Mexicans are seriously into brunch. Me too. OMG, can still remember those weekend brunch feasts in Santa Margarita (‘cuatrocientos dieciocho letra A’), or with friends in Cuernavaca after early-morning tennis, or at the elegant hacienda San Angel Inn in the DF or at popular Sanborns, Mexico’s newsagent-cum-chemist-cum restaurant chain (a bit like France’s FNAC but with food). On the menu there are always the usual Mexican suspects like chilaquiles, enchiladas, huevos rancheros and frijoles for ever.
What a treat to revisit brunch Mexican-style at yesterday’s workshop. For our menu, I dug out a bunch of spicy stuff to beat the cold (still very parky here in Alsace) and banish the winter blues: chiles rellenos (for lack of the deep glossy green chiles poblanos, sadly missing in these parts, we used peppers) filled with guacamole and shrimp, chicken enchiladas with a brick-red guajillo- and ancho-based salsa, black beans with chipotle, a corny, cheesy, creamy budín de elote (corn gratin), the [obligatory] huevos rancheros and Virgin Marys spiked with blood oranges and all the usual ingredients. (Seems that a non-alcoholic Bloody Mary is known Down Under as a Bloody Shame – any Aussies out there like to confirm or deny?)
Here’s a taste of the peppers stuffed with guacamole and shrimps/prawns. They’re a fiddle to make but sooooooo worth it and you can do all the boring bits like searing, peeling and marinating the peppers in advance. You can even make the guacamole a few hours ahead, as long as you take care to press a piece of clingfilm/Saran wrap tightly into the surface of the guacamole so it doesn’t go brown (see here on why burying the stones/pits into guacamole is fun and folklorique but actually doesn’t help).
Instead of chiles poblanos I’ve used small red peppers (tastier and sweeter than green) and put a bit of punch into the marinade with some fresh chile.
6 small red peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 fresh green chiles (peperoncini), de-seeded and cut in thin strips
125ml white wine vinegar or lemon juice
a pinch of salt
a pinch of dried oregano
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
Guacamole + prawns
1 clove garlic, peeled
1-2 fresh green chiles (peperoncini), de-seeded and finely chopped
a good handful of cilantro/coriander
150g cream cheese
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
200g peeled prawns, diced small
juice of 2 limes
more cilantro/coriander leaves and chopped spring onion to garnish
Sear the peppers over a gas flame or under a grill/broiler, turning often until blackened.
Rub the skins off the peppers under running water, make a cut down one side, leave stalks intact but pull out the seeds, trying not to damage the peppers.
For the marinade, heat the oil in a frying pan large enough to take all the peppers in one layer and soften the onion, garlic and chile strips.
Add water, vinegar or lemon juice and oregano, coriander seeds, salt and pepper to taste and simmer gently for about 10 minutes.
Add peppers to the simmering marinade, cook for 5’, turn peppers and cook 5’ more.
Lift out peppers with a slotted spoon and put them in a dish; raise the heat, reduce the marinade to just a few tablespoons, pour it over the peppers and leave them to cool (this part can be done a couple of days ahead).
For the guacamole, mash (in a pestle and mortar) or chop finely together to a paste the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, cilantro/coriander and chile
Mash in the avocados and cream cheese with a fork, stir in the tomatoes, chopped shallot and diced prawns and sharpen with lime juice.
Stuff the cool peppers with the guacamole.
Arrange peppers on a platter, sprinkle with cilantro/coriander leaves and chopped spring onion.