Gathering round the table to tuck into a Christmas feast is one thing, but it’s preparing the dish that really makes the day special. Christmas cooking is all about love and attention. Hours spent on creating the perfect meal that’ll get mouths watering as soon as friends and family step inside the front door. For cookery school owner Lituania Pinelo, that meal revolves around her family’s famous turkey with mole negro.
In the Pinelo house, you can’t help but notice the aroma of Oaxacan spices as the whole street gets ready for Christmas. Dried, black chillies toasting on the pan might create a smoke that makes the eyes water, but it’s all worth it when you enjoy get to try that all-important first taste of the mole. “The chilli smell can be uncomfortable,” says Lituania, “but it ends up being delicious – the toasting is part of the whole show of preparing the dish”
It’s not just Lituania preparing the dish though. Like most of the most enjoyable cooking experiences, it’s best when everyone gets involved. Over at her gran’s house, uncles, aunties, cousins, Mum and Dad all work together to get every little bit just right. And it doesn’t stop there. The whole community all head down to the local chilli grinder’s store to make sure they’re ground to perfection, letting all of the fiery heat out and giving the mole a spicy kick formidable to most non-Mexicans.
When it comes to both cooking and eating the mole, it isn’t exactly a tidy affair. The bubbling sauce spits out from the pot as the intense smell fills the entire kitchen – a risky business when the chef keeps adding chocolate to get the taste just right. And when the dish is served up on the family table, the incredible fusion of flavours makes it hard not to dive in first and make a mess. “Eating mole negro is always an adventure,” adds Lituania. “It’s very likely that if you’ve eaten it you’ll have you’ll have it all over your clothes. But that’s just proof that you’ve had a delicious meal!”
Find out how to make Lituania’s turkey with mole negro here