Every now and again, I become obsessed with a certain dish I'm introduced to. Case in point, Melbourne restaurant Mamasita's hugely underrated menu item, pozole. For the uninitiated, it's essentially a spicy Mexican soupy stew, usually made with maize grits (hominy), meat (chicken or pork) and flavoured with jalapeños, garlic, coriander and served, poured over shredded lettuce, avocado and radishes - so it's kind of like a soup and a salad in one bowl.
Mamasita's pozole sits there on the menu, largely overlooked in preference for more sexy and conspicuously Mexican dishes such as their delightful tacos de lengua (ox tongue tacos), but that's our loss. It's rich, soothing, spicy and basically the perfect warming soup for the cooler months, that maintains that bright, spicy, savoury, earthy flavour profile we love about Mexican cuisine.
Here is an admittedly not-so-authentic (however delicious) version of pozole verde (this dish also comes in a red, or rojo version, aromatic with ancho and arbol chillies). It's at once light, bright and spicy flavours, but also rich and comforting.
1 organic chicken
1 brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 green capsicums
2 fresh jalapeño chillis, tops trimmed
2 long green chillis, tops trimmed
1 tablespoon of chipotle in adobo (any good Latin or gourmet grocer will stock this)
1 x 400g tin cannelini beans, washed and drained (a substitute for hominy, mainly to thicken)
2 bunches coriander, washed thoroughly
1 tbs pickled jalapeños, drained
200g tin tomatillos (if you can't get these, just use more cooking liquid from the chicken)
1/2 a ripe avocado, sliced just before serving
1/4 head of iceberg lettuce, shredded
3 red radishes, mandolined into thin slices, set aside in a bowl of water
1-2 tbs Greek yoghurt
A handful good quality tortilla chips (or you can fry corn tortillas in a little oil). I like the ones by La Tortilleria
Wash the chicken inside and out, pat dry and set aside. In a large, heavy based pot on a medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil, then the chopped onions and garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and oregano and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add the chicken and enough water to cover it. Cut the lime in half, squeeze in the juice and throw in the squeezed fruit. Cover with a lid and bring the water to the boil. Remove the lid and reduce to a simmer, skimming any scum from the surface regularly.
Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 180c and line an oven tray with baking paper. Cut the top off each green capsicum and discard, along with the seeds. Place the capsicums cut side down on the tray, along with the green chillis. Feel free to throw in any random green vegetables as well - we added peas and cavolo nero. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and salt and the chipotle in adobo and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are soft but have still retained their greenness.
While the vegetables are cooking, place the drained beans onto a baking paper-lined baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and salt, place them in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Remove the green vegetables from the oven and place them into a blender along with the coriander (reserving a few leaves for garnish), pickled jalapeños and tomatillos. Blitz into a smooth paste, adding a little stock from the cooking chicken to thin out the puree. Season with salt to taste, then set aside to cool.
Turn the oven up to 200c and once the chicken joints start to feel loose when you tug at them (about 45 minutes), carefully remove the chicken from the pot and place it on a baking paper-lined tray. Season with salt (and a little chipotle in adobo if you like), and roast for 15 minutes or until the skin is golden. Sift out and discard the limes.
Remove the chicken from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes and then carefully shred the meat. Set aside the bones to make stock (waste, not, want not). Reserve some of the shredded chicken for serving, then add the rest of the chicken meat, skin and cartilage back to the pot with the cooking liquid. Add the roasted cannelini beans, then using a stick blender, carefully blitz the stock, chicken and beans into a smooth puree. Bring to the boil and reduce, if you want a thicker soup consistency. Otherwise, add the green puree to the blended chicken soup and stir well to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
To serve, assemble the reserved shredded chicken, lettuce and sliced avocado in a soup bowl. Pour the hot pozole on top, and garnish with radishes, coriander leaves, a dollop of yoghurt and the tortilla chips. Serve immediately.