JALAPENO POPPERS

Exciting thing about end of summer and early autumn is bountiful produce in the farmers markets. I’ve always loved the sound of jalapeno poppers but didn’t like the idea of deep frying so I created these oven baked poppers. I assure that they are so tasty and if you are a chilli lover, you’ll simply love them and want more.

Jalapeno poppers ready to be grilled
Jalapeno poppers

INGREDIENTS

16 jalapenos

125g cream cheese (I used reduced fat)

1 shallot, finely diced

50g finely grated cheese like gruyere

1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup or hot sauce

Salt to taste

METHOD

Preheat your grill to 180 degrees Celsius.

Slice the jalapenos in half from the stalk to bottom tip. Scoop out most of the seeds and pith.

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, shallot, grated cheese and sauce. Season with about half a teaspoon salt.

Arrange the jalapeno halves in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Use your hands or a small teaspoon to fill the jalapenos with the cheese mixture.

Place under grill for 8 – 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly and brown. Serve warm. Serves 4-6 as a starter.

PICKLED JALAPENOS

I love growing jalapenos as they are relatively easy to grow and the plants produce abundantly provided you have a long, dry sunny summer. This year, mine didn’t produce well as summer in Wellington was virtually non-existent. I love pickling them as that way I can enjoy year long and tend to use them in different ways. I use them as a pizza topping, in tacos and burritos, chop finely and add them to a dipping sauce or a marinade and in hummus. They are very much a staple in my pantry and if you know how quick it is to make a jar yourself, you won’t be buying them again. You can scale the recipe down too.

Jalapenos

INGREDIENTS

1 kilo jalapeno peppers

4 cups white vinegar

2 cups water

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HOT, HOTTER & HOTTEST

Chilli is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum which are members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The plant is capable of mutating very quickly and as a result you have so many varieties. They come in all shapes, sizes, colours and spiciness. The environment also impacts what the pepper will look and taste like: soil, temperature, and weather all need to be taken into account.

Rocoto, Bishop’s hat and Thai red chilli

I am going to share some interesting facts about chillies.

Peppers are believed to be one of the first plants to have been domesticated, and chili pepper seeds from over 6000 years ago have been found in Peru and Mexico.

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SALSA VERDE

Most cuisines have their version of salsa verde. It is simply a green sauce – in India it is coriander chutney, in Britain it is a mint sauce, France it is simply verte using herbs like parsley. This salsa verde is Mexican in it’s origin and made from tomatillos.

Tomatillos

Tomatillos are not baby tomatoes although you can be forgiven for thinking they are. Tomatillos once dehusked look like small green tomatoes.

Tomatillos (botanical name is Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa), also known as the Mexican husk tomato, is a plant of the nightshade family bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. Being slightly more acidic than tomatoes, they are great roasted. You can make a great salsa with raw tomatillos too.

Salsa Verde

In New Zealand, there are a few growers in the Hawkes Bay and they are available only through specialist supermarkets. I got a good crop out of the seeds I planted last year. You can use tinned tomatillos if you can’t get fresh ones.

INGREDIENTS

500g fresh tomatillos or 200g tinned tomatillos

2-3 Hungarian peppers (optional)

Olive oil for roasting

10-12 cloves of garlic

4-6 fresh green chillies, chopped (seeded if you prefer less heat)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil like Canola

75g brown onion, finely diced

1/3 cup chopped fresh coriander

Salt and ground pepper

METHOD

If using fresh tomatillos, preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Remove husks from fruit, rinse in warm water and towel dry. Place tomatillos in a roasting pan, along with the Hungarian peppers and cloves of garlic. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast for 30 -40 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the pulp from the garlic cloves. In a blender or food processor, pulse the tomatillos, garlic, peppers and chillies. The salsa verde is nicer if it is chunky so take care not to make the sauce too smooth.

Heat remaining vegetable oil in a pan and cook onion until soft. Add tomatillo mixture and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, remove from heat. Add coriander, salt and pepper.

Store in sterile jars in refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

BABAGHANOUSH – EGGPLANT DIP

This is a universally appealing dip of Lebanese origins. The smoky flavour goes so well with pita bread. I am a bit of a food history buff and always wonder about the origins if I find similarities to a classic well known dish. In India, they make baingan bartha and there are regional variations too. I love the smell of charring eggplants on the open flame. The Chinese also do something similar and it is called Huo Shao Qie Zi. I guess it just goes to show that people travelled and shared their culinary heritage.

Roasted eggplants ready for making babaghanoush
Babaghanoush

INGREDIENTS

2 large round eggplants (weighing about 500g)

2 tablespoons tahini

½ cup of roughly chopped parsley leaves

2 cloves garlic

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HOMEMADE PITA BREADS

Making your own flat bread is so easy and the reason I started experimenting was because I wanted to cut down on plastic bags. I know it’s not much but one less bag is one less bag in the landfill.

Homemade Pita Bread – Stove top

This is a recipe from zero waste chef – Anne Marie Bonneau. I didn’t want to turn on my large oven for just this one thing but even on stove top, they are incredibly soft and moreish. Normal bread making is an exact science but I think you will find pita bread is more forgiving with relaxed measurements!

INGREDIENTS

380-390mls warm water (about 42 degrees C)

1 and ½ teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for greasing the bowl and for frying if cooking pitas on the stove

1 packet instant dry yeast (7g)

3 and ¼ cups all-purpose flour, divided plus more for rolling out dough

¾ cup whole wheat flour

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PUMPKIN RAITA – PUMPKIN YOGHURT SAUCE

I love pumpkin – they are so versatile. Suitable for sweet or savoury dishes and lends well to all manner of cuisines and cooking methods. There are a few months during summer when pumpkins are in short supply and I do miss them. Pumpkins have become one of my staples that I buy each week.

This is one of my mum’s recipes.

Pumpkin raita

INGREDIENTS

2 cups plain natural yoghurt (Greek style)

200g pumpkin, peeled and grated

1 tablespoons ghee

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1-2 green chillies, chopped

2 tablespoons desiccated coconut threads

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

1 dried red chilli halved

½ teaspoon urad dhal (optional)

10-12 curry leaves (optional)

Salt to taste

METHOD

In a small fry pan, toast the cumin seeds. Place the toasted cumin seeds, green chillies and desiccated coconut in a spice grinder and blend to a fine powder. Mix this spice powder into the yoghurt, season with salt and whisk until smooth and creamy.

Heat the ghee in a fry pan and gently fry the grated pumpkin on medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Once cool, mix it in with the yoghurt.

Heat the oil in a small sauce pan. Add the urad dhal if using and let it become light brown. Now throw in the red chilli, followed by mustard seeds. Stir well with a spoon. When the mustard seeds start popping, add the curry leaves if using and remove from heat.

Pour the seasoning over the raita. Serve with rice and dhal as a side dish or to accompany parathas.

Serves 3-4

CORIANDER FLAT BREADS

I adapted these coriander flatbreads from King Arthur Baking Company’s recipe collection. It is kind of a wet dough and don’t be alarmed as they roll easily with a dusting of plain flour. I served mine with an herbed yoghurt (dill, mint, and lemon rind and lemon juice, sweetened with honey). Personally I feel they are a cross between Indian Nan and flat bread.

Coriander flatbreads

INGREDIENTS

½ cup warm water

½ teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons instant yeast

200g atta or fine whole wheat flour

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KING ARTHUR BREAD ROLLS

I call these my King Arthur bread rolls as my recipe was inspired and adapted from the recipe collection of King Arthur Baking Company. I believe good things take time and while these rolls can’t be whipped up in a jiffy, they are so delicious and definitely deserving of the time spent making them. They are incredibly soft with just the right amount of chew. Serve them up for lunch with a hearty soup and you will be a winner.

King Arthur Bread Rolls with Pumpkin Soup

High grade flour or bread flour has a higher gluten content and this is first preference. I used atta (sourced from Indian grocery store or you can use finely ground wholemeal flour – the kind that does not have any bran or grain bits in the flour)

INGREDIENTS

241g high grade flour or bread flour

113g atta

43g oats

½ cup ground linseed or flax

2 and ½ teaspoons instant yeast

1 and ½ teaspoons salt

50g sunflower oil

1 large egg yolk, save the white for brushing on top of the rolls

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GRILLED FLAT BREADS (STOVE TOP)

I’d say these are my version of a pita bread. Knead the dough well and you will be rewarded with soft flat breads. With any bread, you have to plan ahead and can’t rush the proving time. I had a few leftovers which meant lunch was sorted. Heating in the microwave was not ideal but wasn’t bad either. They are yummy so do try them.

Grilled flat bread

INGREDIENTS

300g high grade flour or bread flour

200g white wholemeal flour like atta (from Indian grocer)

Salt

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon instant yeast

125g plain natural yoghurt

225ml lukewarm water

Extra virgin olive oil to brush on the flat breads

METHOD

In a large bowl, measure out the flours, salt, sugar and the yeast. Mix well with your fingers. Make a well in the centre and add the yoghurt. Pour the water in batches and knead well to form a soft dough. Cover with a wet cloth and leave to rest for one and a half hours. It should double in size.

Oil a large baking tray and set aside. Lightly grease your hands and gently knock back the dough. Shape dough into balls of about 60 – 65 grams. Place on oiled tray and cover with wet cloth. Rest for half an hour. Roll dough into an oval shape about 3 mm thick and 15 -16 centimetres wide. Cook on a preheated grill plate for 2-3 minutes on each side. Brush with extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately. Makes 8-10 pieces.