Chicken with charred tomato and hibiscus tinga, and coffee flan – Thomasina Miers’ Mexican recipes

<span>Thomasina Miers’ roast chicken with charred tomato and hibiscus tinga.</span><span>Photograph: Louise Hagger/The Guardian. Food Styling: Emily Kydd. Prop styling: Jennifer Kay. Food styling assistant: Eden Owen-Jones. Photo assistant and retouching: Sophie Bronze.</span>
Thomasina Miers’ roast chicken with charred tomato and hibiscus tinga.Photograph: Louise Hagger/The Guardian. Food Styling: Emily Kydd. Prop styling: Jennifer Kay. Food styling assistant: Eden Owen-Jones. Photo assistant and retouching: Sophie Bronze.

Flowers are frequently used in Mexican cookery, and dried hibiscus is one of my favourites. The flowers have a tart, cranberry-like flavour that’s a little reminiscent of sumac or pomegranate molasses, and they work wonderfully in soft drinks, cocktails and puddings. They also work well in savoury dishes such as today’s smoky tomato tinga, or shredded chicken in a spiced sauce. As for the pudding, imagine a coffee cake rolled up into a creamy caramel flan, which is my idea of heaven. Just make sure you serve it cold to its core.

Roast chicken with charred tomato and hibiscus tinga

Crisp-skinned roast chicken pieces, sticky juices and a rich, smoky tomato sauce with hints of fruit. Dried hibiscus flowers can easily be found in most Middle Eastern grocers or online.

Prep 15 min
Cook 45 min
Serves 4

2 large red onions
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small bunch fresh thyme
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 tsp ground allspice
Soft herbs
– coriander, dill or parsley – to serve

For the sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
6-7 medium tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
, unpeeled
1-2 tbsp chipotle en adobo
1 cinnamon stick
50g dried hibiscus flowers
2-3 tsp grated panela sugar
, or demerara sugar
2 tsp cider vinegar

Heat the oven to 210C (190C fan)/410F/gas 6½. Cut one of the onions in half, then peel and slice it, and arrange the slices over the base of a baking dish. Season with salt, pepper and a tablespoon of olive oil, then scatter over the thyme branches. Rub the chicken pieces all over with the allspice, then arrange them on top of the onions. Add plenty of salt and pepper and the rest of the olive oil, then roast for 25-30 minutes, until golden and just cooked.

Meanwhile, peel the second onion and cut it into wedges. Put a wide, heavy-based pan on a high heat, then dry roast the onion wedges, tomatoes and garlic for about 10 minutes, until the garlic is soft. Lift out the garlic and give the tomatoes and onions another five or so minutes, until blackened. Peel the garlic, put the flesh in a blender with the tomatoes, onions and chipotle, then blitz to a puree.

Wipe out the pan, put it on a medium heat and add the oil. Pour in the tomato mix, stirring so it doesn’t splutter, then add all the other sauce ingredients and season to taste. Turn down the heat and cook gently for at least 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, sugar or vinegar to taste.

Once the chicken is ready, tip the onions and all the sticky cooking juices into the tomato sauce. Arrange the chicken on top of the sauce, scatter over the fresh herbs and serve. I like this with cooked grains such as brown rice or spelt to mop up the sauce.

Coffee flan

A velvety-smooth milk coffee flan with a hint of vanilla and licks of dark caramel.

Prep 10 min
Cook 1 hr
Chill 5 hr+
Serves 8

Butter, for greasing
450ml whole milk
100ml strong black coffee
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 whole eggs
5 egg yolks
(save the whites for another use)
200ml condensed milk
Cream or creme fraiche, to serve

For the caramel
90g caster sugar
90g light muscovado sugar

A pinch of sea salt

Grease eight ramekins with butter and set aside. Pour the milk, coffee and vanilla into a small pan, heat until just shimmering, then take off off the heat.

Meanwhile, put both sugars for the caramel in a deep saucepan with a light-coloured base, so you’ll be able to see the colour of the caramel later. Add the salt and just enough water to “melt” the sugar – about two or three tablespoons should do it. Put the pan on a medium heat and cook until the sugar has melted and is bubbling briskly, resisting the temptation to stir. Cook for five to 10 minutes, until the sugar turns a dark brown and thickens, swirling the pan occasionally to distribute the dark patches and to avoid burning (I like a deep caramel to offset the sweetness of the sugar, so I cook it until almost burning). Quickly pour the syrup, bubbles and all, into the greased ramekins, swirling it around so the hot syrup covers the bases, then set aside and leave to set.

Whisk the whole eggs, egg yolks and condensed milk in a large bowl just to combine and without whisking in too much air. Lightly whisk in the milky coffee mix, then taste – you want to be able to taste the vanilla. Heat the oven to 150C (130C fan)/300F/gas 2 and put the kettle on.

Skim any foam from the top of the custard, then pour it through a fine sieve into the ramekins. Put them in a roasting tray, then pour in enough just-boiled water to come two-thirds of the way up the sides of the moulds. Cover the tray with foil, then bake for 20 minutes. Lift off the foil, bake uncovered for another seven to 10 minutes, until the custard is just set and has a faint wobble in the middle.

Lift the ramekins out of the bain-marie, leave to cool, then cover, transfer to the fridge and chill for at least five hours, or overnight.

To unmould the flans, run a knife around the outside of each chilled cream and turn out on to a small plate. Serve with cold cream or creme fraiche to cut through the sweetness.

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