Sunday, April 3, 2011

Salsa Pepian

If by definition, food must yield energy and sustenance, one might wonder whether if a 50 ingredient mole negro should be regarded more as a pastime than a meal. On an energy expended vs. energy gained basis (at least if milling the ingredients by hand), you must certainly be going backwards metabolically. Without a doubt a pleasure to sit down to, it is nevertheless the definition of a chore to make.

Not so the simple Pepian. Were I a less ambitious fellow, it would certainly be my "go to" mole, one that is ready with little more than a toast and a blend, and delicious to boot. The following recipe was taught to me by the lovely Doña Carmen in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and employs the Mayan technique of toasting pumpkin seeds for a nutty, rich flavour. The addition of sesame seeds make this a slightly hybrid recipe: sesame was introduced by the Spanish, who took it from the Moors, who took it from the peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa millennia ago.

Here I have used the un-ripened Zebra Tomato from my garden, in place of the tomatillos originally specified. They are by no means the same thing, but the result was excellent nonetheless. A little fresh salmon fillet, diced and tossed with olive oil, sea salt and orange juice and seared quickly. Some pickled Yucatecan onions, and you've got quite a taco.

Salsa Pepian

500g tomato
200g tomatillo or green tomato
100g white onion
60g hulled pumpkin seed
60g sesame seeds
3 whole allspice
2 chile arból
200ml chicken stock

  1. Place the tomato, tomatillo and onion in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. As each item softens, remove and place in the blender jug. The tomatillo will usually take 2 mins more than the tomato, the onion slightly longer still.
  2. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a medium pan, tossing frequently until golden. Remove, then add the sesame seed and toast. When nearly golden, add the allspice and chile arból. Add to the pumpkin seeds, then place all ingredients in the blender jug with stock and salt.
  3. Puree for 2 minutes until very smooth. Often served with braised pork, poached chicken or white-fleshed fish.