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Shrimp poached in red chilli sauce (Camarones en escabeche rojo)

Updated: Jan 4

I am a huge addict of Mexican chillies, guajillos, chipotles, and anchos, the common ones, but also some of the rather obscure ones like mulato, cascabel and chilhuacle negro, a chilli that is almost impossible to find. These chillies add a very diverse flavour to the complex cuisine of Mexico, from mild and sweet to spicy to smoky. They are used either alone or in combination leading to what some chefs have called an almost unlimited palate in Mexico, especially in the Oaxaca region where complex moles reign supreme.

This is a lovely dish, but one that needs some planning. The mildly spiced ancho chillies have a deep flavour that is smoky and complex. The pickling sauce is complex but allowing the sauce to cure for the requisite 5 days allows the flavours to meld together beautifully. The shrimp clings to the flavour and are finger-licking good. This was a very unusual dish for me, but one that turned out excellent.

Diana Kennedy is the queen of Mexican cuisine. She has received heaps of awards, including the Order of the Aztec Eagle (big in Mexico), and a James Beard Foundation Award (big in food land). In 2002, Prince Charles visited Kennedy at her home to appoint her an MBE, for “furthering cultural relations between the UK and Mexico”. Every cookbook of hers is massive, filled with fantastic recipes and keeps me very happy in the kitchen. This is one of her early cookbooks and one that is filled with authentic recipes and flavours.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.



Ingredients:

2-3 ancho chillies


2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

3-4 cloves garlic, sliced

1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1/2 teaspoon pepper

A pinch of ground cloves


1/2 cup vinegar, apple cider or white


1 tablespoon oil

1 large bay leaf

Salt, to taste


To poach the shrimp:

1 cup water

1 garlic clove, sliced

A pinch oregano

3 black peppercorns

A small piece of cinnamon

2 whole cloves

15-20 shrimp, tail-on, thawed if frozen


Char the chillies over an open flame till aromatic and they turn a slightly deeper shade. Be careful not to burn them which is easy to do.


Soak the chillies in hot water for 15-20 minutes. Remove the stems, ribs and seeds.


Heat the oil in a small pan and fry the onions and garlic till soft and translucent. Add the oregano, pepper and cloves and give a quick spin and remove from the stove.


Add the fries onion mix, anchos, and vinegar to a small blender and blitz till you have a smooth paste.


Add the oil to a small pot and fry the bay leaf. Add the sauce and salt and cook till you have a thick sauce, about 10-12 minutes. The sauce will splatter and the stains will be difficult to remove, so be careful. The final sauce should be thick, aromatic and glisten with oil. Taste for salt and spices, it should be bold and tart.


On the day you want to serve the dish, add all the ingredients to poach the shrimp and bring it to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes till the shrimp have just turned pink. Do not overcook, or the shrimp will be tough. Drain. Mix into the ancho sauce and allow to marinate for 2-3 hours.


Serve as an appetizer with the sauce clinging to the shrimp.

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