cloves (clavos)
- 3 allspice berries (pimienta gorda)
Place the spices and the chicken in a pot and cover with room temperature water. Do not use hot water. Cooking with cool water (not from the fridge) allows for greater extraction of various flavours from the ingredients in the stock and will help to create a clearer stock.
Bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. Skim off any scum that floats to the top. This too will help with making a clear stock. Try not to skim off too many of the glistening oil droplets. These will add flavour and body to the mole. What I am doing here is not really making a stock though. I would normally cook a stock for hours (using bones and not breast meat). This is a “poaching” liquid and it will not be as strongly flavoured as your typical stock.
Allow to simmer for 5 – 10 minutes then turn the heat off and allow the chicken to cool in the liquid (this will also finish the cooking process without drying out the chicken).
Once the chicken has cooled remove it from the stock and shred it.
Now we prepare the sauce. In a heavy bottomed pot place a little oil and the mole paste. In this case I used the whole jar. Fry until fragrant. Thin the paste down to your desired consistency (Malena’s Kitchen recommends a “cream like” texture/consistency). The frying of the salsa is an integral step to many Mexican salsas. This step helps integrate the individual flavours of the dry and wet ingredients and adds a depth of flavour that wont be present in a raw salsa.
The mole was fragrant and only lightly spiced. The chile level was such that it could easily be eaten by a child. I myself thought that it would not be hot enough for my Mexican friends (1) but it was well received.
- I took the dish – along with agua de jamaica and alegria to a FOMEX picnic. FOMEX = Friends of Mexico
You have two main varieties of salsa. Raw and cooked.
Raw salsa includes the classic pico de gallo. This is a 3 ingredient sauce (tomatoes, onions and cilantro – it may or may not contain chile and is usually given a little more tang with a squeeze of lime juice). At one stage it (and bruschetta mix)(1) was the only way I could get my daughter to eat raw tomato.
- To make bruschetta just make a pico de gallo, substitute basil for the cilantro and add a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of vinegar. Served on toasted crusty bread.
The next variety of salsa is one where some or all of the ingredients are cooked before being combined. The ingredients may be grilled, charred, simmered or fried before being added to the dish. Not all the ingredients are cooked. Some, ie. cilantro, are added fresh. These salsas include salsa verde and salsa de arbol.
The next variety of salsa (or sauce) is the most complex one. These include the moles. Each individual ingredient, both fresh and dried, in the dish may need to be cooked separately. Some may be cooked in lard, shallow fried, dry fried, cooked over an open flame or even charred until burnt. These ingredients are then combined and cooked again. Some dishes may make a few days to complete. This can be particular for moles but don’t let that frighten you off attempting to make mole from scratch. You can make a mole in a day at home. It does involve a little work but it will not be the three day event that might occur when making a mole for a thousand people at a celebration in the mountains of Puebla.
There are many kinds of mole. Some are much simpler than others (1).
- See Posts What is Mole? and Pre-made Mole. Blessing or Curse? Homage or Travesty?
Salsa de arbol
- 10 árbol chile (stems removed)
- 2 medium sized Roma tomatoes
- 125g tomatillos (tomate verde)
- 1 small garlic clove
- ¼ cup white onion (diced)
- ⅓ cup cilantro (leaves)
- salt to taste
- Place 4 cups of water in a medium saucepan, add the arbol chiles and cook at medium heat. Once the water starts to boil, add the tomatoes, tomatillos, and garlic clove.
- Alternate Method – shallow fry the arbol chiles in hot oil until toasty. Cook the other ingredients as noted above.
- Bring the water back to the boil and then lower it to a simmer. Cook the tomatoes, tomatillos, arbol chiles (unless you have fried them as noted above – I prefer the fried chile version myself) and garlic for 10 minutes, until they are well cooked, Take the pan off the heat and set the pan aside to allow the ingredients to cool (at least 3-4 minutes).
- Once the ingredients have cooled, drain them and place in your blender along with the cilantro. Process this until you have a sauce with some texture. Pour it into a bowl and season with salt.
- Top the salsa with the diced white onion.
- 5-6 tomatillos
- 1/2 onion
- 1 jalapeno (or serrano)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 15-20 sprigs cilantro (a good bunch)
- pinch of salt
- Pull the husks off the tomatillos and give them a good rinse. Tomatillos have a sticky residue under the skin.
- Roast the tomatillos on a comal until roasted and bubbling. I like a little char on mine.
- Place 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan and add the jalapenos, tomatillos, and garlic cloves. Bring the water to the boil and then lower it to a simmer. Cook ingredients until soft (about 10 minutes). Take the pan off the heat and set aside to allow the ingredients to cool (at least 3-4 minutes).
- Add all the ingredients, cooked and raw, to a blender and pulse the blender until you get a salsa of the texture you prefer.
- Alternate Method – Finely chop 1/2 onion, 1 jalapeno (or less), 2 cloves garlic, and 15-20 sprigs of cilantro. Add these ingredients to the molcajete along with a pinch of salt and crush them into a paste. Finely chop the roasted tomatillos and combine thoroughly with the other ingredients in a molcajete.
- Taste for seasoning. You can add more jalapeno (or serrano chile)if you want to raise the heat level.
- Serve immediately. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge where it will keep for a few days.