As I write to you now, sheets of heavy rain are being whipped, driven and lashed against every single exterior surface of our house. Garden furniture is rolling in different directions and the dog is doing her best to look casual, when in fact, she’s clearly cowering underneath the dining table. So much for summer. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the North West of England.
In sunnier climes, families and friends are discussing what is on the barbecue and whether or not there will be enough potato salad for everyone. Sigh. What I need is some sunshine. Instead, the bellowing storm is deafening the dog and threatening to tear away the side of our home to reveal each room like a giant dolls’ house. Armadillo eggs to the rescue!
Armadillo what? You heard me right! I was surfing the web (there has to be a better phrase) and came across a recipe for Armadillo eggs. Delving further, I found an abundance of recipes each with their own take on what is a common appetizer at American barbecues in the South West. They’re actually jalapenos stuffed with cheese and baked in an oven. Some recipes call for bacon to be wrapped around the outside of the pepper, others instruct you to mix cheese and sausage meat and use it to stuff the jalapeno before baking. With so many opinions on what makes an Armadillo egg, I decided to create my own version. Yeehaw! Ahem. They turned out very well and brought some well-needed comfort to me and one rather frightened fluffy friend.
375g sausage meat
165g sweet peppers
130g Cheddar cheese
100g cream cheese
1 green chili (finely chopped)
1 tspoon smoked paprika
I began by mixing together the cream cheese with half of the grated Cheddar. I used a sharp Cheddar that would give the filling lots of flavour. In another bowl, I put the sausage meat, chopped chili, smoked paprika and the rest of the grated Cheddar and squeezed it all with my hands until I was satisfied that it was completely mixed. This would be the coating for the Armadillo eggs.
I didn’t use jalapenos for this recipe. Instead, I used a jar of Peppadew peppers. They’re small and sweet and red and are just made for stuffing! They are available with more heat and also stuffed with cream cheese, but I don’t like the idea of cream cheese that’s been sitting in vinegar for weeks. I drained the sweet little beauties and began to take bits of the cream cheese and Cheddar mixture to fill each pepper. This was quite easy because the Cheddar gives the cream cheese more body and it is easy to handle.
Once the peppers were full and all the cheese used, it was time for the tricky bit. I thought that packing each pepper in sausage meat would be a doddle, but it took a little time and patience. My first attempt was the size of a cricket ball. After a few, they were looking more like meatballs, which is what I was aiming for. I found that wetting my hands made it easier to handle the meat and stopped it sticking to my hands and breaking up. My technique was to take some sausage meat, press it onto my palm, place a pepper on it cheese side down and then bring up the sides and mold it gently around. Like I said, the first few weren’t great, but you kind of get a rhythm going by number five. In the end, I made twenty Armadillo eggs.
I placed them gently onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. I love using baking paper because foil often rips easily or sticks to meat. Also, baking paper is an excellent barrier against grease and let’s face it, with sausage meat, there’s gonna be plenty of that around.
I cooked them in the oven, middle shelf at 170 degrees Celsius for thirty minutes. They didn’t even need to be turned. For once, I was patient and waited until they were slightly cooler before tucking in. They certainly banished the stormy weather for a while. I’ve kept some of my Armadillo eggs in the fridge- the weather forecast for tomorrow isn’t good.