Fresh jalapeno peppers on white background

Normally I don’t like meat substitutes – jackfruit (which I was going to profile today but thought too boring), Quorn, TVP – but for Lorna Sass’s Cuban Picadillo I made an exception. It uses seitan (wheat gluten) which is a sort of rubbery, crumbly texture, not unlike minced beef, when it is ground. If you are vegan or vegetarian and can get over that then you will like this dish. If you eat faces then just substitute ground beef.

Which is sort of putting the horse before….. the topic of this post is meant to be the jalapeno. Jalapeno is a green or red medium hot pepper from Mexico or southwestern US. The name “jalapeno” is Spanish for “Jalapa” (or Xalapa), the capital of Veracruz, Mexico. Jalapenos were originally grown there, hence the name. It is generally 5-8cm long but can grow to 15cm and is cultivar of the species Capsicum annuum.

Pepperscale says many people think of the jalapeño as a very spicy hot pepper, but in terms of the Scoville scale, the jalapeñoa is merely mild to moderate. It has a Scoville heat unit range of 2,500 to 8,000 SHU.

Jalapeno Madness gives good instructions for growing, harvesting, preserving and cooking these peppers. A mature jalapeno pepper plant measures 2-3 feet in height and will typically produce around 30-40 jalapeno pepper pods. If you grow them in your own garden, pick them regularly, as the plant will continue to produce. Jalapenos are ready to be picked when they are firm and bright green, but you can leave them on the plant until they turn red. Red jalapeno peppers are sweeter to the taste and not quite as hot. Removing the seeds and veins from the pepper will lessen the heat. To preserve them they can be dried, frozen, canned, pickled or preserved in oil.

When cooking with them, use them as you would use a bell pepper. Remove the stem, chop them, then use them as the recipe calls for.

And now for the recipe: Prepare the picadillo a few hours, or the day before, serving. Serve with rice tossed in toasted pumpkin seed, or with quinoa. Serves 4.

A Cuban Picadillo


  • 375-500gram seitan
  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 tblsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 medium peppers (1 capsicum, 1 jalapeno) seeded and diced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cups pasatta
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes with peppers
  • 1/3 cup pimento stuffed green olives cut in half crosswise
  • 1/3 cup rasins
  • 2 tbsp drained capers
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper.


  1. Place seitan in the bowl of a food processor and pulse till chopped quite finely (like minced meat)
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for about 30seconds. Add Onion and green peppers, cook stirring occassionally till vegetables have softened a bit – 4-5 minutes.
  4. Stir in oregano and cumin and cook for 30 seconds. Add reserved seitan and all remaining ingredients.
  5. Bring to a boil over a high heat, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered till the mixture thickens – about 30-45 minutes.
  6. Adjust seasonings before serving.

From: The New Vegan Cookbook, by Lorna Sass, 2001, Raincoast Books, Canada.