It was my dear friend, and vegan warrior princess, Rae’s birthday (pictured here embracing Steve the triceratops on said day of celebration) and as well as making a ridiculous cake (dripping with lemon frosting and and smothered in marshmallows) I made some jalapeño poppers, because, well, I never have before and it seemed like something that might be kinda straightforward and delicious. I’m trying to be less complicated as an overall motif. Smoking hazelnuts to stuff into a tiny pepper: I know, this doesn’t seem to fit the theme, but let me explain…
I already had the smoked hazelnuts. Although it is true that I have a preposterous collection of nuts and seeds, these weren’t among the stockpile. My friend Chalky smoked the hell out of these nuts for our latest pop up dinner with The Mighty Food Fight at Roll For The Soul, Bristol in June.
We served them with our main course of Beetroot and Almond Feta Ravioli (labour of love those things!) and we completely fell in love with their tang. We knocked up a little DIY smoker the day before at my place, loosely based on this set-up and it was pretty simple. My flat smelt of oak smoke for days. You could just use regular hazelnuts, but these are so dreamy and it’s fun to do.
Smoked Hazelnut Creem Cheeze Jalapeño Poppers
12 jalapeño peppers (I picked pretty large ones)
1 tub vegan creem cheeze (I used Tofutti original)
100g hazelnuts (roughly chopped, smoked if you like, or you could toast them in smoked paprika and sesame oil)
200g wholemeal breadcrumbs (I blitzed 4 small pitta bread I had lying around)
150g fine semolina
50g sesame seeds
150ml soy milk
1 tbsp cider vinegar
0.5 tsp turmeric
0.5 tsp onion powder
Salt + pepper
8 tbsp rapeseed oil
THE NUTS + BOLTS
- Slice the jalapeños lengthways but only down one side of the skin, keeping everything intact. Like a long slit in the pepper. Remove seeds and pith (I use a grapefruit spoon, so useful!) You might want to wear gloves for this bit.
- Mix the soy milk and cider vinegar together in a small bowl and let them curdle to a buttermilk. Whisk in the herbs and spices plus 50g of the semolina. You should have a kind of gloopy batter.
- Might as well mix up the breadcrumbs, remaining semolina and sesame seeds at this point.
- Mix the cream cheese and hazelnuts together with salt and pepper and any extra herbs and spices you might fancy. Spoon into the open jalapeños. You can be pretty generous because any extra is just going to spill out and help the whole thing stick together.
- Dip each filled pepper into the batter, coating evenly and then roll in the breadcrumb mixture. It’s going to be quite a thick coating and you can use any extra cheeze mixture to help stick it altogether. Be gentle, be patient.
- Heat up 4 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan and drop six of the coated peppers in. Fry until golden brown on each side, turning with a pair of tongs (about 3 minutes on each side)
- Repeat for the remaining peppers. And pop! They’re good hot or cold.