Chocolate-covered chicken and shadow puppets are the highlights of this week’s get-together – an annual farewell celebration to mark the start of a holiday in Mexico
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Sat 26 Jan 2013 07.01 GMTFirst published on Sat 26 Jan 2013 07.01 GMT
Lunch gathering in Somerset
The family fiesta in Somerset. Photograph: Joel Redman for the Guardian
Before their annual voyage, Corinna and her husband, furniture maker Richard Wallace, gathered their two children and their young families together for lunch in Somerset …
What did you have to eat?
The meal centred around one whole poached chicken. In Mexico it would be turkey, but it was difficult to procure one this time around. I poached the chicken with red onions, peppers, chilli, carrots and a bunch of coriander, which gives you the most delicious stock. Mexicans would almost certainly add nopales (prickly pear cactus), which is not especially abundant in Somerset. This formed the base of our first course: a simple soup of chicken stock and vegetables.
I followed that with a traditional Mexican main dish of poached chicken pieces covered in mole, which is made with a variety of chillies, nuts, spices, onion, garlic and unsweetened chocolate. I bought our mole base from the market in Oaxaca but you can also buy it online at coolchile.co.uk. We served the mole with boiled rice followed by a salad of shredded cabbage and tomatoes, dressed in a little lemon juice and oil. Dessert was a simple fruit salad – again, typically Mexican.
What did you have to drink?
We had Agua de Jamaica, which is a very strong tea made from dried hibiscus flowers that you water down and sweeten. It’s very refreshing, and the colour – a rich, ruby red – is fantastic.
What did you talk about?
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We talked about our itinerary and areas of research. This year we are travelling to the Yucatan peninsula to visit early colonial churches. I am planning an illustrated piece based on the practical uses of cacti and succulents for food, pulque and mescal (alcoholic drinks), as well as in construction and fresco painting. Richard, as a furniture maker, is interested in the village community-based workshops. Then, when that’s done, we’ll return to Oaxaca, where we always stay.
There is a small shadow puppet theatre in the kitchen, and at the end of the meal my husband and son put on an impromptu shadow puppet show with characters made by the grandchildren: there were magic carpets, princes and princesses, witches, a large cat, a tiny mouse, a snake and a genie. The children were delighted and watched while wearing facemasks made out of tortillas.
Did anything go wrong?
Not really. There are no real disasters if you all get on as we do.
Corinna’s mexican chocolate chicken
Mexican chocolate chicken
Serve the chicken alongside the rice with the mole sauce poured on top. Photograph: Joel Redman for the Guardian
This is a recipe I watched my neighbour cook for a fiesta in a mountain village above Oaxaca.
1 turkey or chicken, jointed and skinned
4-5 red onions, chopped finely
2-3 peppers, chopped
6 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 fresh chilli, chopped
1 bunch coriander
Salt and black pepper
1 Place the chicken pieces in a large saucepan with the vegetables, chilli and coriander. Cover with enough water to completely submerge the meat and vegetables and simmer on a medium heat until the chicken is cooked, which should take 1-1½ hours, but check after an hour. The chicken should be very tender, not overcooked.
2 Cook the rice according to packet, and cover until needed.
3 Remove the chicken pieces from the delicious broth (which you can now serve with tortillas as a starter). Leave the chicken until it’s just cool enough to handle, and pick the meat from the bones, leaving it in large pieces where possible.
4 Loosen the mole paste (a lump the size of a cricket ball will feed eight) with a little of the hot stock until it becomes pourable.
5 Serve the chicken alongside the rice with the mole sauce poured on top.
6 For the salad, finely shred some white cabbage and chopped tomatoes and toss with a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. I usually serve this after the main course, as it’s so refreshing.