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Tuna-stuffed Jalapeño Chilli Recipe from Veracruz

The famous jalapeño chilli is a native of Veracruz and finds its way into pretty much every area of the state’s (and country’s) gastronomy, either as the bright, fresh grassy flavour of the green chilli or as the smoky warmth of the brown or purple chipotle. While it does not grow to much of a size, slitting it open, scraping out the seeds and stuffing it with anything from fresh crab and tinned tuna to cheese, meat and vegetables is very popular among Veracruzana cooks. Sometimes they are served cold, with a sharp vinaigrette for instance; in other cases they may be battered and deep-fried or briefly stewed in a rich, savoury sauce as in the recipe below. I have to say that the process is rather fiddly, but the result is well worth the effort and a lot of the work can be done ahead of time.

El Jalapeño © Philip Hood

Do make sure that you get the largest jalapeños you can, at least the size of a thumb, because anything smaller than that requires great patience.

Tuna-stuffed Jalapeño Chillies Recipe – Jalapeños Rellenos de Atún

Serves 2 as a snack or 4 as a first course

For the chillies:-
12 large jalapeño chillies, about 200 g/7 oz
15 ml/1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
100 g/4 oz onions, peeled and finely chopped
200 g/7 oz tomatoes, diced
2.5 ml/½ tsp chipotle chilli powder or paste, or to taste
200 g/7 oz tinned tuna in oil, well drained (150 g/5 oz drained weight)
100 g/4 oz strong cheddar-style cheese, coarsely grated
Warm corn tortillas or cooked rice, to serve (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the grilled tomato sauce:-
500 g/18 oz tomatoes, halved
8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
45 ml/3 tbsp olive oil
250 g/9 oz onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

With a small sharp knife, make a slit half way around the neck of the each chilli at the stem end, and then down the length from stem to point.

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and blanch the chillies for five minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water.

Carefully squeeze each chilli open and scrape out the seeds and veins with your fingers or the end of a teaspoon. The chillies will split a bit but this does not matter.

To make the tomato sauce, heat the grill to high. Line the grill pan with foil and arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, and garlic cloves on it. Grill 10 cm/4 in from the heat for about 20 minutes, until lightly charred, turning the garlic cloves over half way through. Cool, then peel the garlic cloves and place them in a food processor with the tomatoes and any juices. Process to a chunky purée.

While the tomatoes are grilling, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onions until soft and golden. Add the tomato purée and some seasoning, and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until nice and thick. Check the seasoning.

The sauce can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen.

For the stuffing, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the garlic and onions and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until golden. Stir in the tomatoes, chipotle and some seasoning and continue to cook until all the moisture has evaporated. Break up the tuna with a fork and stir it in, along with 75 g of the cheese. Take the pan off the heat and check the seasoning. The stuffing can be prepared two days in advance and refrigerated.

When you are ready to cook the chillies, preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/gas 6/fan oven 180oC. Carefully spoon the stuffing into the chillies. Reheat the sauce and spread it over the base of a gratin dish which is large enough to hold all the chillies in one layer. Place the chillies on top of the sauce and sprinkle them with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until piping hot and the cheese is starting to brown.

Serve immediately with tortillas or rice.

Buén provecho!


Chilli and Chocolate Stars of the Mexican Cocina by Isabel Hood is available from Amazon.co.uk

Just The Two of Us Entertaining Each Other by Isabel Hood is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

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