When pomegranates start making an appearance in the markets and supermarkets of Mexico City, you know it is that time of the year again! The time for the wonderful “Chile en Nogada!” This dish is served from August until the beginning of October although September is when it is consumed the most due to patriotic reasons.
Originating from Puebla, the Chile en Nogada was given a historical and political role by being associated with General Agustin de Iturbide. After signing the Treaty of Cordoba which guaranteed the independence of Mexico in 1821, General Iturbide marched towards Mexico city.
Legend has it that when he stopped on the way in Puebla, a big feast was prepared in his honour. However, afraid of being poisoned by his enemies he refused to eat alleging stomach pains. His plan worked until he was presented with the Chile en Nogada to which he couldn’t resist. Besides looking delicious, the chile was presented with the colours of the liberating army, red, white and green. These are the colours of the Mexican flag and September is when the Independence of Mexico is celebrated. During this month, it is tradition in Puebla and Mexico city to eat the Chile en Nogada in family reunions or in restaurants that prepare this dish with small variants. However, to taste the real Chile en Nogada you should always have it in season when the classic ingredients are fresh and available.
This adapted recipe from Chef Oropeza, is a lighter and healthier version of the usual recipe. The recipe takes minced beef but there are other recipes which either combine minced beef with minced pork or just minced pork . You can choose according to your taste.
It is really one of my favourite dishes in Mexico, the sweetness of the fruits, the wonderful spices and the special taste and slight spiciness of the chile Poblano make this a wonderful treat.
Chile en Nogada
For the Chiles:
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 clove
- 1 small cinnamon piece
- 400 g/14 oz minced beef
- 1/2 tsp thyme, dried
- 1/2 tsp oregano, fresh
- salt and pepper, pinch
- 6 tomatoes, roasted and blended
- 1 peach, cut in small cubes
- 1 apple, cut in small cubes
- 1 pear, cut in small cubes
- 1 slice of pineapple, cut in small cubes
- 1/4 cup raisins or sultanas
- 1/4 cup almonds, peeled and chopped
- 4 chile poblanos, flame roasted and ready to stuff
- This is how you do it : wash and dry well the chiles poblanos. Flame-roast them directly on one of your gas stove burners, turning them often until the surface is blistered and blackened. This is my favourite method. However, you can also roast them by brushing them in vegetable oil, and putting them in a baking sheet very near a pre-heated broiler which can take from 4 to 8 minutes. When they have changed colour put them in a plastic bag and close it for 10 minutes, the steam will help loosen the skin easier. Finally, with your fingers or with a paper towel peel off the skin, make a cut on the side and scrape out the seeds and veins to reduce the spiciness. They are then ready to be stuffed.
For the Nogada:
- 20 walnuts, peeled, chopped and soaked in cold milk
- 1/2 cup goat cheese
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tbsp sherry
- 2 tbsp sugar
- salt and pepper, pinch
- 1 pomegranate
- parsley leaves
- For the chiles: Heat the butter in a skillet and sauté the garlic, onion, clove and cinnamon. Add the meat and mix twice, season with the thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook until the meat is ready. Finally add the vegetables, fruits and seeds following the order in the ingredients list. Leave enough time in between until they get cooked enough. Mix very well and then fill the chiles with the mixture.
- For the Nogada: In an electric blender, blend all the ingredients for the nogada.
- Serve the chiles warm or cold, pour over the nogada, decorate with the pomegranate seeds and parsley leaves. Enjoy this exceptional and seasonal Mexican specialty.