Mexican Beef Skewers

Although we Brits think of chocolate as sweet, in Central America it was originally a savoury ingredient, combined with cinnamon and chilli, and not including sugar. Mexico’s molé sauce is a good example of this.

Although molé is usually used with chicken, here I’ve used beef for an equally tasty result. See the footnotes for serving ideas.

Makes: 10 skewers

Ingredients

  • 1 whole dried ancho chilli (see Footnote)
  • Boiling water, to cover ancho chilli
  • 300g rump steak, trimmed of fat
  • 3 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium red onion, or 2 small
  • 2 large hot red chillis
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (white wine vinegar can substitute)
  • 50g vegetable oil + extra for drizzling and frying
  • 2 handfuls of fresh coriander leaf (no stalks)
  • 1 medium fennel bulb
  • 1 each medium green, yellow, and red bell peppers (capiscums)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Kit

  • A small, shallow bowl
  • An electric kettle
  • 2 chopping boards (1 for beef + 1 for all veg), and sharp knife
  • A meat tenderising mallet
  • A food processor with a chopping blade
  • A medium mixing bowl
  • Clingfilm
  • A vegetable peeler
  • A baking sheet lined with tin foil
  • A large frying pan
  • Wooden skewers (if you don’t like skewers, see ‘Serving Ideas’ footnote)

Steps

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 C (160 C fan-assisted).
  2. Place the dried ancho chilli in a shallow bowl and cover with boiling water.
  3. Pound the steak on a chopping board, on both sides, until it’s about 1/2″ thick. Slice it into 1″ x 4″ strips.
  4. Roughly chop the garlic, onion, and red chilli on another board and add to the food processor. Carefully take the ancho chilli out of the water and roughly chop it as well, then add it with the soaking liquid to the food processor.
  5. Add the cocoa, cinnamon, vinegar, oil and coriander and whizz until it’s all well combined and there are no large bits (small bits are just fine). Pour into a medium bowl, add the beef strips, and mix well to ensure all pieces are coated. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and set aside.
  6. Shave the outside of the fennel bulb, then slice it in half lengthways and separate the layers, removing the core at the bottom with a V-cut. Slice the 3 peppers in half lengthways and remove the stem/seeds/membrane. Place all veg on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and roast for 20 minutes or so, turning them over halfway through. You want them ‘al dente’ i.e. softened but still with some bite.
  7. When the veg are done, remove from the oven and let them cool until safe to handle. Chop into 1″ squares and add salt and pepper to your taste (remember there’s no salt in the molé sauce).
  8. Heat a frying pan over a high heat, and add 1-2 tablespoons veg oil. Pour the meat bowl contents (including extra marinade) in and keep the strips moving to ensure all pieces cook evenly. They should be done in about 4 minutes.
  9. Load up each skewer with 4-5 meat strips separated by squares of seasoned pepper and fennel.

    Drizzle remaining marinade over each skewer (and any sides served; see ‘Serving Ideas’ footnote).

Ancho Chilli
I know these aren’t easy to find (Waitrose seems to stock them but not other supermakets), and they’re not cheap. Authentic molé would always include this mild and slightly fruity chilli, but don’t break the bank if you don’t want to. You could substitute 2 very mild red chillis for it, or, use 3 large hot red chillis in total.

Serving Ideas
You don’t have to make skewers if you don’t want to. You could just serve the beef slices with the roasted veg on the side. If you do this, some rice (cooked with cumin and a touch of chilli powder) is a great addition. Or, you could make flatbreads and roll the meat/peppers/fennel up into burritos.

The main recipe picture shows wild rice (cook according to packet instructions) and my cornbread recipe, using the ‘Savoury Options’ footnote.

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