Veracruz’s best known mole may not be as celebrated as those of other regions but it deserves a hearty accolade. It originates in a pretty colonial town up in the mountains: Xico (pronounced Jico), designated as a “Jewel of Veracruz” in 2010, an event of which the locals are very proud. Its only other real claim to fame is its two waterfalls and its annual flower-filled festival dedicated to the local saint, Santa María Magdalena. The flavours in its mole are nutty, rich and fruity – even steamy, lush and tropical – and the texture is thick and jammy enough to hold a spoon upright almost indefinitely. The list of ingredients, as with most other moles, is daunting but once you get into its cooking rhythm, it somehow takes considerably less time to make than one might think.
The chilli combination is time-honoured and uncompromising: el Pasilla and el Mulato, both of which contribute to the mole’s sultry exoticism. Some cooks toast them in a dry frying pan – a very typical Mexican method - before rehydrating them, others simply soak or even boil them. It is a personal culinary choice. So is the sweetness of the final sauce which contains not only fresh and dried fruit but large quantities of chocolate and piloncillo, dark unrefined sugar - and I have to say that I invariably find it far too sweet and sweeten my mole considerably less than the Xiqueñas; in fact, the original pre-Hispanic name of the town was Xico-Chimalco in the Aztec Náhuatl language and translates as “where there are beehives of yellow wax” which perhaps points to an early preference for sugary flavours in the local gastronomy.
Mole de Xico is not fast food. There are many ingredients and steps involved, so it is not a dish to be attempted midway through a week day evening – it is best left for a leisurely Saturday or Sunday. For a Mole de Xico recipe, follow the link below - and do attempt it as it is nothing like as difficult as it looks!
Chilli and Chocolate Stars of the Mexican Cocina by Isabel Hood is available from Amazon.co.uk
Just The Two of Us Entertaining Each Other by Isabel Hood is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk