Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stuffed Bell Peppers (Shimla Mirch)

stuffed bell-peppersBharwan Shimla Mirch, or Stuffed Bell Peppers simmered in a rich creamy sauce is a cherished entry on an Indian restaurant menu, and is indeed a favorite with many of us! The perfectly grilled bell-peppers, stuffed with vegetables and sauces inspired me to try my own verison at home. And believe me, I couldn't have been more surprised when I saw that the end product was just as delicious, if not better-tasting that the one we eat at the restaurants! I used spiced onion and potato filling, then topped it with some homemade-sauce and feta cheese. I made a separate yogurt-based gravy, slightly modified from regular indian curries, and dumped the stuffed bell-peppers into it!

There are several variations you can try with the stuffing. In fact, I have previous cooked stuffed bell-peppers with tomato gravy too. But this time, I decided to boil the capsicum first before stuffing and baking, and I highly recommend doing so as it softens the hard outer skin and allows the spices and flavors to soak through completely when you bake them. I'm sending these to Pooja for her JFI-Bell Peppers event, and also to Abby for her Vegetables-2008 event.

4-5 small-sized bell-peppers
2 medium potatoes - boiled
1 small onions - finely chopped
1 cup feta cheese - crumbled
10-15 raisins
2 tbsp tamarind chutney
2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup cilantro - finely chopped
1/2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
salt - to taste
lemon juice - to taste
1/2 tsp paprika or red chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala

For the Gravy
2 cups yogurt
2 tbsp tamarind paste
1/2 tsp sugar - if required
1 cup water (or a little more)
1/2 cup tomato puree
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 bay leaves
salt and lemon juice - to taste
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2-4 tbsp milk(optional)

Boil the Bell-Peppers
Wash and cut off only the top of the bell peppers. Remove all the seeds and pith.

Then put them in a pot of boiling water. Cover and cook for about 10 mins or until they are tender and soft, but retain their shape.

Prepare the Stuffing
Now take the boiled potatoes, mash them evenly and add all the spices for the filling to it. Take a pan, add 2 tbsp oil and saute the finely chopped onions. When they turn soft and glazed, add them to the potato filling mixture. Also add the chopped cilantro, leaving some for garnish, and the raisins.

Stuff the boiled capsicum with the filling. Add 1 tsp of tamaring chutney on the top, followed by the crumbled feta cheese.

Baking the Bell-Peppers
Grease a cookie-sheet with non-stick spray. Now take a cooking brush and apply a thin layer of oil to the outside of the bell-peppers. Now place them at least 2-inches apart on the baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 450 deg F and bake for 40-45 mins(may be longer), until the outer skin becomes broiled and thoroughly cooked. Rotate the baking tray by 180 deg after 20 mins for even distribution of heat. A nice test is to see that it starts peeling, and becomes soft to touch. When a fork or a tooth-pick passes through the skin without much effort, you know that the peppers are roasted and cooked.

Preparing the Gravy
you can serve the above Baked & Stuffed Bell Peppers as an appetizer or a side dish by itself. To make this as an entree, we will add these to an indian-style curry.

Beat the 2 cups yogurt with 1/4th cup of water to form a smooth paste.

Now take 2 tbsp oil, add cumin seeds, and when they start spluttering, add the bay leaves, ginger-garlic paste and the tomato puree. Add all the dry spices for the gravy in the list above, and saute for about 2-3 mins.

Now add the tamarind paste, sugar and the blended yogurt to this mixture and cook everything on medium-flame for 8-10 mins. Keep stirring in between. and add some water as required to form a thick, creamy gravy. Add 2 tbsp whole milk if required just to add to the thickness.

Assemble the Bharwaan Shimla Mirch
Once the gravy is thick enough, remove from flame and allow a to cool a little. Drop one heaped tablespoon fo the gravy on top of each capsicum. Arrange the baked bell-peppers on a serving dish. Now add the gravy all around, or alternately, add the capcicum to the gravy itself, however you wish to present.

Serve these Baked & Stuffed Bell Peppers with some Chapatis or Parathas and Jeera Rice!

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