Bell Pepper is one gorgeous vegetable, I can’t keep myself from adding to the shopping cart every week. Their glossy skins and vibrant hues instantly jazz up any ordinary looking dish.Beauty of bell peppers is not just skin deep as they are a store house of vitamins and anti-oxidants.They are known to improve eye health, reduce risk of anemia and several chronic diseases.
There is an old gardener’s tale about identifying the gender of the pepper by flipping them over and checking the bumps at the bottom. The pepper with 3 bumps is supposed to be male,is tall,thin has fewer seeds and is less sweet. The bell pepper with 4 bumps is round,full of seeds,sweeter and considered to be female. Though this theory is unfounded and a myth, assigning a gender helps in choosing the right peppers. The so called female kind are ideal for salads,sandwiches and stuffing. Whereas the other ones hold better in heat and are ideal for grilling and cooking.Red bell peppers are sweeter than the yellow ones,which are in turn sweeter than their green counterparts.
For this recipe, I chose the plump 4 segment yellow and red peppers because they are convenient for stuffing and they don’t tumble during their time in the oven.I also experimented with green peppers. Every one in the family had their own favorites.Talking of stuffing….the quinoa,chicken and corn make this dish one healthy,delicious,flavorful and complete meal in itself.
Stuffed Bell peppers
A fresh, light bell pepper recipe ideal for a late summer dinner.
- 4 round bell peppers (yellow/red)
- 200 g boneless chicken cubelets OR leftover chicken shredded
- 1 cup quinoa (washed and soaked in water for 2 hours)
- 1/2 cup sweet corn kernels+ 1 tbsp. extra for garnish
- 1 onion chopped
- 1/2 tomato chopped
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 2-4 tbsp. grated cheese of your choice
- red chili flakes for sprinkling on top
- dried Italian herb seasoning
- 1/2 tsp.red chili powder or paprika
- 1 tsp. ginger garlic paste
- 2 tsp. vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. tandoori chicken masala(optional)
- 2 tbsp. oil
- Marinate the chicken cubelets in salt,red chili powder,ginger garlic paste,vinegar,tandoori chicken masala for 30 minutes. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and saute the marinated chicken till cooked. It should take about 5 minutes. Alternatively, shred some leftover roast chicken and keep aside.
- Dissolve a chicken stock cube in 2 cups water.Heat the broth and add the rinsed quinoa seeds.Roasting the seeds makes them more flavorful.When the liquid is boiling, add onion, tomato, corn, salt, and leave to simmer.When white ring like sprouts appear, you know it’s done. It should have soaked up the water by now. Take off heat.
- Add the cooked chicken and mix lightly.
- Wash the bell peppers and pat them dry. Cut a thin slice from the stem end of each bell pepper to remove top of pepper. Retain the tops.Remove seeds and membranes. If necessary, cut a thin slice from bottom of each pepper so they stand up straight. Rub them with some oil all over.
- Spoon in the stuffing. Sprinkle corn, cheese,chili flakes and mixed herb seasoning.
- Cover them with their tops and press gently.
- Place these peppers on a baking tray which has been sprayed with some oil.Cover loosely with an aluminium foil.
- Preheat the oven at 375º F.
- Place the baking tray in the oven and Bake until the peppers are softened and the cheese has melted, about 20-25 minutes.
- Serve warm. Enjoy.
Pushcarts have been a ubiquitous part of street vending in India.From vegetables,fruits,ice creams,flowers,snacks to kitchen knickknacks you could find these street vendors pushing their simple carts in the lanes and by lanes of cities and towns fulfilling different household needs. These hawkers have their unique individual style of street cries or chants to attract the customers’ attention.
One particular childhood memory is the Sweet Papri pushcart. These papri vendors always had an old school bell which went ♩🔔 ting ♩ding ding🔔 ♩ to attract the kids of the locality. Papri is a fine thread like sweet made painstakingly with flour,ghee and sugar. It was sold in big cylindrical glass jars with an opening on top. The hawkers used to make paper cones from old magazines and stuff these fine strands of delicious candy in them and hand them over to their customers,usually kids who fondly referred to it as ‘old man’s beard’. I was very fond of this sweet too,all my childhood. As I grew up, these papri pushcarts came along less often. And eventually they disappeared.
Recently on one of my evening walks, I heard the familiar sound of the bell ♩🔔 ting ♩ding ding🔔 ♩ coming from a distance. I followed the sound along the by lanes to find my long lost childhood craving..sweet papri. Nothing had changed( of course except the vendor). The pushcart,the bell,the taste of papri, the paper cones everything was same. The glass jars were however replaced with plastic jars. Nevertheless it brought back all my sweet childhood memories.
I am sure you all have your own childhood cravings.Don’t you?