A famous English band once sang, I get by with a little help from my friends.
In times of change or turmoil, we gravitate to those people we depend upon; familiar, steadfast, friendly faces who know what’s needed when life pulls a fast one or decides to charge off into minefield-strewn war zone.
If you’re very lucky indeed, you may have a handful of close, intensely loyal and irreplaceable friends. Those who know you so well that they don’t need to know all the gory battle details, or try to fix the situation, or (worse) pretend that things are just peachy – they just know what’s needed, whether that be a bear hug, a tub of ice cream, a laugh, or in more serious cases, a baseball bat and getaway vehicle.
Sometimes good things have to fall apart to make way for better things. This can be an incredibly tough and painful experience when you’re going through it – but when enough time has passed, the revelation can be life-changing.
I’m blessed with a number of truly wonderful friends and spent Saturday afternoon in my kitchen with best mates Mike and Nicole, combining efforts to whip up a Mexican feast.
Nic had recently bought a beautifully illustrated cookbook by Daniella Germain called My Abuela’s Table, which shares the culinary repertoire of the author’s Mexican-born grandmother (her abuela). It had been some time since the three of us had cooked a meal together, and with a new reserve of authentic Mexican recipes to inspire us, we settled on a couple of dishes we’d never cooked before – jalapeño poppers and beef empanadas (recipe and photos to follow in another post).
Nic made these dangerously addictive jalapeño poppers, Mike made a batch of fresh guacamole (which was eaten before it could feature in any photos), and while I was in charge of the empanadas, the pastry production line was a joint effort. It was such an enjoyable way to spend a weekend afternoon – relaxing with favourite company, creating delicious food…
And getting to eat it all the end of the day.
based on the recipe from betty crocker.com
250g cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
10 jalapeño chillies
1 cup plain flour
pinch of sea salt
2 cups milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for deep frying
Halve the jalapeños lengthwise, keeping the stems intact where possible (these are handy for picking up the cooked poppers). Use a teaspoon to remove the seeds and set aside the hollowed out chillies.
In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, cheddar cheese and spices until well blended. Spoon the mixture evenly into each of the jalapeño halves and place on a baking tray. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to firm up the cheese fillings.
Next, you’ll need to assemble a ‘crumbing assembly line’. In small bowl, sift together the flour, salt and pepper; in second bowl, whisk together the milk and egg; and in a third bowl, tip in the breadcrumbs.
Coat each stuffed chilli half in flour mixture and then in the milk mixture. Dip once again in flour and then milk, before coating thoroughly in breadcrumbs to ensure the chillies are completely covered.
In deep fryer or heavy saucepan, heat several inches of vegetable oil until a breadcrumb sizzles and bubbles vigorously.
Fry the jalapeño poppers in batches for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown (if the cheese starts to ooze out, the poppers are starting to overcook – remove immediately).
Drain on paper towels and serve warm, sprinkled with more sea salt.