I live about ten miles from Ely, where there is a cathedral, a very, very good bookshop, and an excellent twice-monthly farmers’ market. There are about 30 stalls, and it’s a great place to pick up local meats (a slab of belly pork is lurking deliciously in the freezer as we speak) and things like good free-range eggs, pork pies and ostrich products from Bisbrook farm. Because this area is right at the heart of East Anglia’s patchwork of farms, the stalls are packed to the gills with interesting fruit and vegetables. The bread in particular tends to run out early – if you do visit Ely for the market, try to get there before 11am.
Edible Ornamentals, a Bedfordshire farm growing chillies, usually has a stall full of chilli plants, pots of sauce and chillies both fresh and dried. I love their chilli sauces (some so hot it’s amazing that a glass jar can contain them without dissolving in protest), but their fresh chillies can be downright amazing, and I was delighted to score five big, fresh Poblanos for £3.
Poblanos are the fresh pepper which, when dried, become Ancho and Mulato chillies. (An Ancho is dried more than the slightly soft and fruity Mulato.) They are a mild, purple pepper with a deep, fruity background – lots of flavour and very little heat, although the redder pepper in my bag was a little hotter than the others. I was planning a chilli con carne, and had some Mulatos in the cupboard ready for deployment in that. What better to eat as a side dish than a Poblano crema – those fresh Poblanos roasted, skinned and mixed with crème fraîche, lime and coriander?
To make enough crema to accompany a chilli for two or three, you’ll need:
5 fresh Poblano peppers
5 tablespoons crème fraîche (or Mexican crema, if you can find it)
6 spring onions (scallions), chopped
1 large handful chopped coriander
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper
Rub the whole peppers with olive oil and arrange in a baking tray. Cook at 180° C (350° F) for 20 minutes, until the skin is browned and blistering (see picture). Put the whole cooked peppers in a plastic freezer bag, seal the top and put aside for five minutes while you chop the spring onions.
The business with the freezer bag will help the peppers steam from the inside, loosening the skin so you can peel it off easily. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off their skins and discard, then chop open and carefully remove all the seeds. Some people like to do this under a running tap, but I recommend keeping the cooked peppers well away from water to preserve their delicious juices. Slice the silky peeled peppers into long, thin strips and put in a bowl with any juices. (I really enjoy this bit – peeled, roast peppers feel beautiful between the fingers.) Reserve a few strips on a plate to use as a garnish.
Stir the crème fraîche, pepper strips, spring onion and coriander together with the lime juice. Taste, and add salt and pepper. Garnish with more coriander and the reserved peppers, and chill for an hour before serving.
This is deliciously cooling served alongside a chilli con carne – it also makes a fantastic filling for baked potatoes and is gorgeous slopped on a baguette.