My glut crop this week is chilis. The chooks get bucketfuls. They like chilis. Birds (all kinds) have no receptors for capsaicin, so they’re immune to chili heat. An evolutionary strategy from chilis to get their seeds spread I guess. There are some chilis in my garden from about November till well into winter, but this is about the peak of the season when I make Chili Jam , Pickled Chilis, Tamarillo and Chili Sauce, Kasundi, and Dried Chilis and Chili Powder so I’ve got something to add some spice to late winter and spring cooking.
But there’s a limit to my enthusiasm for preserving. I find it easier most of the time to organise my gardening to have something fresh than it is to preserve, and better in all sorts of ways. I never freeze or bottle vegetables or fruit these days. Having a tiny freezer in my tiny fridge is part of it – fridges are electicity guzzlers. If I calculate in the cost of electricity or gas to bottle or freeze the saving starts to disappear rapidly. But mostly it’s because I’ve learnt that they tend to stay in the freezer or on the shelf whilever there is a fresh alternative. Even when my garden is a tribute to neglect, the way it is right now, there is always something fresh that I’ll go for in preference to the frozen or bottled produce.
Once I have some chili hot condiments for us and for gifting, and some dried and pickled chilis for adding some heat to cool-of-the-year dishes, I still have bushes full of chilis. Chilis Rellenõs are a really good way to use lots of chilis in a party plate. They are astonishingly not-hot for something made with whole chilis. The oil in the frying and in the cheese filling mellows out the chili heat so that even people who are not red-hot spice lovers go back for seconds and thirds.
Makes two dozen Bishop’s Crown chilis.
Wear gloves, or really remember not to touch your eyes for hours, to deseed your chilis. Cut the top off each one and pull out the seeds. I use the blade of a thin knife to swivel round inside, then rinse the seeds out under running water. Make the hole as small as you reasonably can, so the filling stays in.
Separate two eggs. Keep the whites for the batter. (You may find it a little easier to whisk the whites if the eggs are a day or two old – very fresh eggs can be a little harder to whisk).
Blend the yolks with some cheese. I use 80 grams of feta and 4 dessertspoons of cottage cheese, but you can use whatever mixture of cheeses you like. You are looking for a smooth filling the texture of cream cheese. Add a cup of herbs and blend in. My first choice is lemon basil, mint and dill – all cool herbs. But again, lots of substitutions are possible.
Use a teaspoon and your thumbs to fill the chilis.
Beat the egg whites with an egg beater until they form soft peaks. (This will really truly take a matter of seconds).
Sift two-thirds of a cup of plain flour or besan with a pinch of salt. If you use wholemeal flour, discard the coarser bran you sift out.
Mix the sifted flour with two-thirds of a cup of milk to make a batter that’s just a little bit runny, then fold the batter into the beaten egg whites.
Heat about 2 cm of oil with a high smoke point in a heavy bottomed fry pan. (I use light olive oil for frying like this.)
Dip each filled chili in batter, coating it completely, then drop it into the hot oil. They will take just a few minutes each to cook, and it’s best not to overcrowd the pan. Use tongs to turn them so they brown on all sides, then drain on brown paper.
They’re at their best served hot, with a cold drink and some good conversation (or salsa music!)