B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
After the quick and easy stir-fried aloo gobi, we are ready to take vegetables to a more festive level. Stuffed vegetables are beloved in many cuisines. From the Eastern European stuffed cabbage rolls to the classic appetizer of stuffed mushrooms, we do love hollowing out veggies and stuffing them with something delicious. The final dish is so much more than the sum of its parts.
In India, stuffed vegetables are a beautiful way to showcase an array of vegetables and prepare them for special occasions. There is something immensely satisfying about choosing the perfect vegetable, loving prepping each one by hand, filling it gently with some spicy goodness and cooking it to perfection. From the rich bharwa bhindi (stuffed okra) of North India to the nutty stuffed baby eggplants of many South Indian cuisines, there are dozens of recipes to choose from.
When I wondered what stuffed vegetable to make for this series, my thoughts jumped back to meals of my childhood, when I would be unfailingly delighted to find bharli mirchi being served for lunch. Bharli mirchi- literally translating as stuffed pepper in Marathi- is a dish of green peppers stuffed with a spicy potato mixture and fried to the point where their skin is charred and the whole pepper is luscious and juicy. Each bite is a delicious combination of succulent pepper and tasty mashed potato. It is truly a special dish for me, and this was my first time making it myself. I put together the recipe based on what I remembered about this dish from years ago, and at the first whiff of the heavenly aroma and the first bite, I was delighted at how much it tasted like the bharli mirchi of my memories!
1. Prepare 4 green peppers by washing them, then making a long slit length-wise and pulling out the stem and most of the seeds and membranes, like so:
If your peppers taper at the bottom, cut a thin slice off so the pepper can stand up.
2. Make the stuffing: Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan. Temper it with 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and a pinch of asafoetida. Add 1 medium minced onion and 2-3 minced cloves of garlic. Saute until the onion is just browning. Turn down the heat. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp red chili powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder and salt to taste. Stir in 3 large boiled, mashed potatoes and mix well to incorporate the spices. Continue cooking until the potatoes are heated through completely. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice and 2 tbsp minced cilantro. The stuffing has to be very well-seasoned for the final dish to be tasty.
3. When the stuffing is cool enough to handle, divide it in four portions and stuff the peppers gently.
4. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a deep skillet. Place the peppers, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of salt and then proceed to fry them on medium-low heat, turning every few minutes so that the skin on all sides gets charred. As the peppers cook, they release juices that can sizzle and splatter in the pan, so keep the skillet covered except for turning the peppers every few minutes. Don't forget to place them on their top and bottom so those sides get cooked too. It took me about 30 minutes to cook the peppers completely.
5. There you have it: Marathi-style stuffed peppers. Serve warm or at room temperature. They might not be much to look at, but they taste divine, and this dish is a must-try!
Variations on a theme:
This dish would be lovely with different kinds of peppers, such as sweet Italian peppers or the long tapering banana peppers. It would be nice to serve a platter of assorted stuffed peppers.
How do you serve this dish?
I love bharli mirchi with rotis or parathas. It is wonderful rolled up in any flatbread, basically. Bharli marchi tastes good hot or at room temperature, making it an unusual and delicious picnic treat.
Here is a round-up show-casing some delicious Indian-style stuffed vegetables from fellow bloggers :
Green Peppers stuffed with Kidney Beans from Lima-Delhi,
Stuffed Tomato in Makhani Gravy from Past, Present and Me,
Stuffed Baby Eggplants from Mahanandi,
Stuffed Okra from Aayi's Recipes,
Stuffed Ridge Gourd Curry from Sailu's Food, and
Mixed Stuffed Veggies from Spice is Right.
Any ideas for the C of Indian vegetables? See you in a few!