Available on almost any menu in Mexico, albondigas are a wonderful comfort food. Typically they are made with pork, but here food writer and baker Jane Mason rustles up a veggie versions with beans and seeds. What makes albondigas captivating is the sauce – in this case a rich chipotle sauce. She suggests serving these as a starter just as they are, or adding a side or rice and some green vegetables to create a main dish. Either way, serve them with her sesame and three chilli sauce – see recipe below.
Try Jane’s recipe for albondigas de frijol en una salsa con chipotle from her latest cookbook – Mexico: The World Vegetarian.
Bean meatballs in a chipotle sauce
- Large frying pan
- Food processor
For the balls:
- 6 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- a pinch of salt plus extra to season
- 1 garlic clove
- 150 g cooked pinto beans
- 150 g cooked alubia or white beans
- 25 g pumpkin seeds dry-roasted
- 20 g dried breadcrumbs or 1 crumbled tostada
- 1 tsp dried marjoram
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 3 tbsp tamarind paste
- chopped coriander to garnish
For the sauce:
- 3 - 6 canned chipotle adobadas
- 6 tomatoes dry roasted
- 2 garlic cloves dry-rosted then peeled
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds dry-roasted
- 1 tbsp dried oregano or marjoram
- 250 ml vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, and add the onion and pinch of salt. Sauté the onion over a very low heat for a good 5 minutes, until translucent.
- Add the garlic. Sauté for a further 1 to 2 minutes, still over a very low heat, to soften the garlic (take care not to burn it).
- Add all the remaining ball ingredients except the coriander. Stir to combine, then gently fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until warm.
- Scrape everything into a food processor (this works better than the blender) and blitz for a good 3 minutes, scraping down the sides from time to time if necessary, or until reduced to a fine texture.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and leave for at least one hour or overnight in the fridge to stiffen up.
- To make the sauce, put all the ingredients – starting with 3 chillies – in a blender and blitz to a fine paste. Adjust the salt and taste to test your heat tolerance. This sauce is not supposed to be especially spicy, but you should be able to feel the heat and taste the smokiness of the chipotles. One at a time add further chillies, testing between each addition, until you’re happy with the heat. Press this mixture through a sieve into a saucepan and discard the contents of the sieve.
- When you’re ready to eat, put the pan over a very low heat to gently warm through.
- Make 12–16 equal-sized balls out of the ball mixture. Heat the remaining four tablespoons of oil in a frying pan set over a medium heat. Add the balls in batches, frying each batch for 10 minutes, rolling them around in the pan to keep them round, until cooked through. As each batch is done, pop the balls into the pan with the sauce and keep warm over a very low heat.
- Divide the balls between 4 serving plates and cover them with sauce. Scatter with chopped coriander and serve with a spicy salsa or sauce of your choice. The sesame and three chilli salsa is great with this.
Salsa con ajonjoli y tres chiles
Not too hot with a rather marvellous, fruity flavour, this is a really versatile salsa prepared with chillies that are typical of Mexico City. The sesame seeds give the salsa a wonderful texture and it is particularly good with roasted vegetables or cheese.
Sesame and three chillies sauce
- Saucepan or frying pan
- 6 ancho chillies cleaned
- 3 guajillo chillies cleaned
- 3 pasilla chillies cleaned
- 500 ml boiling water
- 1 small onion quartered and dry-roasted
- 4 garlic cloves dry-roasted then peeled
- 1 pinch of salt, or more to taste
- 1 tbsp avocado or other neutral-flavoured oil
- 150 g sesame seeds dry roasted
- Place all the chillies in a bowl and cover them with the boiling water. Let them sit for 20 minutes, until they are soft. Using tongs, transfer them to a blender and blitz thoroughly, adding all of the soaking water to make the blender go around.
- Push the blitzed chillies through a sieve into a big bowl. Discard the contents of the sieve and scrape the contents of the bowl back into the blender, along with the onion, garlic and salt. Blend well and taste, adding more salt if necessary.
- Heat the oil in a pan and scrape in the contents of the blender. Fry gently, stirring continuously, until the sauce has reduced just enough so that it begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Let it cool completely before serving or storing.
- The salsa will keep for about 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Mexico: The World Vegetarian by Jane Mason (Bloomsbury Absolute, £20) is out now. Photography by Polly Webster.
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