This all-purpose Mexican chilli paste is a great little addition to boost the flavour in lots of recipes. Add a tablespoon to a stir-fry for extra depth of flavour, a little to a spicy broth to add body, or let its flavours sing in the vinaigrette in this recipe.






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  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 30 g unsalted butter, plus 40 g extra
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt, to taste
  • 12 French shallots
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, cut into 8 mm slices
  • 600 g pork fillet, cut into 3 cm thick portions, trussed
  • 1 bunch asparagus, blanched and refreshed
  • 4 pieces chicharrón or pork crackling (see Note)

Tamarind and pasilla paste

  • 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
  • 4 pasilla chillies, seeded
  • 250 ml (1 cup) water
  • 4 very ripe roma tomatoes, cored and halved
  • 1 white onion, quartered
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • salt, to taste
  • 1½ cups light tamarind pulp

Tamarind pasilla vinaigrette

  • 30 ml lime juice
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1 tbsp tamarind pasilla paste
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • salt, to taste


Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


To make the paste, heat the olive oil in a 20 cm frying pan over medium heat. Using tongs, fry the chillies until crisp. Place into a bowl and cover with the water. Soak for 2 minutes, then drain, reserving the water.

Place the tomato, onion and garlic in a dry 25 cm heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Cook for 6–8 minutes, charring the tomato, onion and garlic on all sides and removing them as they soften. Place in a blender and add the chillies and tamarind pulp. Blend until very fine, adding some of the soaking water from the chillies to get a smooth paste. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve. Add salt to taste and reserve.

Make the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients together. Set aside.

Heat a 25 cm saucepan over medium heat. Add 30 g of the butter, sugar, salt to taste and shallots. Cook gently for 5 minutes or until and softened, stirring or tossing frequently to coat the shallots well. Add the mushroom and cook for 3 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Season the pork fillet with salt. Heat a 25 cm heavy-based frying pan over medium and add 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Place the pork in the pan, add the extra butter and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the pork is nicely coloured. Turn the pork over and continue cooking until the meat is medium to well done. Remove from the pan and let rest in a warm place for 3 minutes.

Trim the tips from the cooked asparagus and add them to the shallots and mushrooms. Return the pan to medium heat for 2 minutes. Arrange the mushrooms, shallots and asparagus on the plate, then add ⅓ cup of the tamarind vinaigrette to the pan to warm. Place the pork fillets on top of the vegetables, then dress the plate with the vinaigrette. Garnish with the pork crackling pieces and serve immediately.


• Chicharrón is slow-cooked pork crackling eaten in Mexico as a snack or used an ingredient in tacos and soups. If unavailable, seek good quality pork rinds or make your own crackling.