Stuffed ancho chillies

AT A GLANCE

  • Serves 4 people

"The chilli used in this classic Mexican dish is an ancho, the sundried form of the poblano pepper," says Peter Kuruvita. "The dried chilli has a wonderful fruity, raisin-like flavour that's quite unique, with very little heat, if any. Here the pepper is stuffed with seasoned potato and sautéed zucchini, but fillings can vary from shredded pork to fresh curd cheese and many variations in between."

  • 1 (200gm) Desiree potato, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 zucchini, diced into 5mm cubes
  • 2 jalapeños, halved, seeded, cut into strips
  • ½ small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 large ancho chillies (see note)
  • For shallow-frying: vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 75 gm (½ cup) plain flour
  • 80 gm queso fresco, grated (see note)
  • To garnish: flat-leaf parsley
  •  
  • Red rice
  • 200 gm (1 cup) long-grain rice
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small white onion, finely diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 625 ml (2½ cups) chicken stock
  •  
  • Tomato sauce
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • ½ small white onion, coarsely chopped
  • ½ garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • 250 ml (1 cup) chicken stock
  • 2 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped from stalks
01   For red rice, soak rice for an hour in hot water, then drain and rinse, shaking off excess water. Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy-based frying pan, add rice and fry gently, stirring frequently, until the rice is just translucent (5 minutes). Add garlic, onion, tomatoes, herbs and a good pinch of salt, and continue frying for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add stock and bring to the boil. Check seasoning (it should be a touch salty), reduce heat to low, cover pan and do not stir or uncover for about 20 minutes. When liquid has been absorbed, remove pan from heat and let sit for a further 20 minutes. Gently fluff up the rice with a fork before serving at room temperature.
02   For tomato sauce, purée ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour sauce into a large frying pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes over low heat, then season and reserve in the pan.
03   Place the potato in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and cook over medium heat until tender (20-25 minutes). Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add olive oil, then zucchini, jalapeños and onion and sauté for 5 minutes or until softened, but with only a little colour. Add potato and season. Transfer to a bowl and mash the mixture coarsely until the potato has bound it together loosely. Don’t mash too far as a rough texture is desirable. Reserve the mixture. Slit the ancho chillies down the side from stem to end and remove veins and seeds. Soak in a bowl of hot water until soft (10-15 minutes), then remove and pat dry. Gently fill the chillies with the mixture, being careful not to overstuff them to ensure they can be closed without any mixture escaping. Secure each chilli with 2 toothpicks to close over the slit and reserve at room temperature.
04   Pour vegetable oil into a 20cm-diameter frying pan to a depth of 3cm and heat to 170C. Whisk the eggwhites to soft-peak stage, then add the yolks one at a time and fold to combine. Add a pinch of salt and reserve. Lightly dust the chillies with flour, then, holding them by the stem, dip each gently in the egg mixture and shallow-fry until golden on one side, then gently turn over and continue cooking until golden (4-6 minutes each side). Transfer to a tray lined with paper towels to drain.
05   To serve, warm the tomato sauce, and add the chillies to soften the batter slightly for around 2 minutes, then remove toothpicks and serve scattered with queso fresco and parsley with the rice alongside.

Note Ancho chillies are available from Herbie's Spices and Mexican food stores (you can also use fresh poblano peppers or capsicums; roast and peel before using). If queso fresco is unavailable, use cow's milk feta and wrap in 4 layers of paper towels to draw out the excess brine for 2 hours before grating.

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