Living up to a lionized last name is not all sweetness and sizzle, it can be rough trying to match up to the firebrands in the lineage. Smoldering gossip at the Pepper household often covers the exploits of flamboyant Mexican cousins – the Fresnos and Arbols having made a red-hot comeback, the Chipotles and Anchos having been nearly smoked out. Portly bell peppers, mellow yet firm, are let to benignly lay down the law, while the tart peperoncini are bottled in, lest they get packed off to humid Chennai beaches to be battered, fried and served up in newsprint cones. Fiery rumors are afoot about the galvanic black sheep of the family, led by the devilish Bhut jolokia and Habanero, their legendary feats on the Scoville scale having made them salient even in temperate kitchens.
But when one is petite member of the peppery clan, sweet and vibrant to boot, there are few recipes that slot one in a stately league good enough to tone with those hot-headed relatives. The hardhearted cooks might mince one up into a sofrito, but we at Tadka are a self-confessed pair of softies, how could we resist coddling and cosseting a bunch of these cuties? We’re filling them with a sweet and spicy stuffing of golden onions and nutty chick-peas-flour (besan), as their kin look on, raising a rumpus for a turn in the genteel Tadka pans. Well, perhaps they should just stand in line for a groove in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, albeit a trifle too late in the day.
Onion-filled Mini Peppers
2 Tablespoons oil
1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
A pinch of asafoetida
2-3 Onions, chopped – about 4 cups
½ Teaspoon red chilli powder, or cayenne
¼ Teaspoon turmeric
½ Cup Besan, sifted to remove lumps
¼ Cup roasted peanuts, finely chopped
A dozen mini sweet peppers
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a nonstick fry-pan and add the cumin seeds. Once they sizzle and darken in color, add the asafoetida and then the chopped onions. Stir often and let the onions cook down and turn golden, adding a little salt to help them along. Once the onions are cooked, add the turmeric and chilli powder, stir a bit and then add the besan. Cook the filling for about 8-10 minutes on low heat, stirring often, until the besan emits a nutty aroma. Add the rest of the salt and allow the mixture to cool before adding the roasted peanuts.
Meanwhile, prepare the peppers for stuffing by slicing off their tops or making a slit along one side. Remove the seeds and the ribs if possible, and fill them gently with the prepared mixture. Wipe your pan clean, place it on medium heat and pour in the remaining tablespoon of oil. Arrange the stuffed peppers in the pan. After a minute, turn them gently so that the oil coats the peppers and then cover and cook on low heat, until the peppers are soft and done.
So there you have it – no quotidian mashed potato or sausage stuffing would do for these babies – it’s got to be the royal Tadka treatment. With a little extra effort to be sure, the finger-licking results might just make your family come back for seconds and thirds, whether you’re serving them with fresh-off-the-tava rotis or your usual dal-chawal.
- Avoid over-stuffing the peppers, as they will shrink slightly once cooked, and excess filling tends to fall out.
- The stuffed peppers can also be baked in a 350°F oven for about 30 minutes, instead of cooking on the stove-top.