The poblano chilli’s versatility is one of its many talents and its gentle heat allows it to partner a variety of ingredients very successfully. It goes well with fruit for instance, with tomatoes both raw and roasted, with caramelized onions, with sweetcorn, with spicy chorizo – in fact, with all manner of things. One of its best mates in my kitchen is dairy produce, particularly cream which somehow manages to enhance its flavour, its aroma, its warmth and its texture all at the same time. Its main role is as a vegetable and Rajas con Crema, chilli strips with cream, makes a rich, mellow, utterly satisfying main dish on its own for supper perhaps, with some warm tortillas, or a perfect accompaniment to roast chicken, a steak, a leg of lamb, etc. Not ideal if you are on a diet, I have to admit, but oh so very good! Sweetcorn and grated cheese are often added to creamy rajas but although this is a very delicious combination, I love the simplicity of the chilli, onion and cream all by themselves.
While the rajas are easy to make, the poblanos do need to be roasted and skinned; this can be quite a fiddly process as the shape tends to be buckled and applying heat evenly is sometimes a bit of a challenge. I always roast the chillies by placing them straight on a gas flame and turning them with tongs until they are blistered all over; a kitchen blow torch is equally effective; an electric grill is the last resort as this method can overcook the chillies unless you keep a very careful and attentive eye on them.
If you cannot lay your hands on any poblano chillies, green bell peppers will do, with an extra sprinkling of chipotle chilli powder to supply some heat and smoke.
Chilli Strips with Cream – Rajas con Crema
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish
450 g/1 lb poblano chillies
15 ml/1 tbsp olive oil
175 g/6 oz onions, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2.5 ml/1/4 tsp chipotle chilli powder or to taste
5 ml/1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
225 ml/1/2 cup double/heavy cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Warm corn tortillas, to serve (optional)
Hold the chillies over a gas flame with metal tongs, turning them regularly until the skin is blistered and blackened in places. Put them in a bowl, cover with a dry tea towel and leave them to cool. Peel off the skin, remove the stem and seeds and cut into strips about 1 cm/1/2 in wide.
Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan, add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until wilted and just starting to turn golden. Sprinkle in the chipotle, oregano and some seasoning, and cook for a further minute.
Stir in the cream and chilli strips, turn the heat right down, and simmer very gently for ten minutes. Check the seasoning.
Serve immediately with warm corn tortillas.
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