Chocolate and vanilla – both from Mexico, both delicious. One is haunting, fleeting in nature, the other bold, assertive and multifaceted with its many flavour profiles. I find it wondrous that these two ingredients are among the most coveted in the world. Buy a bottle of good tequila and marvel at how it complements the chocolate in my molten chocolate and ancho cake. Then, a recipe remembering the sweetest of Mexican pineapples I have tasted, here baked in a tarte tatin. For the sweet-toothed, this is an exuberant romp through a world of Mexican-inspired sweet treats.
Molten dark chocolate ancho cake (pictured above)
This deliriously gooey chocolate cake was inspired by a pudding I tried in Mexico City, steeped with the sweet notes of ancho chilli. The twice-baked method is one from St.John restaurant, recently given a renaissance by the wonderful pastry chef Ravneet Gill – it is foolproof and ensures a squidgy molten core.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr
240g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
7 eggs, separated
260g caster sugar
80g blanched hazelnuts
240g dark chocolate
1 ancho chilli, stem and seeds discarded, or 10g ancho flakes, soaked in boiling hot water
2 tbsp blanco or reposado tequila
1 tsp vanilla extract
25g cocoa powder
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
A large pinch of salt
Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/375F/gas 5 and grease a 23cm springform cake tin with butter and line with parchment paper.
Put the egg yolks in the bowl of a mixer with the sugar and beat for a few minutes, until the yolks have tripled in volume. Empty the nuts on to a baking sheet and toast in the oven for five to 10 minutes, until pale golden. Do put on a timer – there is nothing more irritating than burning nuts!
Meanwhile, put the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie over a lowish heat. Drain the chilli, pound to a paste with a pestle and mortar or chopping knife, and add to the chocolate with the tequila and vanilla. Stir a few times until melted – about five to 10 minutes. If the chocolate splits, don’t worry: it will come back when you add the eggs.
In a small grinder, blitz the nuts with the cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt and set aside. Beat the egg whites with an electric whisk to soft peaks. Gradually pour the melted chocolate into the yolks, using a stick blender to combine thoroughly. Fold in the nuts, followed by the whites, in three stages.
Empty half the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until risen and a metal skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Rest for 10 minutes. At this stage, you can keep the cake overnight and finish the baking the next day or cool for one hour and carry on.
Turn the oven up to 210C (190C fan)/425F/gas 7. Pour the rest of the mixture on to the cake and smooth with a palette knife, leaving a border around the edges. Bake for 12–15 minutes, until a light crust has formed on top.
Cool for 10 minutes, then tuck in. This lasts well for up to three days stored at room temperature or in the fridge, where the top becomes mousse-like.
Pineapple tarte tatin with rum cream
A deep, rich caramel envelops the pineapple in this unashamedly wanton tarte tatin. There is layer upon layer of exotic spice notes from the cinnamon and anise, with lime zest adding fresh, floral citrus. The boozy rum cream follows swiftly for a heady assault. This is not a pudding to be messed with – serve at the end of a fat lunch and sink back in your chair afterwards with a small glass of mezcal.
Prep 15 min
Cook 45 min
325g block of pre-rolled puff pastry
Plain flour, for dusting
1 pineapple (about 600g)
200g caster sugar
60g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
A pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lime, to serve
For the rum cream
250ml double cream
4 tbsp icing sugar
2–3 tbsp rum
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick, then cut to the size of your ovenproof frying pan (about 24cm). Put on a floured plate and return to the fridge.
Peel the pineapple, cut in half or quarters, and remove the core. Cut into slices 1cm thick.
Make the caramel next. Pour the caster sugar into a wide pan and put over a medium heat. Cook for six to nine minutes, occasionally swirling the pan (but not stirring) until the sugar has melted and turns amber. Add the pineapple, butter, vanilla, spices and salt, and simmer for six to eight minutes, basting and turning each slice in the sauce every few minutes. The sugar may clump but it will melt again.
Take off the heat and arrange the pineapple slices so they’re overlapping and evenly covering the bottom of the pan. Cover with the puff pastry, tucking it in at the edges, and prick the top all over with a fork. Bake for 20–25 minutes until the pastry is deep golden and crisp.
While the tart is in the oven, transfer the cream, sugar and rum to a large bowl and whip until you have soft peaks. Chill until you’re ready to serve.
Leave the tart to cool for five minutes, then invert on to a serving dish and sprinkle with lime zest. Serve with the rum cream.
Recipes extracted from Meat-free Mexican: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes by Thomasina Miers, published by Hodder & Stoughton on 5 May at £25; photography by Tara Fisher. To order a copy for £21.75, go to guardianbookshop.com