How Hot do You Want it?

In relation to our Spice up Autumn email recently, I wanted to let you know that chillies are in season now in Australia. When I had my restaurant in the 90’s Rattlesnake Grill, I was given the title of “Chilli King” by the media because of my love and support of all things chilli. I was even growing my own Mexican chillies for the restaurant. I love chillies, but probably not for the same reasons as a lot of people love them. I love them because of their flavours and the fruity characters that a lot of them have.

For example the fresh poblano chilli (pictured above) is great for stuffing. This chilli has a mild heat, which in all chillies comes from the amount of capsaicin found in the placenta (the thin membrane on which the seeds grow). When you dry the poblano chilli it is called ancho (pictured below), and has strong berry, chocolate and tobacco flavours not evident in the fresh poblano. These characters make a great chilli jam, combined with blackberry.

Modern Mexican Cooking Class - dried chillies

My favourite chilli is the jalapeno, which has a strong, sharp grassy sweet flavour and medium-high heat. This is great for salsas and roasting. When you smoke the jalapeno, it is called chipotle, and has the most amazing deep, rich smoky flavour. It’s great for marinades, mayonnaise, sauces, etc.

One of my favourite recipes is Jalapeno Poppers, a take off of chillies rellenos (stuffed chillies, usually prepared with poblanos), but named ‘poppers’ as you can easily ‘pop’ these in your mouth (if you can stand the heat). I take the jalapeno, deseed them (use a little teaspoon to scrape them out), fill them with goats cheese and then beer batter and lightly fry. I like this version in particular for its simplicty, and the beer batter doesn’t overburden the texture. It’s pretty easy and people love them. They go great with a cold Mexican beer or a Margarita. Let me know if you make them or do you have a favourite chilli you love?

Jalapeno Poppers

200 gm cream cheese
½ red onion, diced
salt and pepper
8-10 jalapeno chillies
¼ cup flour
1.5 cups vegetable oil

Beer Batter
½ cup dark beer
2 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 tbsp melted butter

1.    In a processor, blend the cream cheese till smooth. Add the onion, blend and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2.    Slice the jalapeno chillies in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, keeping the stem on if possible.
3.    Fill each chilli half with the cream cheese mix and press the filled sides together as a sandwich.
4.    Put the ¼ cup of flour in a flat dish. Roll each chilli in the flour so the surface is finely coated. Set aside.
5.    To make the batter, separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks in a bowl and add 1 cup of flour. Add the beer and butter, and whisk till smooth. If too liquid, add a bit more flour. If too thick add a bit more beer.
6.    In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites till stiff, then fold gently into the batter.
7.    Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok till hot. Add a pinch of batter to the oil first to see if ready for frying. When the oil bubbles quickly around the batter the oil is ready. Take each chilli, hold by the stem and dip into the batter till coated. Lightly place in the oil and fry for about 1-2 minutes on each side till nicely browned.
8.    Place cooked chillies on paper towels to drain and serve immediately.

Note: Serve with lime sour cream, or sweet chilli jam as an accompaniment.

Serves 8-10

  • Susan Bennett
    Posted at 23:33h, 21 June Reply

    Oh man, at last – a man after my own heart! You’re the first person I’ve encountered who loves chiles for the same reason as I do – flavour, not heat. My love of Mexican food (developed partly through Mexicali Rose restaurant in Richmond, when Tom and Astrid were still at the helm) led me to grow my own ingredients so I could cook genuine Mexican. I plonked a few seeds in seedling trays and before I knew it I had 80 chile plants. All in pots, and in a circle, they attracted considerable interest from the police helicopter (I hope they got some nice photos for home, because my chiles were absolutely beautiful, as were my tomatillos – so giving, so gracious, so abundant.) My favourite was the poblano, which when sliced smells like an exotic fruit salad. Of course chile nomenclature is notorious; something I grew under the name of New Mexico chile was just incredible – so mild but oh God so rich in flavour it was the best thing I’d ever had in my mouth. I still have dreams about the sauces I made from the fruits of that incredible summer. And lastly, I dared to cook the dreaded habanero, known to be the hottest chilli, but… if you can get past the heat (and there are ways to do it) the habanero has the most incredibly complex fruity flavour… to die for – if it doesn’t kill you first!

    • victorsfood
      Posted at 08:14h, 22 June Reply

      Hi Susan, thanks for sharing the story of your great love! 😉 I too have enjoyed the wonders of the fresh berry, though now sadly have no space to grow them and limited supply, as the Aussies are still learning about the great varieties and flavours. Keep an eye out for the recipes in my blog, as we often feature recipes with a bit of heat. Enjoy!

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