Janet Jeffs' recipe for the classic Mexican chilli and chocolate sauce, mole poblano. Jeffs is the chef at Ginger Catering and cooked this dish for a lunch showcasing the chocolate of Canberra maker Lindsay and Edmunds.
5 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
70g sesame seeds
140ml rich-tasting pork lard or vegetable oil
12 medium dried mulato chillies, stemmed, seeded and torn into large flat pieces
6 medium dried ancho chillies, stemmed, seeded and torn into large flat pieces
10 mediumdried pasilla chillies, stemmed, seeded and torn into large flat pieces
8 garlic cloves, peeled
110g unskinned almonds
1 tsp cinnamon, freshly ground
half a tsp black pepper, freshly ground
half a tsp anise, freshly ground
quarter of a tsp cloves, freshly ground
50g Mexican chocolate, roughly chopped
1.2 litres chicken stock
Roast the tomatillos 10cm below a very hot grill until splotchy black and thoroughly soft, about 5 minutes per side. Scrape into a large bowl. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds, stirring nearly constantly, until golden, about 5 minutes. Scrape half of them in with the tomatillos. Reserve the remainder for sprinkling on the chicken.
Brown other mole ingredients. Turn on the fan or open a kitchen door or window. In a very large soup pot (I typically use a 11.5 litre stainless-steel stock pot or a medium-large Mexican earthenware cazuela), heat the lard or oil over medium. When quite hot, fry the chillies, three or four pieces at a time, flipping them nearly constantly with tongs until their interior side has changed to a lighter colour, about 20 or 30 seconds total frying time. Don't toast them so darkly that they begin to smoke – that would make the mole bitter. As they're done, remove them to a large bowl, being careful to drain as much fat as possible back into the pot. Cover the toasted chillies with hot tap water and allow to rehydrate 30 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure even soaking.
Remove any stray seeds left in the fat. With the pot still over medium heat, fry the garlic and almonds, stirring regularly, until browned (the garlic should be soft), about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove to the tomatillo bowl, draining as much fat as possible back into the pot.
Add the raisins to the hot pot. Stir for 20 or 30 seconds, until they've puffed and browned slightly. Scoop them out, draining as much fat as possible back into the pot, and add to the tomatillos. Set the pan aside off the heat.
To the tomatillo mixture, add the cinnamon, black pepper, anise, cloves, bread and chocolate. Add 480ml water and stir to combine.
Blend, strain, cook. Into a large measuring cup, tip off the chillies' soaking liquid. Taste the liquid: if it's not bitter, discard all but 1.4 litres of the liquid. (if you're short, add water to make up the shortfall). If bitter, pour it out and measure 1.4 litres of water. Scoop half of the chillies into a blender jar, pour in half of the soaking liquid (or water) and blend to a smooth purée. Press through a medium-mesh sieve into a large bowl; discard the bits of skin and seeds that don't pass through the sieve. Repeat with the remaining chillies.
Return the soup pot or cazuela to medium heat. When quite hot, pour in the chilli purée – it should sizzle sharply and, if the pan is sufficiently hot, the mixture should never stop boiling. Stir every couple of minutes until the chilli purée has darkened and reduced to the consistency of tomato paste, about a half hour. (I find it useful to cover the pot with an inexpensive spatter screen to catch any spattering chilli.)
In two batches, blend the tomatillo mixture as smoothly as possible (you may need an extra 120ml water to keep everything moving through the blades), then strain it in to the large bowl that contained the chillies. When the chilli paste has reduced, add the tomatillo mixture to the pot and cook, stirring every few minutes until considerably darker and thicker, 15 to 20 minutes. (Again, a spatter screen saves a lot of cleaning up.)
Simmer. Add the broth to the pot and briskly simmer the mixture over medium to medium-low heat for about 2 hours for all the flavours to come together and mellow. If the mole has thickened beyond the consistency of a cream soup, stir in a little water. Taste and season with salt (usually about 4 teaspoons)