Bharva Shimla Mirch | Stuffed Peppers
Stuffing vegetables is one of those culinary tricks that always delivers so much more joy than you’d think it would. A trait recognized all over the world, from India to Turkey to Italy to Germany and beyond. Stuffed eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini, all gain so much in the process of being hollowed out, filled back in, and then cooked—whether braised, roasted, or fried.
And it’s true that there is an undeniable alchemy of flavors that takes place between container and stuffing as the two cook together. But it’s also just the lovely wholeness of the concept that appeals to me. A parcel of food that you eat in its entirety. Ingenious!
These stuffed peppers are one of my all-time favourite things to make when I have some leftover mashed potato—not that there’s anything wrong with making them with freshly mashed potatoes, too. I use the long light green peppers that are often sold as "Italian stuffing peppers" in many markets in the US, but you can use whatever peppers strike your fancy—whether bell peppers, or even long, spicy peppers. Go nuts! Also, I happen to love the particular blend of bitterness, nuttiness, and spice that comes from using kasuri methi, toasted besan, and red chilli flakes here, but feel free to mix the spices up to suit your own tastes.
BHARVA SHIMLA MIRCH
5 long mild green peppers
3 cups mashed potato, cooled to room temperature
2 tbsp ghee
3 tbsp chickpea flour or besan
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp red chilli flakes
1 tsp kasuri methi
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Ghee for brushing
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil—make sure it’s only filled three-fourths of the way to the top to avoid overflowing.
Place as many peppers into the water as will comfortably fit and cook, partially covered, until tender but not falling apart—5–7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Repeat till all the peppers are cooked.
Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, make a slit down the side of each and carefully remove the seeds inside and drain out any water. Sprinkle the insides with salt and set aside while you prepare the filling.
In a large kadhai or wok, heat the ghee till it begins to shimmer.
Add the besan and cook, stirring often, till it turns just a shade darker and smells nutty. Add all the spices and briefly stir so that they are mixed well with the oil.
Add the mashed potato to the seasoned oil mixture and stir well so that the spices are well distributed through the potato mixture.
Add the chopped cilantro, stir well, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400F with a rack placed in the middle.
Choose an oven-safe dish that will snugly fit all the peppers side by side.
Brush the bottom and sides of the dish with melted ghee.
Using your hands, stuff the potato mixture into the peppers and then press them gently closed.
Place the stuffed peppers into the pan so that they’re all snuggled up close to each other with little room between them.
Brush the tops of the peppers and the exposed bits of potato with melted ghee and sprinkle with fine sea salt.
Place the dish in the oven and allow to cook, undisturbed, for 45 minutes, or until the peppers are lightly blistered in spots and the potato mixture is crisp on the surface and golden brown.
Sprinkle with freshly ground cumin powder and serve with rotis or rice and dhal.