These delicately spiced stuffed capsicums, bharwan simla mirch, are perfect for a vegetable dish on their own, as part of a feast, or as a starter.
This a quite a favourite in our home, and is apparently a traditional dish from Lucknow. It is also well-known in the Punjab.
Paneer, tomato and capsicum cooked together is extremely common throughout the northern half of India. There are several recipes in this book that are variations on this theme. This dish has much more of a wow factor if serving to friends. The presentation is wonderful if you use a mix of different coloured capsicums for their colour but make sure they are all the same size.
This recipe will serve four as a main course, or six as a starter. If using this as a starter, it is worthwhile sourcing mini-capsicums. If they are not available, use three small, but normal capsicums and halve them lengthwise, and not taking off the top. Whichever presentation you use, it is important to remove the calix and internal ribs – the white part – because it could impart a bitter flavour to the capsicums.
This is another dish that tastes best straight from the stove, and does not lend itself to too much pre-preparation. Nor does it freeze particularly well. Leftovers are best refrigerated, then eaten cold the next day, which is a delight in itself.
This is a “no-substitutes” dish, unlike many of the vegetarian recipes in this book. If you want to use eggplant, I have a very different recipe for you that uses the flesh of the eggplant. Using tomatoes does not work, because of the tomato in the stuffing.
This is also a great snack, or lunchtime dish, using the starter-sized serving. For finger food, at a cocktail party, you might use 6 mini capsicums, halved as discussed. This will serve 12 people.
As presented this is a reasonably simple, delightful dish, with great presentation qualities. It is also healthy, and tastes great.
- 4 capsicums
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 300 g paneer
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 brown onion finely chopped
- 3 tomatoes finely chopped
- 20 g ginger finely chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- ½ tsp garam masala
- ½ cup green peas
- 100 g green beans finely chopped to pea sized pieces
- 100 ml water
- 3 tbsp crème fraiche
- ½ cup coriander leaves finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Thoroughly wash, clean and dry the capsicums. Cut the tops from the capsicums, and using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and membrane. Keep the tops. Place the capsicums upside down and the tops onto a baking tray, drizzle with one tablespoon of oil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until just softened. Once they are cooked, remove from the oven, drain any moisture from inside the capsicums and set aside.
Toast and grind the coriander seeds.
Cut four thin slices from the paneer to use to finish the dish. Set aside. Crumble the remaining paneer.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 20-30 seconds, until fragrant and their colour darkens.
Add the chopped onion and cook for three minutes, or until golden-brown.
Add the tomatoes, ginger, salt and spices and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened, reduced to a pulp and are separating from the oil.
Add the peas and beans, and cook a further three minutes.
Add the crumbled paneer and the water and stir until well combined. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for three minutes.
Add the crème fraiche and season well with freshly ground black pepper. Simmer until heated through.
Add the chopped coriander and continue to simmer the mixture for five minutes, adding tablespoons of water as necessary to stop the sauce from drying out as the paneer absorbs the liquid.
Preheat the grill to its highest setting. While the grill is heating up, fill each of the baked capsicums with the paneer mixture, and cover the top with the paneer slices. When the grill is hot, grill the stuffed capsicums until the paneer is golden-brown
Remove from grill, place the tops back on the capsicums and serve.