Chilli lovers are sure to be familiar with the spicy Mexican delicacy, the chipotle. Mexico is the home of the chilli and the chipotle is one of many varieties of dried chilli found there (others might include the chile ancho, chile mulato, chile de arból, chile guajillo, chile pasilla and chile cascabel to name but a few), each with their own unique taste, appearance and uses. Originally a way of preserving a valuable source of nutrition and flavour for the winter months, dried chillies are a staple of Mexican cookery and the chipotle is no exception.
The chipotle starts out life as a humble jalapeño. Unlike other varieties, their thick flesh makes these fiery fruit harder to dry and so smoking them became the preferred method of preservation. The smoke imparts a barbecue-like aroma that makes a finished tomato-based sauce taste more complex, smoky and sweet, almost like fine very dark chocolate.
Available whole, where they require a little soaking to work with them more easily, or as an intense paste that can be added straight to bubbling pots of chilli (referring to the dish now) or in a marinade for chicken wings or spicy spare ribs. But if the heat ends up too much, a cold beer is always the best accompaniment.