We recently completed work on the project’s recipe book, Authentic Recipes from Around the World, and as it is going through the process of design for print, I decided to celebrate with a weekend of cookery fun. Armed with an industrial quantity of various dried chilies, I set out to make several batches of Mexican adobos (the sauce bases for a variety of dishes), marinadas and salsas.
Most Mexican cookery books will start with a section on the importance of chilies, as you might expect, but what novices to Mexican food might not expect is the importance of dried chilies and how to prepare them. There are many varieties of dried chilies and they are astonishingly different in flavour and heat. Mulato chilies, for instance, a type of dried poblano chili, are very fruity, smelling almost like raisins, and aren’t very hot at all. Chipotles, meanwhile, a type of dried jalapeño, are very hot and very smokey. The intense smokey smell hits you as soon as you open the cupboard in which they are kept!
Chipotles make an incredibly delicious and long-lasting sauce that you can use to add smokiness and heat to any number of dishes, as well as being fab added to mayonnaise or salad dressings, and occupied a lot of my attention on Saturday.
To make it, you have to de-seed and soften the chiles in water, before adding various vinegars, flavourings and seasonings to cook into a lovely adobo. You can leave them whole, or blend them together after the sauce has cooked, and it keeps for ages in sterilised jars. This big pot made about 2.5 litres of sauce, which is going to be packaged off as gifts to various people over the next few weeks.
Many recipes also call for dried chilies to be toasted before soaking or cooking in water. The toasting is to draw out their flavour and the soaking is to soften the skins. It can be quite time consuming, but if, like me, spending a day or two mucking about in the kitchen is your idea of fun, it is a very satisfying process, as the smells wafting about make you hungrier and hungrier.
By the end of Sunday, I had filled all my spare jars and look forward to a very many tasty Mexican meals over the next few weeks. A perfect reward for lots of hard work on the project’s recipe book, about which I will write more soon. I still have rather a lot of pasilla chilies left (see the plastic container on the left edge of the picture below – this is about half of what remains), so if anyone has any recipe suggestions…