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Stuffed peppers with chipotle-tomato sauce

Chile rellenos are a Mexican classic. Every taqueria serves them, batter fried poblano chillies stuffed with gooey Oaxaca cheese and served drowned in a red sauce. Rich, gooey and delicious, this is one of my favourite indulgences. Here is a more complex version of this healthier and flavourful dish.

This is a dish that is steeped in history. Legend has it that nuns in Puebla of the Augustinian convent of Santa Monica in Puebla first made Chili en Nogada, green poblano chiles stuffed with picadillo (ground meat, fruits, nuts, and spices), covered in a white creamy walnut sauce (Nogal, meaning walnut tree in Spanish.) They made it for Augustin de Iturbide in 1821 after he defeated the Spanish army and gained Mexico’s independence from Spain. Later, Augustin de Iturbide was to become the emperor of Mexico from the years 1822 to 1823. The dish became one of Mexico’s most patriotic dishes because of its colour palette. The tricoloured dish was said to represent the newly sovereign country’s flag; green was the parsley, white for the walnut sauce, and red for the pomegranate seeds.

This is a simpler version of the famed dosh. The peppers are stuffed with rice and corn, currants, and pumpkin seeds blended into a chipotle-tomato sauce. The dish is hearty and spicy. The peppers are also baked in the same sauce till soft. This is one of my favourite relleno recipes. It is impossible to get poblanos in India, so I substitute any variety of green, red and yellow peppers, each one adding a distinct flavour. .

This is one of the first cookbooks I purchased over 27 years ago. I got it to learn how to cook because it has many global cuisines that pop with spice. All the vegetarian recipes are easy to make and have always turned out delicious, though, on a few occasions, I have had to turn down the heat a notch or two. Jennifer is a well-published cookbook author, with 11 books, and Jump Up and Kiss Me a brand of natural spicy foods is fantastic. This is a cookbook I need to pull out more often.

For more recipes from this very spicy book, click here.




Ingredients:

For the chipotle-tomato sauce:

2-3 chipotle chillies

1 cup water


2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 large onion, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb tomatoes, finely diced or 28 oz. tomato purèe

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano, Mexican preferred

Salt, to taste


For the stuffing:

2 cups cooked white long-grain rice

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted

1/4 cup yellow raisins or currants

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, Mexican preferred

1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

Salt, to taste

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup + to garnish grated Monterey Jack or cheddar or Oaxaca cheese


5 coloured pepper, halved longitudinally and seeded

1 cup water


Accompaniments:

Sour cream

Guacamole



To make the chipotle-tomato sauce:

Soak the chillies in water for 3 hours or overnight. When softened, de-seed the chillies and remove the stems. Keep the chillies and the soaking liquids. Blend the chillies in a little soaking liquid to a smooth paste.


Heat the oil in a pot and add the onions and garlic. Fry on medium-low heat until the onions are lightly golden for about 4 minutes. Add the chilli paste and cook for an additional 4 minutes till the chillies are aromatic.


Add the tomatoes and the rest of the sauce ingredients. Strain in the soaking liquids through a fine-mesh sieve. Simmer for 30-40 minutes till you have a thick pasta-like sauce. Taste for salt and spice. Cool.


Mix all the ingredients for the stuffing well. Add half the sauce to the mix and combine well.


Layer the remaining sauce into a 3-quart Pyrex dish. Arrange the peppers on top of the sauce, snuggling them closely. Stuff the chillies well with the rice-sauce mix. Grate the excess cheese over the top. Add the water to the bottom of the dish. Seal the dish tightly with foil.


Heat the oven to 375° F.


Bake the dish for 60 minutes undisturbed.


Remove the dish and serve hot with the accompaniments.





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