The sixth and final instalment in my cookbook review comes from the Mayor of Padstow himself, Mr Rick Stein! His recent book and accompanying TV series Road To Mexico comes at a time when the trend for Mexican cuisine is truly burgeoning. This dish really evokes the atmosphere of a hot sunny day, and alfresco eating at a much slower pace. It is spiced but in a fragrant way so if you’re worried about spicy heat this dish is absolutely fine for you. Cinnamon, dried fruits and sherry with a meat dish may be different for the British palate but they really give this dish great character with each mouthful.
I chose the Stuffed Chillies with Walnut & Pomegranate Dressing for it’s bright splash of colour on the plate. The book says how this dish was created to celebrate Mexican independence from Spain and represent the colours of the Mexican flag. Given all of the Wintery weather we’ve been experiencing lately, it’s a very welcome mental escape to sunnier climes – even if just for an evening. As the traditional Poblano peppers are usually only available in the UK as a dried derivative, I switched them for the more commonly available red romano peppers instead.
- 8 romano peppers
- 2 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil
- 100g celery, finely diced
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 100g carrot, finely diced
- 200g minced pork
- 200g mince beef
- 2 tbsp sweet sherry
- 30g raisins
- 25g candied mixed peel
- 50g flaked almonds
- 75g pecan nuts, chopped
- pinch of fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 10 turns black peppermill
For the nogada sauce
- 300ml whole milk
- 50g pecan nuts
- 50g walnut pieces
- 75g cream cheese
- 50g ricotta or curd cheese
- 1 tbsp sweet sherry
- Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
- fresh coriander
- Setup your BBQ for 220c direct heat, with the lid down and vents open as appropriate.
- Using a pair of tongs, char the peppers over the direct heat until blackened. Allow to cool slightly before peeling off the charred skin and set them aside.
- Adjust the BBQ for 220c indirect heat and preheat a cast iron wok or Dutch oven for 15 minutes in the area of indirect heat, lid down.
- For the filling, heat the oil in the pan and sweat the celery, onion and carrot for about 10 minutes until softened.
- Increase the heat beneath the wok by moving the coals nearer the wok, turning the middle burner ON and setting to a medium heat, or increasing the heat in a pellet grill. Add the beef and pork and fry until lightly browned.
- Add the sherry, raisins, candied peel, nuts, herbs and cinnamon, and season with salt and pepper. Cook briefly, then remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
*The addition of spices can dry the pan slightly so keep an eye on the mixture for catching on the bottom of the pan. If necessary move the coals out slightly, turn the middle burner off, or lower the heat slightly to prevent the spices from burning. Cast iron pots have fantastic heat retention so it may take a minute or so for the pan to reduce in heat. To help this, keep the mixture moving and effectively stir-in cold air.
- For the nogada sauce, blitz all the ingredients in a blender to a rich creamy consistency.
- Very carefully slit down one side of each of the peppers, and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Fill the peppers with the meat and fruit mixture, then carefully put them on a serving plate and drizzle over some of the sauce. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and coriander, and serve with a bowl of the cold sauce so everyone can help themselves.
The cooking of this dish is really quite straight-forward, and I hope the recipe modifications I’ve made to cook this on the barbecue make sense, no matter the type of grill you’re cooking on. Depending on the size of your appetites this could be a first or a second course, but it’s definitely one to try out on your family and friends.
Verdict: Inspiration really can come from anywhere, and I’m really excited to try more Mexican food on the grill this year. The one thing I would say about this recipe, and especially if you own a copy of this book, is that Rick really does have amazing food stylist! Once the peppers are roasted and peeled, the flesh has little structure so getting them to stand-up as they do in the photo in the book is very impressive. Nonetheless do the best you can, in the knowledge that the flavour of this dish will outweigh any first impressions. Let me know what you think…