As I've often commented (see previous posts), sourcing ingredients for Mexican food in England is not always the easiest task. And often it's the simplest ingredients that prove to be the most trouble to find.
For example: jalapeño chillies.
These little babies, which are so frequently stocked in your friendly neighborhood Tesco, were on this particular day nowhere to be found in the central Oxford area. Nowhere. Ancho chilies? The other slightly non-standard food item required by this recipe? Available by the truckload. And while I found it amusing that I couldn't find the main ingredient for a "Mexican" recipe found in a prominent English food magazine (Delicious, July 2010), the amusement did not extend past me asking the 5th store employee if they had any jalapeños. The amusement particularly had worn thin when the answer was no. So I improvised and invested in some Marks & Spencers baby chilies instead. Which were the perfect size and worked like a charm. These bite size morsels are definitely moreish. I doubled the recipe below in an attempt to satiate the appetites of 12, but I would say plan for at least 3 half peppers per person. There were definitive angry grunts from the people who hadn't swooped in to snag one before they were gone.
8 jalapeño chillies (or sweet baby chilies)
2 slices of white bread, crusts removed, for breadcrumbs (or Panko breadcrumbs)
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
1 apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
2 banana shallots or 4 regular shallots, finely chopped (or half an onion)
8 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 heaped tsp chipotles en adobo (available in major supermarkets and online at coolchile.co.uk)
-or dried ancho chilies
Juice of ½ lemon
120g vegetarian goat’s cheese, diced or crumbled
75g grated vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese
Halve the chillies lengthways (keep the stems intact) and remove the seeds. Plunge the chilli halves in boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes to blanch. Refresh in cold water, then drain. This will soften them and temper their heat a little.
Meanwhile, whizz the bread in a blender to make breadcrumbs. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the diced apple and fry for 3-4 minutes until it has started to colour. Turn the heat right down and add the shallot, thyme and some seasoning. Cook for 10 minutes until the shallots are soft. Add the garlic and chipotles and cook for another 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. When the mixture has cooled a little, stir in the lemon juice, to taste, then the goat’s cheese.
Place the chillies in a shallow baking dish. Divide the stuffing among them and scatter with the breadcrumbs. When you’re getting ready to eat, preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Drizzle the chillies with a little olive oil and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.