Ten years ago, I wasn’t about have a baby and get married. I lived in the back room of a pub. Clinging onto to my last days in Cornwall after finishing my degree, I found myself pulling pints on numerous shifts with some of my best friends. At any one time, several of us were either working or crashing over at The Chainlocker, on the Quay in Falmouth.
Late nights and early mornings demanded quick and easy lunches – whipped up in the pub kitchen before it opened. A new menu with its customary frozen items arrived sporadically from the brewery and on one occasion included these strange, fat, sausage-shaped breaded things called Jalapeño Poppers. I’d never had them before – didn’t know what they were – and was not accustomed to anything containing any spice at that time. But a brave occasion arose one day – and I must have eaten one – loved it – and never looked back! from then on Jalapeño Poppers became a frequent snack.
Trouble was, you never saw them to buy in shops at that time, so once I left the pub, they became a pleasant and distant memory, apart from one Christmas when I spotted some in the party snacks section of Marks & Spencer.
Back then I was vegetarian. But by the time I was vegan, most supermarkets started stocking more instant ‘starter’ type foods, like falafel, cheese and cranberry filo parcels (another dish I ended up veganising) and poppers filled with cream cheese. So for the last few years, I always wondered if anyone had managed to make them vegan and how this could be achieved.
Working with 18 or so other vegans, there isn’t much in terms of new internet sensations and vegan cooking crazes that get passed me. One day, someone forwarded me a video from Heavy Metal Vegan Cooking, showing how to make Jalapeño Poppers!
I was amazed and very excited. The method I’ve adopted is based on this recommendation, but using UK ingredients and my own little ‘production’ line method. I also had to overcome the challenge of finding whole jalapeño peppers, pickled in jars. Supermarkets only sell the pre-sliced variety – so I was delighted when I spotted a jar on the shelves of Bristol’s much-loved Asian supermarket – Sweet Mart.
I first made these little beauties for our engagement party – and then for several dinner parties since. I took a batch ready to fry to a party last night and they went down like a fairly hot and special treat. So here’s how to do it.
Jalapeño Poppers (vegan)
Makes around 20 poppers
340g/12oz jar jalapeño peppers – available in large Asian shops
1 tub Tofutti Cream Cheese or make your own vegan creme cheese
100g/3oz vegan cheese, grated
½ cup soya milk, in a bowl
½ cup plain flour, in a bowl
100g/3oz breadcrumbs, in a bowl. Paxo make instant golden breadcrumbs that are vegan and work very well with this recipe. This is usually sold next to the gravy granules.
Vegetable oil for frying
Tips: If you have a deep-fat fryer, use it to cook these for a very special treat. If shallow-fried, try steaming the de-seeded chillies for 10-12 minutes first before allowing to cool and stuffing with the cream cheese.
1. Drain your jalapeno peppers. Steam first to soften – about 5-10 minutes, testing carefully after 5. Cool them then cut the top off each one, before slitting them down one side and removing all the seeds from the inside. Lay them out on a chopping board or in a bowl.
2. Put a teaspoon of Tofutti or your own homemade cream cheese inside each, then take a large pinch of grated vegan cheese and stuff that in too.
3. Once you have stuffed all the peppers, get your popper production line going! Line up a bowl of soya milk, flour and breadcrumbs.
4. Dip each pepper in soya milk, then roll in the flour and place on the chopping board, so they are all lined up ready for the next stage.
5. Put a large frying pan on the hob and heat a generous amount of oil to a medium/high heat.
6. Take a pepper; dip it quickly in the soya milk again before gently rolling it in breadcrumbs so they stick all around its surface. Pop the pepper straight into the hot oil with care. This should be a swift process where the peppers are very gently handled so they retain as much coating as possible. Coat and fry the peppers in batches of six at a time – turning carefully using a spatula or tongs so they all become golden on the outside.
7. Serve immediately, dabbing with kitchen towel to remove any excess oil.