Karen Martini's chicken and scorched chilli mole

For a Mexican-inspired feast, serve this simplified chicken mole with with braised beans, guacamole, tortillas, corn ...
For a Mexican-inspired feast, serve this simplified chicken mole with with braised beans, guacamole, tortillas, corn salsa and creme fraiche. Photo: William Meppem
Dietary
Dairy-free

Mexican mole can be an intimidating thing, but it needn't be. Much is said about how many ingredients are required to make a superior dish, but the truth is that a stunningly simple but vibrant version is easy enough to make. Layering the flavour to build depth and complexity is key to this recipe. Serve as part of a feast with braised beans, guacamole, tortillas, corn salsa and creme fraiche; alternatively, some rice and yoghurt will also do the trick.

Ingredients

6 bird's eye or long red chillies (depending on how much heat you want; the little ones will be hotter)

100ml extra virgin olive oil

1.6kg-1.8kg chicken, cut into 10 pieces (thighs and drumsticks separated and breasts cut in three) or 8 chicken chops

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

1 brown onion, finely diced

5 garlic cloves, finely diced

1 tbsp cumin seeds

200ml white wine

100g stale sourdough, roughly torn into pieces

2 strips of lemon rind

½ bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

For the sauce

4 ripe tomatoes, quartered

1 red capsicum, cored and roughly chopped

3 tbsp toasted almonds

2 tbsp adobo sauce

1½ tbsp hot sauce/chilli sauce

25ml sherry vinegar

1½ tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp caper or pickle brine (omit if not to hand)

1 tbsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp mustard powder

2 tsp smoky sweet paprika

½ tsp ground cayenne

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional).

2. Blacken the chillies on a grill, directly over a gas jet or in a very hot, dry frying pan. Rotate them until unevenly scorched, with black patches and flashes of red.

3. Heat half the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Season the skin side of the chicken with lots of salt and pepper and sear, skin-side down, for 10 minutes. Then flip and finish briefly on the other side. Lift out of the pan and set aside, leaving the oil and any juices behind.

4. Add the remaining oil to the pan with the onion and garlic and fry until golden (about 5 minutes). Add the cumin seeds and stir through, then the wine and reduce by two-thirds.

5. Tip the contents of the pan into a high-sided baking dish (about 30cm x 40cm). Scatter over the bread, then arrange the chicken on top.

6. Add the sauce ingredients to a blender and blitz until smooth, then tip into the pan and simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes. 

7. Pour the sauce over the chicken, then scatter over the chillies and lemon rind. Cover with baking paper, then foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook until the chicken starts to colour, and the sauce has reduced (about 5 minutes). Serve from the tray with coriander sprinkled over the top.