chocolate chipotle chicken

I need a holiday. The only time that I’m not thinking about lying on a gleaming beach of white sand, the sun in my eyes and a cocktail in my hand is when I am having nightmares about all the things that could go wrong at work in the foreseeable future. I definitely need a holiday.

To get me though the dreary weather that is just around the corner, I am going to start planning my escape. Planning, in this scenario has a rather liberal meaning as it will no doubt entail looking at brochures for resorts I cannot afford and private islands I have no superyacht to get to. But my imagination and bank account have agreed on the general destination: Mexico.

I love Mexican food, the creativity and vibrancy, combined with the loud flavours and subtle textures is something that I am desperate to explore further. And I’m not talking about soggy nachos and over-spiced chilli con carne here, I am talking the real deal; sweet and spicy, flashes of colour and hearty as ever. To begin my planning, I had to get my stomach in the mood; so I whipped up this little number, my interpretation of a chipotle mole negro.

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Like I have said on multiple occasions previously; France doesn’t do spicy – I once witnessed a gentleman describe salt and vinegar crisps as piquant and I couldn’t contain my laughter. Keeping this in mind, I had to be a little interpretive with my recipe. Many recipes I found called for a combination of guajillo, habanero, mulato and chipotle chillies. How do you think I went about finding these, short of ordering them in from Mexico? It is impossible to find them at an ordinary supermarché so I settled for a small can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – smoky jalapeño peppers in a dark, salty sauce.

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The slow cooker is fast becoming my favourite kitchen appliance (sorry coffee machine!); it takes so much of the work out of cooking – you can put it on before heading out for the day and return to a house brimming with the comforting smell of dinner.

Begin by dicing an onion and half a head of garlic cloves, yes, that many because even though your pores will be leaking garlic for days, it is well worth it. If you have the time I suggest you roast them first, but it’s not at all essential. Add to the pot, along with a teaspoon each of cinnamon, toasted cumin seeds, coriander seeds, a tablespoon of cocoa powder or a couple of pieces of chocolate and a bay leaf. I also stumbled across a recipe on Gourmet Traveller which used hibiscus flowers – another ingredient I had no time to try and source, so I used some of my dried orange peel for a subtle fruity hint of flavour. I also added a handful of cashews for the hell of it! Mix through a can of kidney or refried beans, a can of diced tomatoes and as much of a can of chipotle peppers as you wish – I used the whole lot!

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Brown a kilogram of boneless chicken thighs (or any part of the chicken) in a really hot pan on both sides; no more than 30 seconds per side, and add to the pot. Submerge the chicken in the sauce, turn the slow cooker onto low and leave for 6 to 8 hours.

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By the time you get home from work, the chicken will be falling apart and the contents of the sauce will have melted into each other. Shred the chicken with a fork and serve over hot rice, or use to make enchiladas or burritos. These are all perfect meals for day dreaming about taking a trip to Mexico, ideal for eating while flicking through a Lonely Planet guide or looking at beautiful beaches on Pinterest.

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If anyone has any insider tips on things to do in Mexico, I would love to hear them!