on Venezuelan Black: chicken mole

May 12, 2008

In the weeks leading up to Easter, Channel 4 television aired the series Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory. During four hour-long episodes, we watched Willie Harcourt-Cooze set up his chocolate factory in the South West of England and cook some twenty recipes. The programme also included fascinating footage from his cacao plantation in Venzuela.

Willie’s enthusiasm for Venezuelan Black (made from 100% cacao) was infectious and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a few bars. I was particularly intrigued by the use of chocolate in savoury dishes. But what would I start with? In the programme, we’d seen Willie make:

  • gaspacho with roasted red peppers
  • black turtle beans with sweet peppers served with corn bread
  • roast pork with fennel seeds and injected with ginger, apricots and white wine
  • porcini risotto
  • fish in coconut sauce
  • venison in port gravy
  • partridge wrapped in pancetta and sprinkled with thyme leaves
  • chicken mole

In the end, I decided to go with the chicken and have adapted the recipe that Willie cooked in the last episode. I’ve used less cacao and replaced the peanuts with almonds. The resulting sauce had subtle hints of chocolate and an intense aroma from the roasted star anise.


Serves 2

For the spice mixture:
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 cloves
a handful of almonds

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, sliced
2 chicken legs
2 tomatoes, cut into quarters
1/4 tsp dried chili flakes
5 tbsp grated cacao
500ml vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Place the spices and nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Put the almonds aside. Grind the spices in a pestle and mortar.

Heat a saucepan. Add the oil and fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the ground spices and cook for another minute. Add the almonds and chicken, then stir. Add the tomatoes, chili flakes and cacao, then stir again. Pour in the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 35 minutes.

Put the chicken aside and blend the rest of the mixture in a food processor. Put the mixture and the chicken back in the saucepan and cook for another 20 minutes. Serve with rice.


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