Beef in chilli and chocolate sauce

Several Peruvian savoury dishes include a small amount of chocolate, which enriches the taste and texture. The chocolate used in Peru was far more bitter than any available here, and I find this sauce works best with unsweetened cocoa powder.


  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 3-4 fresh green or red chillies
  • 75 g pecan pieces
  • 25 g seedless raisins
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 400 g tin tomatoes
  • 1 rounded tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 20 g butter
  • 1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 600 ml beef or vegetable stock
  • finely grated rind and juice of 1 orange
  • 750 g lean stewing steak
  • bunch of spring onions
  • sea salt


Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic. Cut open the chillies under running water, discard the seeds and stem and then chop the chillies roughly. Put these ingredients into a food processor and add the pecans, raisins, cloves, tomatoes and cocoa powder. Whiz thoroughly until as smooth as possible.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the sunflower oil and the butter in a large flameproof casserole over a medium heat. Add the ground cinnamon and stir around once, then add the blended mixture and let it bubble, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and grated orange rind and juice. Season with a little salt if needed, and remove from the heat.

Heat the oven to 150°C/Gas 2. Cut the beef into cubes; you will need to brown it in batches. Heat the remaining tablespoon of sunflower oil in a large frying pan over a very high heat. Fry the beef cubes quickly, in batches, turning until just browned all over, then add to the casserole along with any pan juices. Stir to combine with the sauce.

Put the casserole back over the heat and bring the sauce to a simmer, then cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2½-3 hours until the meat is very tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened.

A minute or so before serving, trim the spring onions and slice across thinly, using as much of the green part as possible, then stir into the casserole.