Cheese-stuffed Chilly Peppers or Bhajji/Pakoda
April is the month my in-laws had got married. March was when my parents had tied the knot. So, we celebrated another wedding anniversary at our home last Wednesday.
The husband, who had single-handedly cooked for my parents’ anniversary dinner, opted to do the same this time around as well. I had no complaints, given his culinary skills; although the aftermath of the ‘kitchen-storm’ can be a little daunting. Once again, I found myself entrusted with the task of preparing the appetizer. Last time, for my parents’ party, I had come up with Amritsari Fish Fry. It was inspired by a conversation we had in office. Call it sheer co-incidence, but the same thing happened this time also! Nowadays I seem to find my cooking mojo in my work-place!
We have this office boy who makes the round of everyone’s cubicles at around 12.30 pm, half an hour before the scheduled lunch time, to get orders from people who had not brought their food. Not that we can order for stuff such as sushi or steak, the food actually comes from a nearby Udupi joint. Although the restaurant fares are quite unexciting, we occasionally do order items like akki roti or chole bhatura or aloo parantha. On those days, either our wallets are near empty or there is some mysterious reason.
Anyhow, on that day, the boy came on his customary rounds and as usual I shook my head. My colleague A was complaining about his lunch box contents and he decided to order something to perk up his food.
“Chilly bhajji,” he told the office boy. “Make sure that they are fresh and hot.”
Something whirred and snapped into place in my mind with a ‘click’. Chilly bhajji (mirchi pakoda or chilly pepper fritters)! Why didn’t I think of it before! That’s what I shall make for the party. Case closed.
Come evening at home and I found myself thinking hard about the dish. Wasn’t it too ‘commonplace’? I mean, will people really prefer to have chilly bhajji at home when they can have their fill at any road side stall? What would I have liked in a chilly if it was served to me all fried up? Cheese! Yes! Gooey cheese oozing out of a hot chilly and tantalizing my taste buds to the core. I thought no more and called up the harried husband who was out shopping for his ingredients to get me mozzarella cheese and big chilly peppers.
Want to know how I made my simple and cheese-y chilly bhajjis?
Cheese-stuffed Chilly Peppers or Bhajiis/Pakodas
A dozen chilly pepper (those long, light-green capsicums), washed and patted dry
1 onion, very finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup besan (chickpea flour)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
A pinch of salt
Refined oil for deep frying
Mix the cheese, chopped onion and tomato well. I didn’t add salt as the cheese was quite salty on its own.
Slit the chillies lengthwise on one side. Leave the stalk at the top. Scoop out the seeds out of the chillies but take care not to touch them. My hands were burning till the next day.
Now, spoon in the cheese mixture into the chillies and arrange them on a tray.
In a bowl, make a medium consistency batter out of besan and water. Add a pinch of salt and turmeric powder to the batter. While the chilly bhajjis have a thick, spongy layer of besan, I decided to have a thin but crisp layer.
Heat substantial oil in a kadai or a deep bottomed vessel. Dip the stuffed chillies in the batter and deep fry them for around 2 minutes in the hot oil. I didn’t want to cook the chillies for too long as I wanted to keep the crunch in them. The thin layer of batter over the chilly prevented the cheese from oozing out of the slit. Transfer the fried chillies on paper napkins to absorb the excess oil. Serve hot.
It was a pleasure biting into the crunchy, hot, spicy chilli and take delight in the melted cheese, sweetened by the onions and a slight tang of the tomatoes. The little bombs were a resounding success that evening.
So, the next time I come back from work and have guests coming over at short notice, I know what to cook for them as appetizers! What about you? What are your quick-fix appetizers? Do let me know!