At the beginning, I have to confess that I profanated this recipe a bit. The original one calls for anchos chilli peppers  - these are Mexican wide chilli peppers, with sweet, fruity taste and coffee note, they actually sound like perfect fit for both chocolate and mole. Well instead I used regular chilli peppers from the Asian market, I know! Wait, it gets better instead of 2 anchos, I used 10 small regular chilli peppers. Apparently the smaller the peppers the hotter they are. To be honest with you never again and what was I thinking, lesson learned, it was the most crazy, spicy thing I ever had in my entire life, find anchos and this mole will be amazing ;) 

Cocoa and chilli in Mexico always symbolized power and glory. Mole is the combination of both - sweet and spicy, with turkey or chicken in glossy, rich dark sauce. Spices add flavour dimensions, it has depth like a good wine, rough sweetness, something difficult to describe.. It usually is consumed in Mexico during Christmas, we can say it's a bit like American turkey, in the sense that the whole family gathers around the table and celebrates the festive meal together - it's that special national dish. It's not as complicated to prepare as it may seem at first, just it has quite long list of ingredients, the most famous mole poblano has minimum of 20 ingredients. The colour of the sauce may vary from light brown to almost black, depending on the chocolate we are adding and cocoa content.  

The most common version of the legend takes place at the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla, sometime early in the colonial period. Upon hearing that the archbishop was going to visit, the convent nuns went into a panic because they were poor and had almost nothing to prepare. The nuns prayed and brought together the little bits of what they did have: chilli peppers, spices, day-old bread, nuts, and a little chocolate and more. They killed an old turkey they had, cooked it and put the sauce on top and the archbishop loved it! 

Information comes from radio program, interview with Professor Teresa Walendziak, and National Geographic website: and wikipedia. Recipe comes from the April issue of BBC Good Food. 

Chicken mole with coriander rice 

  • 2 ancho chillies  
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil 
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed 
  • 2 onions, chopped 
  • 2 tsp ground cumin 
  • 1½ tsp cinnamon 
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped 
  • 50g raisins 
  • 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter 
  • 2 tbsp chipotle paste 
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes 
  • 25g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids) 
  • 1 small red onion, sliced into rings 
  • juice 1 lime, plus wedges to serve (optional) 

for the rice and to serve:

  • 150ml pot soured cream 
  • 600g long grain rice 
  • large bunch coriander, finely chopped 
  • zest 2 limes and juice of 1 

Put the chillies in a bowl and add enough boiling water to just cover. Leave to soften for 20 mins. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a flameproof casserole dish, season the chicken, then brown on all sides. You may have to do this in batches so you don't overcrowd the dish. Remove to a plate. Add the onions to the dish and cook for 5 mins until softened. Add the spices and cook for 1 min until aromatic. 

Remove the chillies from their soaking liquid, reserving the liquid, and discard the stalks and seeds. Put in a food processor with 4 tbsp of the soaking liquid, the garlic and raisins. Whizz to a paste, then tip into the dish. Add the peanut butter, chipotle paste, tomatoes and 400ml water (fill up the tomato can and swirl to get all the tomato bits out). Return the chicken to the dish and season. Cover with a lid and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hr. 

Remove the chicken pieces to a plate. Using 2 forks, shred the meat and discard the bones. Return the chicken to the sauce, add the chocolate and continue cooking, uncovered, for 30 mins more. If the sauce looks like it's getting a little too thick, add some of the chilli soaking liquid or some water. 

Cook the rice following pack instructions. Meanwhile, put the red onion in a small bowl. Add the lime juice and a pinch of salt. Leave to pickle until ready to serve. When the rice is cooked, add the coriander and lime zest and juice, and fluff up with a fork. Remove the mole from the heat, scatter with the pickled red onion and serve alongside the rice, with soured cream and lime wedges, if you like.