Aloo Simla Mirch

As some of you know, I speak pretty decent Hinglish.

The names of fruits and vegetables were the first words that I learned.

“Mirch” is the Hindi word for “chili”.

The easiest “mirch” to remember is “Simla mirch,” as there’s a history attached to that vegetable.

I like the boxy shapes in this dish.

The British Raj originally set up its capital in New Delhi, but soon realized that the blistering 40 degrees celcius temperatures were too much for them to endure.

So, the British made Simla (pronounced Shim-la) their summer capital.

Simla is in the Himalayas — a region with a temperate climate.

The British settled in and planted their gardens. Their Western vegetables, including bell peppers, flourished.

Simla is where bell peppers were first grown in India, so they’re known as Simla mirch.

Bell peppers and chillies are not native to India.

Cooking up Simla mirch with “aloo” (“potato”) gives you Aloo Simla Mirch.

I’ll forewarn you that this dish, although Punjabi, goes against a rule that I established in an earlier recipe.

The holy trinity of Indian food — ginger, garlic and onions — is not respected.

Oftentimes, this dish is made without any onions. And it’s always made without ginger.

Potatoes suck up a lot of flavour, so I powder almost all of my spices for this recipe. Spices impart a stronger flavour when freshly ground than when whole. Such robust flavour isn’t always desirable, though, so both techniques have their place. For instance, I would never reccomend using powdered spices in biryani.

The sweetness of the toasted coriander and the tang of the aamchur powder complement the green bell peppers.

Sweet lime pickle is the perfect accompaniment.

Dry vegetable curries like Aloo Simla Mirch are usually served with a daal, raita, pickles and rotis or rice.

Aloo Simla Mirch

3 large potatoes, cut into 1-ich pieces

3 green bell peppers, cut into 1-inch squares

1 yellow onion, sliced fine

5 tbsps ghee, divided

3 tbsp garlic paste

1 ½ tsp whole cumin seeds

1 ½ tsp toasted cumin seeds, powdered

1 tbsp toasted coriander seeds, powdered

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp+ red chili powder, to taste

½ tsp + raw mango powder (aamchur), to taste

1 ½ tsp garam masala

water

Salt to taste

Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Heat 2.5 tbps of the ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot, or kadhai. Caramelize the onion.

Remove the onion from the pan.

Heat remaining ghee in the pan. Temper cumin seeds in ghee at medium heat until they crackle.  Add garlic, Stir continuously until the raw garlic smell goes away. Add the caramelized onions back to the pot.

Add the garam masala and stir until the aroma of the masala is released, about 2 minutes. Add the turmeric. Stir.

Add the potatoes, cumin powder, coriander powder and red chili powder. Season with salt to taste and mix well.

Cook over medium heat until the potatoes are done. Stir only as needed. Add splashes of water to prevent sticking, as needed.

Add the green bell peppers. Stir. Cook for 4-5 minutes.

Remove from heat.

Finish with raw mango powder and adjust seasoning, as needed.

Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Serve with rotis or chapatis.

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