Forget peppercorn sauce, this ancient Mexican Pipian sauce is perfect when poured over a lovely rare to med-rare steak for a beautiful Steak en Pipian. Yes, it is some hassle having to make a sauce a week in advance and to boil it everyday, but the thick, oozy sauce you get makes it totally worth it. If you’ve ever eaten leftover curry the next day and thought it was nicer, this sauce has the same effect. The flavours intensify and meld together. You need to make sure you bring it to the boil everyday though or it will go off after two or three days. While it does take some foresight, it’s a really good one to have for a dinner party because the sauce only needs to be heated up. I would avoid steak or anything you need to cook to order thought because while steak for one or two people is easy, if you have to do steaks to three different ways it can be a nightmare. Chance it if you like, but I know that would stress me out. I think I’d rather serve the sauce with some roast beef or duck breasts.
For anyone who is nervous about Mexican food being too spicy, this steak en pipian isn’t spicy at all. You might be put off by the 3 big, scary looking chillies used below but they are very milk and really only bring a smokiness to dishes. More smoke is brought to the dish by charring all the vegetables and a tortilla in a dry frying pan until they blackened slightly.
What I find really interesting about traditional Mexican food is its similarities with Asian cooking. In this ancient sauce or mole, there are lots of sesame seeds, typically Asian, and it is thickened with toasted and ground pumpkin seeds, a technique I’ve seen in traditional Indian cooking, as well as their use of spices and fresh coriander. This might actually have some historical relevance as this recipe predates Hispanic Mexico and it is now believed that the native Americans first populated the Americas from East Asia about 23,000 years ago, instead of Europe as previously thought. Could they have brought food and crops from home to help them establish themselves in what truly was then the New World?
- 100g pumpkin seeds
- 50g sesame seeds
- 1 corn tortilla
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 3 ancho chillies, stems removed
- 2 cloves of garlic, skins on
- half an onion, thickly sliced
- 2 tomatoes
- 500ml chicken stock
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 tsp sea salt flakes, plus more for steaks
- 1 generous grinding of black pepper
- 1 lime
- 3 rib eye steaks
- Add the pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds to an overproof dish and roast at 200 degrees celsius for 10 - 15 minutes until they are toasted.
- Then add the tortilla, cinnamon, ancho chillies, garlic, onion and tomatoes to a dry frying pan and toast them over a high heat, turning everything as it browns and remove everything once brown on all sides.
- Take the toasted ancho chillies, break them in half and place them in a small bowl before you just cover them in boiling water to rehydrate fr 15 minutes.
- Now take a powerful blender or food processor and add the pumpkin and sesame seeds, tortilla, cinnamon, the drained ancho chillies but reserve the steeping liquid, add the garlic cloves but remove them from their skins, the onion and the tomatoes and blend until smooth. If its too thick to blend, add some of the ancho steeping juices until you get a smooth, incorporated paste.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the paste. Swirl the chicken stock around the bowl of the processor to remove all the paste and add it to the pan.
- Stir well, bring to the boil and season with salt and pepper. This is perfect to serve now or make it a week in advance and just boil and stir it everyday. Thin it our first with the juice of a lime before you follow that with more chicken stock or water as needed.
- Brush both sides of the steaks with olive oil and sprinkle more salt and pepper over them.
- Then place them on a grill pan placed over a high heat for 2 minutes a side for rare.
- Plate up the steaks and drizzle over a thick, generous amount of the pipian sauce.