Chilli and chocolates: a match made in heaven | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 27, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:52 AM, December 28, 2016

Chilli and chocolates: a match made in heaven

The Mayans drank chocolate with chilli as an elixir, and that is how the delicious cocoa bean is regularly used in their cuisine-- as a non-dessert condiment. The trick lies in pairing chocolate well with other elements so the heavy bodied flavours and the bitterness (this only works well in case of dark chocolate of course) come through, allowing the chocolaty taste to be the ruling flavour.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt” 

- Charles M Schulz

As the days get colder, appreciate the full bodied flavours of chocolate is all its savoury glory! Rich in minerals, chocolate is known to help combat heart disease, fight the LDL, the so-called 'bad cholesterol,' and also aid in losing weight. Probably the best of the qualities is its ability to lift our moods by releasing the chemical, phenylethylamine (PEA). This encourages the neurons in our brain to release endorphins, making us feel happier. So chomp away and let those happy thoughts envelop you! 

Chocolate with beans

An ideal combination that works deliciously with beans and tomatoes as used in some South American cuisines. 

Ingredients

1 cup boneless beef, cubed, (you can choose to make a vegetarian one sans the beef)

2 red onions, sliced

¼ cup grated ginger

¼ cup garlic paste

2 cups red kidney beans (mixed with black eye beans) 

2-3 large jalapenos (or 1 large capsicum)

½ cup grated dark chocolate

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Half cup of chopped mint and coriander

Pinch of nutmeg and cumin powder (zeera)

1 tsp chopped parsley 

1 cup chopped tomatoes (or 1 cup chopped plums)

¼ cup olive oil 

Method

After soaking beans for at least 4-5 hours, boil them with garlic and parsley, salt and some pepper. In a separate pan, cook the chopped onions in olive oil until translucent, then add ginger and beef and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Once the oil starts to separate, add the boiled beans and tomatoes (or plums) and cook for another few minutes, until the oil separates again. Add about 1 cup of water so the beef can boil. Add spices, vinegar and jalapenos just as you feel the beef is done and cook for about 2-3 minute. Before taking it off the fire, add grated chocolate and mix it up. 

Serving

Serve with a sprinkle of the mint and coriander, either with steaming plain rice or a freshly baked brown bread. 

Guatemalan mole

A mole is a basic sauce that the Mexicans love and some of the ones we know of include guacamole, made with avocados. Chocolate, however, is often used in sweetened moles but in Guatemala, savoury ones are common. This dish is a rehashed version of a Guatemalan mole. Chocolate ideally goes well with a protein based dish so please be careful to not over indulge! 

Ingredients

1 kg chicken

2 tomatoes, halved

2 onions, diced

2 tbsp garlic paste 

4-5 cloves

1 dried chilli pasilla (black dried chillis, take the green ones which have a black pigment or is darkened)

1 dried chilli guajillo (dried red chillies)

½ cup pepitas, raw green pumpkin seeds

½ cup sesame seeds

1 cinnamon stick, broken into 3 pieces

1 large onion, peeled and halved

1 tsp dried, hot red pepper flakes

2 cup pureed tomatoes 

½ cup lemon juice

250g unsweetened baking chocolate, shredded

2 tbsp honey

½ cup olive oil

Salt to taste

Method

Smear chicken with a mix of garlic and onion paste in a mixture of lemon juice and honey, with some oil, salt to taste, and leave to marinate for about half an hour. Roast pumpkin seeds, sesame, and cinnamon for about 10 minutes, taking care not to burn them but enough to get an aroma. Boil the 2 kinds of chillies for about 10 minutes and reserve the water. Add the chillies and roasted material in a blender to make a smoothie. Add the reserved water from boiling chillies to chicken marinade and stick it in to barbeque. Alternately you may wrap it in foil and put into a gas oven and allow it to cook through. 

Fry diced onions and once translucent add the smoothie of the roasted seeds and the chilli mix and cook for at least 5-8 minutes allowing for the mix to cook through. Once oil separates, add the barbecued chicken to it and let simmer. Add shredded chocolate after about 5 minutes and let it simmer for up to 2 minutes. The mixture should not be very watery but more sauce like (mole). Grill the halved onions and tomato separately. You can smear some oil on them and roast them on an open fire or grill till they are charred. 

Serving

Serve the chicken-chocolate mole with barbecued vegetables just to give it an extra flavour and serve with steaming, plain rice or bread. 

Aloo bukhara and chocolate chutney

Finally a chocolate recipe lending itself to some sweetness, with plain beef skewers using ginger, oregano and mint – straight from the kitchens of The Fearless Olive!

Ingredients 

For the beef skewers -

½ kg boneless beef pieces

¼ cup dried oregano

¼ cup ginger paste, 1 tsp garlic paste

1 onion diced

½ tbsp cumin or zeera powder

1 tsp fresh coriander leaves crushed

3-4 spring onions chopped and 2 carrots chopped in thick round pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup olive oil

For the chutney - 

1 cup dried plums 

½ cup shredded chocolate

2-3 tbsp lemon juice 

¼ cup mint

1 tbsp coriander

Method

Marinate the beef cubes in all the elements in the oil for about one hour. Pierce it onto skewers to be grilled through or barbecue on an open fire. Mix all the elements for the chutney and adjust the sweetness by adding more dried plums or adjusting the amount of chocolate. 

Serving

Serve the barbecued beef skewers with the chocolate chutney as a side, and bread.

Photo: Collected

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