Baked Jalapeño Poppers

by Sanjukta Moorthy

I went to a chilli festival with my friend Sam and boyfriend Andrew over the Bank Holiday weekend in August – it was amazing! I did take photos, and will upload them soon, don’t worry. Stalls selling fresh and dried chillis, plants, sauces, relishes, fresh food, even ice cream and coffee – basically, everything you could think of and wish for!

Andrew and I bought a mini army of chilli plants which are doing really well in our living room. We thought they’d make a great dinner one night, and after finding an amazing recipe on Pinterest, decided to make Jalapeño Poppers!

We bought a Jalapeño plant as well as a Padron, Fresno and Thai green chilli plant – in this recipe, we’ve used fresh Padron, Fresno and Jalapeño chillis, as well as fresh Cayenne chillis and whole Jalapeños from a jar. So even if you can’t get hold of fresh chillis, you can use the ones from the jar. They won’t be as good but they’re still pretty amazing!

We baked it instead of deep-frying and it crisped up perfectly. It’s a bit fiddly to get together, but once you’ve created an efficient assembly line, you can keep making this!

You’ll need to first make the cream cheese stuffing, then stuff the peppers, dunk them in an egg wash before rolling in breadcrumbs and arranging on a baking tray – so you’ll need a lot of clean counter-space for this!

Let me know what you think. We found that this brought out the flavour of the individual chillis so much better than cooking them along with meat or vegetables would have done – and we really enjoyed the different flavours that each of our chillis brings to it.

Aside from all of that, being able to literally pick your dinner off the plant and cook it completely fresh is a fantastic experience! Our plants have grown really well and we’ve managed to do this again, with Sam, and made enough of this to feed all three of us!

Makes 18 poppers

9 chillis (a mix of fresh and preserved whole chillis. Prepare them by halving lengthwise, keeping the stalk intact on each half if possible. This makes sure that the poppers hold their structure)

150g cream cheese (we used Phildalphia Light)

50g cheddar (we used a sharp Cornish Crackler)

Garlic oil (2 cloves with a splash of olive oil, or a few tablespoons of garlic oil – we made our own, recipe to come soon!)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Oregano or dried herbs of your choice

2 eggs, beaten in a shallow bowl

1-1.5 cups breadcrumbs (either fresh or storebought, we’ve used both and there really is no difference), arranged on a plate

Mix the cream cheese, cheddar and seasoning in a medium bowl, add any dried herbs if you like. We added oregano and lemon pepper, which worked really well.

Halve and deseed the chillis, taking care not to rip the skin of the chilli. Arrange on a plate or chopping board to the extreme left of your work space, then place the bowl with the stuffing to its right.

To the right of the stuffing, place the bowl with the beaten eggs and then the breadcrumbs to its right. Line a baking tray and keep that at the very end of your assembly line, then preheat the oven to about 180C.

Carefully fill the chillis – we found about 1 tsp of stuffing fits snugly into an average-sized jalapeño. The idea is to have the stuffing level with the edge of the chilli so the stuffing doesn’t burst while it bakes.

Once it’s filled, dunk it in the egg wash and make sure the egg thoroughly coats the chilli, before rolling it in the breadcrumbs. The chilli should be completely covered in breadcrumbs, so you may need to use a spoon, or your hands to shower the breadcrumbs on.

Arrange on the baking tray – if you’re using more than one type of chilli, arrange them by type so you know what they are and can compare tastes.

Once all the chillis are filled and coated, bake them for about 20-25 minutes, until the breadcrumbs become golden.

Serve immediately – we made a simple yoghurt dip, mixed with chipotle sauce. But plain yoghurt or sour cream works really well too, and can actually be more welcome if the chillis are too spicy!