Everyone has their personal favourite chilli popper, right? There’s battered, crumbed or baked in crunchy tortilla, they can be filled with mozzarella, cream cheese or a combo of the two. And some have bacon! Either inside or wrapped around. The possibilities are endless, and that’s before we even get to the different dipping options. But this – battered chilli poppers stuffed with mozzarella and dipped in mayo salsa – is the original, for me. The comfort chilli popper. The chilli popper that never lets me down. The Friday evening after-work (with wine) life saver.
Mozzarella-Stuffed Chilli Poppers with Mayo Salsa
10 pickled jalapeno chillis
Mozzarella cheese, grated
3/4 cup flour
4 tblsp cornflour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tblsp oil
Vegetable/canola oil, for frying
4 tblsp mayonaise
4 tblsp plain yoghurt
1 tsp lime juice (lemon would be fine too)
2 tomatoes, chopped finely
3 tblsp chopped fresh coriander
You can prep the chillis the morning (or even the day) before you want them. Cut a slit in the side of each chilli, squeeze out the pickling liquid and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Rinse the prepared chillis and submerge them in a bowl of water for an hour or two, then leave them to dry on paper towel on the counter. I like to do this when the pickling liquid is very strong – it dilutes that tart vinegar taste a little. You may not need to. But either way, you want your chillis deseeded and dry. Otherwise there won’t be space for the cheese, and wet chillis won’t hold the batter.
Once the chillis are dry, work a clump of grated mozzarella in your fingers until it’s pliable, then insert it into the chilli, ideally to fill the inside as best as possible. Too much air inside is bad. Don’t overstuff them though – after the cheese is in, the slit should still naturally close. At this point, they can be left at room temperature for up to a couple of hours, if need be.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan or wok. It needs to be deep enough to be able to cover a battered chilli. While the oil is heating, make the batter. Combine the dry ingredients, then whisk in the oil and enough of the water to make a thick batter. Test the heat of the oil with a blob of batter – it should puff and sizzle when it hits the oil, and brown in about 30 seconds to 1 minute. If it browns too quickly, the oil is too hot and you’ll burn the chillis before they are cooked. If it takes too long to brown, the batter will lose its oomph. Dip the chillis, one at a time, into the batter so the whole surface is covered, and drop them gently into the oil. Do 1 or 2 at a time – any more and the oil will lose too much heat and you will lose track! They should puff and spit – don’t put your face close to the oil! Turn them with a metal slotted spoon once or twice to evenly brown both sides, and then remove and drain on paper towel. Combine the mayo salsa ingredients and serve.
**Note: I adjusted this batter to a gluten-free version once. Unfortunately I didn’t record the process, but I know I used cornflour and coconut flour. I think the proportions were reversed compared to the original batter, so something like 3/4 cup cornflour, 4 tblsp coconut flour. Or maybe half-half? Will test it again sometime.