Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Indian Flavors in a Yellow Pepper...

For a while Suvir Saran has enchanted me. His restaurant Devi in New York was one of my favorite places in a sea of wonderful restaurants (more of them than any other place I  have ever been to unsurprisingly so). Partly because of the incredible flavors that emanated from his kitchen but also because my own nickname has been Devi since childhood. I coveted the matchbooks. I loved coming into the saffron scented rooms, the very tall and yet intimate space of Devi. The first time I went there (2004) I saw (and grabbed) a postcard advertising his then new book, Indian Home Cooking. It is to this day one of my favorites because as much as Indian Cuisine is an immense subject floating over many regions and capturing spices and flavors that are uniquely Indian, it also has some deep roots in small home kitchens. Suvir captured the essence of home cooking in India in this book. Not much of the food at Devi resembled Indian Home Cooking at first glance, it looked more complicated, more special, but deep down the roots of Devi's food were intertwined with everything Suvir learned in his younger days. He is an astonishingly handsome, gentle mannered man and he has a true gift for teaching the art of Indian Cooking. I suppose I bow to him among other culinary influences in my life. And that is what brings me to today's post. I recently picked up Indian Home Cooking and rifled through the pages to get some inspiration. It did not take me long to start bookmarking the pages for things I wanted to cook again. In the coming weeks I may share more of the meals I have been enjoying from his books (he also penned American Masala), but for now, let's just get to something simple and amazingly complex at the same time, Bharwaan Mirchee: Stuffed Bell Peppers

While I adore Suvir's inspirations, I do play a bit with my food, so this recipe is my take on his concept... I have altered a few things and added things like curry leaf which I adore and have in abundance in my Hawaiian garden. For much of my Indian cooking I find myself asking friends to send me spices from Indian markets on the mainland. But this recipe can be made almost anywhere. The fresh curry leaves grow here as  massive trees. But most Indian Markets on the mainland have them fresh if you ask.

Bharwaan Mirchee: Stuffed Bell Peppers
Serves 4

The connection between food and the visual arts has always fascinated Suvir. These spiced potato stuffed peppers are a food he remembers from his youth. You can adjust the heat a bit by adding more of the hot peppers or discarding more of their seeds and membranes. You might want to add some garlic paste. I have done that before. I sometimes halve this recipe when it is just the two of us.

1 1/2 pounds of golden or red boiling potatoes (or you can use 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes as I did)
4 small brightly colored bell peppers
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 serrano chile or two hot Hawaiian chiles, seeded and chopped finely
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint finely chopped
2 scallions or chives finely chopped
a 1 inch piece of fresh ginger grated with a micro plane
3 tablespoons fresh curry leaf finely chopped (optional)
Juice of 1 lime or lemon ( I prefer lemon for this)
crushed black pepper corns
sea salt (about a teaspoon)
1 large egg whisked with a pinch each of salt and cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons of canola or olive oil

Put the potatoes in a large pan with cold water to cover and boil till very tender, 30-40 minutes

While the potato cooks, core and remove the seeds & membranes of the peppers leaving a 2 inch opening.

In a dry skillet, toast the seeds till they begin to pop, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Coarsely grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (I use both... and have  a dedicated spice grinder (used to be a coffee grinder)

When the potatoes are cooked, peel and mash them in a large bowl. Add the ground spices, ginger, cayenne and herbs, lemon juice, peppers, salt and black pepper stirring to blend then taste. You may want to add more salt or pepper or even a hint of ghee. Sometimes I also add shredded paneer.

Fill t he peppers to the top with the potato spice mixture.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the oil in a medium oven proof pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, dip the peppers open sides down into the egg to coat the stuffing.

Place the peppers egg side down into the hot oil  and cook until a golden coating has developed.

Turn the peppers right side up and place the whole pan in the oven for 30-40 minutes and serve hot.


Richard Jesse Watson said...

Holy moly, this sounds delicious. Must try. Thank you for this recipe and pictures!

SherylR said...

We absolutely love Indian food and have quite a repertoir of our own. Some of our favorite cookbooks are the Time-Life: The Cooking of India; and a very old one called A Taste of India by Mary S. Atwood. I will look for the one you mentioned.