The chilli used in the recipe for this classic Mexican dish is an ancho, which is the sundried form of the poblano pepper. The dried chilli has a wonderful fruity, raisin-like flavour that is quite unique, and has 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.
- 200 g (1 cup) long-grain rice
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 small white onion, finely diced
- salt, to taste
- 625 ml (2½ cups) chicken stock
- 2 roma tomatoes
- ½ small white onion
- ½ garlic clove
- 250 ml (1 cup) chicken stock
- 2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup 5 mm diced zucchini
- 2 jalapeño chillies, cut into strips, seeds removed
- ½ small white onion, sliced
- 1 cup diced potato, boiled in salted water until tender
- 4 large ancho chillies (see Note)
- 8 wooden toothpicks
- parsley, to garnish
- 3 eggs
- pinch of salt
- 150 g (1 cup) plain flour, for dusting
- vegetable oil, for frying
- 80 g queso fresco, grated (see Note)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soaking time 1 hour
Prepare the rice, not to be served hot but at about room temperature. Soak rice for 1 hour in hot water. Drain and rinse, shaking off as much water as possible.
Place oil in a 25 cm heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice. Fry gently, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the rice changes from white to slightly translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, bay, tomato, onion and a good pinch of salt. Continue frying for a further 3–4 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the stock, stir and bring to the boil. Check the seasoning (it should be a touch salty) and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, without stirring or removing the lid. When the liquid has been absorbed, remove the pan from the heat and stand for a further 20 minutes. Fluff up gently with a fork before serving.
Meanwhile, to prepare the tomato sauce, blend or process all the ingredients for 2 minutes or until very smooth. Pour the sauce into a 30 cm frying pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes over low heat, then season and reserve in the pan.
To prepare the filling for the chillies, place the oil in a 25 cm frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the zucchini, jalapeño chillies and onion for about 5 minutes or until softened but with only a little colour. Add the potato and season. Transfer to a bowl and mash roughly until the potato has bound it together loosely. Don’t mash too far, as a rough texture is desirable. Reserve the mixture.
To prepare the chillies, slit the chillies down the sides from stem to end and remove the veins and seeds.
Submerge in a bowl of hot water and stand for around 10–15 minutes (but no longer or you will lose the flavour), then remove and pat dry.
Gently fill the chillies with the potato mixture, being careful not to over-stuff them by ensuring they can be closed without any mixture escaping. Secure the chillies by using two toothpicks to close over the slit. Reserve at room temperature.
To make the batter, separate the eggs and whisk the whites until soft peaks form, then add the yolks one at a time. Add a pinch of salt and reserve.
Add enough vegetable oil to a 20 cm frying pan to reach a depth of 3 cm depth. Heat to 170˚C.
Lightly dust the chillies with flour, then holding them by the stem, dip them gently into the batter. Shallow-fry until golden on one side. Turn over gently and continue cooking until golden brown. Transfer to a tray lined with paper towel to drain.
Warm the frying pan of tomato sauce, and add the chillies for about 2 minutes, to let the batter soften slightly.
Serve with a side of red rice and garnish with parsley.
• If ancho chillies are unavailable this recipe works quite well with fresh poblano peppers or even capsicums, as long as they are roasted and peeled before use.
• If queso fresco is unavailable, use a Greek-style cow’s milk feta. Wrap the feta in four layers of paper towelling (to draw out the excess brine) for 2 hours before grating.