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WanderSups: End comfort-food season with a bang

“It is total and utter filth: just how I like it.” In her final comfort-food column of the season, Hannah Gregory shares her recipe for the ultimate “hearty, filling, warming, delicious” dish - short-rib mac and cheese

Right, I’m going to try something new. I’m going to be an optimist. I’m going to be certain that this is my last comfort food recipe for a while and from next month we will be basking in the early evening sun, sipping chilled white wine and dining on fresh salads and light fish dishes. And because this is my last recipe of hearty, filling, warming, delicious comfort food, designed to provide warmth from the cold, long, dark nights, we are going out with a bang.

For those that follow my recipes regularly, you will know I am in a pretty intense love affair with short ribs. I will put those suckers in just about anything. Recently, after prepping for a taco party, I was standing over the pot, pulling all the gnarly bits of beef off the base, popping them into my mouth and thinking about how there really is nothing better than mole-soaked shortribs and what else could I put this glorious combination in and then it came to me. . . smoky, soft, pulled beef topped with unxious, decadent mac and cheese. At this point in the story I should probably tell you to stop reading if calories are something you care about.

The pairing of the rich meat and the salty cheese is something that can only be described as otherworldly and with otherworldly comes sacrifice and the sacrifice I need from you is a few hours of love and attention for the mole element.

Let's chat about mole quickly - mole is a traditional Mexican sauce that would classically be served with chicken. However, it also makes the most fantastic base for stews and chillis. You can stir it through pulled pork or in this case beef ribs and load it on tacos, burgers, nachos - the possibilities are endless.

It is made from pummeling and I mean PUMMELING chillies, seeds, nuts and dried fruits into a paste and then cooking out with stock and finishing with the all important dark chocolate. The taste is hard to describe - smokey, bitter, earthy. It is a foundation of Mexican cuisine and for me, a staple I always keep in my kitchen.

This batch will yield a good amount - there is no point putting in this much love and care for a tablespoon of something - but it keeps in the fridge for up to a week and can be frozen for three months.

As for the mac and cheese, I have used a combination of Cheddar, Gruyere, Parmesan and Mexicana - you know, that bright orange stuff that is hotter than the sun and not really a cheese at all but for this dish I thought, why the hell not. You could use a mix of anything you have in the fridge - it’s a great recipe for using up odds and ends.

I truly hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do. It is total and utter filth: just how I like it.

Shortrib Mac & Cheese

Serves: 6

Tipple of choice: Something red and beefy or an ice cold Corona

What you need:

For the mole:

● 150g dried mulato chillis (available online, I use Mexgrocer or Cool Chilli)

● 25g dried pasilla chillis

● 30g breadcrumbs

● 10g unsalted cashew nuts

● 100g blanched almonds

● 10g shelled hazelnuts

● 10g shelled walnuts

● 10g unsalted peanuts

● 50g sesame seeds

● 10g pumpkin seeds

● 1 onion roughly chopped

● 1 garlic clove sliced

● 10g dried apricots

● 100g raisins

● 1tbsp coriander seeds

● 6 black peppercorns

● Pinch cinnamon

● Pinch allspice

● Pinch ground cloves

● 1 tsp oregano

● 1 unripe banana

● 200ml groundnut oil

● 1l chicken stock

● 40g dark brown sugar

● 100g 80% dark chocolate

● 1 tsp salt

For the beef ribs:

● 2 beef ribs (if getting these from the supermarket they will probably be portioned into halves so you need four)

● 2 dried chipotles

● 30g caster sugar

● 30g salt

● 20g freshly ground black pepper

● 10g garlic granules

● 10g smoked paprika

For the mac and cheese:

● 400g macaroni

● 100g lardons

● 100g diced cooking chorizo

● 60g butter

● 60g plain flour

● 600ml milk

● 250g Cheddar grated

● 150g Gruyere grated

● 50g Parmesan grated

● 50g Mexicana cheese grated

● Handful panko breadcrumbs

How you do it:

1. First up the ribs - this takes the best part of a day so I always do mine the day before and get the mole done whilst they are cooking. Then on the day all you need to worry about is the mac & cheese and putting it together.

2. Make a dry rub by combining the salt, pepper, garlic granules, paprika and sugar.

3. Toss the ribs in the rub making sure they are completely coated and leave for at least an hour.

4. Preheat your oven to 140C.

5. Pop the rubbed ribs in a large casserole pot with an inch of water and the chipotle chillis. Put into the oven for six hours, checking every so often to make sure the water is still doing its thing and topping up if the pan gets dry.

6. Once the time is up the ribs should easily fall apart. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

7. Shred the meat off the bone and set aside.

8. Next the mole - this guy takes a couple of hours so I usually do it either in advance or the morning of. Carefully remove the stem and ribs of the chillies and shake out the seeds. Toast the chillies in a dry pan until fragrant - this won’t take long so keep an eye on them!

9. Once toasted, put in a non-reactive bowl and cover in just-boiled water. Drain and set aside, reserving the soaking water.

10. Toast breadcrumbs, nuts and seeds and peppercorns in a dry frying pan until fragrant (do the sesame seeds separately at the end as they take a lot less time than everything else).

11. Transfer to a blender and process until all the oil is released from the nuts - this could take up to 20 minutes and you will have to keep stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl. You should be left with a thick paste. Use a little of the reserved chilli water if you need to help it along.

12. Add the chillis to the processor and blitz till smooth.

13. Add a swig of groundnut oil to a pan and fry the banana, apricots and raisins for a couple of minutes before adding the onion and garlic. Fry until everything is soft.

14. Add the fried elements to the processor and blend again.

15. Add the allspice, cinnamon, cloves and oregano with half the stock and blitz to a smooth sauce.

16. Add the remaining oil to a heavy based saucepan and heat. Add the sauce from the blender and cook for 30 minutes over a low heat, constantly stirring to stop it sticking.

17. Add the remaining chicken stock and continue to cook gently for two hours. Stirring occasionally to prevent any sticking. Do not let the mixture boil.

18. After two hours stir in the chocolate and sugar and leave to tick away for 30 minutes, you will see the colour turn from a dairy milk sort of brown to a deep dark brown. This is

when you know it’s done.

19. Allow to cool before adding 4 tbsps to the beef and stirring through to ensure all is coated.

20. Put the mole beef in the bottom of a large dish and set aside.

21. Preheat the oven to 170C.

22. Fry the lardons and chorizo in a pan till crisp, remove from the pan leaving the oil behind.

23. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions and drain, stir the oil from the chorizo pan through the cooked pasta so it doesn’t stick together.

24. Make a roux by melting your butter and then adding the flour.

25. In increments, add the milk whisking each time to ensure you get a smooth white sauce. Season.

26. Add the Cheddar and Gruyere and stir until melted.

27. Stir the pasta, lardon and chorizo through the cheese sauce.

28. Pour the pasta and cheese mix over the beef making sure all is covered.

29. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and Mexican cheese and pop into the oven for 20 minutes or until bubbling.

A former BBC MasterChef quarter finalist, Hannah hosts WanderSups supper clubs, “serving meals created with love, inspired by journeys around the world, dished up on home turf”. Her ethos is simple - have fun, enjoy it, make it an occasion. To find out more follow @WanderSups or visit wandersups.com

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