If, like me, you’ve ever said you can eat chocolate every meal of every day, then this recipe for a Spicy Beef and Chocolate Casserole is something you’ll want to try. Yes, you read that right-- beef and chocolate cooked together! I know it sounds a crazy idea, but it works, as it has done for centuries in Mexico, where chicken or turkey are also cooked with chocolate, to produce “Mole” a traditional dish.
If you’re expecting a beef covered in chocolate sauce like ice-cream then think again. Only a small amount of chocolate is used, which thickens the juices as it cooks, resulting in a sauce that is dark and velvety smooth. Combined with the hotness of the chillies and the aroma of cumin, cinnamon and parsley this is a delicious recipe, and great for special occasions. The puff pastry heart croutons are not a must, but could add that touch of romance if you are cooking for that someone special.
SPICY BEEF AND CHOCOLATE CASSEROLE
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 red onion, sliced thinly
• ½ kg good quality braising beef cut into 2.5 cm cubes
• 1 medium size red chilli, seeded and chopped
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 400g can Italian plum tomatoes
• 1 bay leaf • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
• 40g plain chocolate
• freshly ground black pepper
• 200g readymade puff pastry
• a little beaten egg
• 1 tablespoon pine nuts
1. Heat the oil in the heart casserole over a medium setting. Fry the onion until beginning to soften, but not brown.
2. Add the cubed meat and brown evenly, stirring occasionally. Stir in all the remaining ingredients with one full (tomato) can of water. Season.
3. Cover and cook in the oven for 2-2½ hours on 120ºC. Stir once during cooking. When the meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven and raise the temperature for the pastry croutons.
4. Whilst the casserole is cooking roll the pastry out to the thickness of a £1 coin. Use a large heart shaped cutter (approx 9cm long) to cut out 4 hearts. Brush with a little beaten egg and press a few pine nuts into the centre of each. Chill the hearts on a baking sheet for at least 1 hour before cooking
5. Bake the hearts for 10-15 minutes on 200ºC until well-risen and golden brown.
Serve a portion of the beef and chocolate casserole topped with a pastry heart.
Photo: Dave Harrison