No, not some weird chimera, but a spicy Mexican dish.
A mole is a Mexican sauce, in this case made with venison. There are lots of stories about the genesis of the mole but one version says that a nun, back in Spanish colonial days, had to make a last-minute dish to cater for an unexpected visit from the archbishop.
She crossed her fingers – and probably herself – slaughtered an elderly turkey and made a sauce from all the bits and pieces in the convent kitchen.
The archbishop loved it and complimented the cook. When asked what went into it she said: “I made a mole”, mole apparently being the old word for “mix”. I suppose you could say it was a Holy Mole.
I didn’t have a tough old turkey to hand but I did have some very rare venison left over from a recent roast. If you’re starting from scratch, use something tender like venison loin and flash-fry it first.
The recipe I based this on, from Thomasina Miers’ excellent Mexican Food At Home, uses the mole as a sauce for poached chicken.
It also uses peanuts rather than almonds, but as almonds are regularly used a thickener in Spanish cooking and the cuisines have some elements in common, I went with what I had.
Around 400g rare venison, cut into bite-sized pieces
For the mole:
These quantities make enough mole paste to serve around six people. I used half and froze the rest for another occasion.
1 small onion, cut into 6 wedges
2 large ripe tomatoes
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
6 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
2-4 chipotle chillies, depending on how hot you want it
2 ancho chillies (I used 1 tspn of ancho chilli powder)
175g unsalted almonds
3 tbsp olive oil
50g raisins (I used sultanas)
Venison or chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Some coriander sprigs
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
Crème fraîche or sour cream
Tear the chillies into small flat pieces, discarding the stalks and seeds.
Briefly dry-fry the chillies, until they soften and turn darker in colour, but be careful not to burn them.
Now soak them in hot water for 15-20 minutes.
While the chillies are soaking, heat a frying pan and dry-roast the onion wedges, garlic and tomatoes, turning from time to time.
Cook until they’re blistered, blackened and soft, then slip the skins off the garlic and put the whole lot in a blender, along with the ancho chillies (or powder) and the chipotles. I used four chipotles and the finished sauce was spicy but to my palate not too hot.
Toast the cinnamon and allspice in a dry frying pan for around 20 seconds, then grind to a powder and add to the blender.
Fry the almonds in a tablespoon of oil until lightly browned, add to the blender.
Fry the raisins or sultanas in the same oil for a few minutes until they caramelise, and put in the blender with the other ingredients.
Whizz everything together (believe it or not this is a simplified mole sauce), adding just enough stock to stop the blades from clogging. You’re aiming for a thick, smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
You can prepare the mole ahead to this point and keep it in the fridge for a day or two.
Just before you want to eat, heat the remaining oil in a deep frying pan and quickly flash-fry the venison until it’s browned on all sides and (if it’s raw) cooked through to your taste. Remove and keep warm.
In the same oil – you may need to add a little more – cook the sauce for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Turn the heat down so the sauce doesn’t split and stir in enough stock to loosen it to the consistency of double cream.
Check the seasoning and either pour the sauce over the meat or stir the meat through it to reheat.
Garnish with coriander, red onion and sour cream and serve.