Sep 20, 2009

Growing pains and stuffing Anaheim peppers

As an angst ridden (read dramatic) teenager in the late 80s, I had a volatile relationship with my mother. I was in the “know it all” phase and sensitive to any remark or objection from my mother. The arrogance of youth and the inherent need to rebel would bring the worst out of me at the slightest provocation. I would take it as a personal attack on my right as an enlightened youth. I picked up quarrels with my mom at the drop of a hat and went without talking to her for days on end or giving her the cold shoulder.

As I saw it, it was my right to rebel. If she suggested I wear bright colors I would fill my wardrobe with grey and beige. Looking back on those days, I shudder to think the kind of hell I must have unleashed on my mom – demanding freedom but not wanting the responsibilities that came with it. I had yet to learn to embrace humility that is so essential to earn respect.

During that ‘difficult’ phase my mother would try to teach me basics of cooking, since I was of that “age” (how she found the patience or the desire for it, is beyond me). Initially I rebelled because I didn’t want to be one of those girls who excelled at cooking from an early age and settled down to a life of domesticity. In my day dreams, I had a higher purpose in life; I wanted to do something worthy of leaving an impact on future generations. If only that girl could peek into the future… Today the most impact I can hope is to have on my progeny, who is as rebellious, if not more, as me.

Ever since I became a mom, I have a renewed appreciation and admiration for all that my mom did for us three siblings. Between juggling a full time job and bringing up three kids she would try to find innovative ways to make us, especially me, eat a variety of vegetables. Stuffing Anaheim peppers with potatoes was one of her more successful recipes and she would make it as often as time would permit. Stuffing the peppers was my job and I saw it as her way of gently easing me into the drudgery of cooking.

Sulking, I would sit on the kitchen floor, stuffing the peppers and muttering under my breath. Secretly, I enjoyed the process of neatly cutting a slit along one of the edges, deseeding the peppers and then stuffing them with the prepared potatoes. There was a rhythm to the production and I didn’t want to acknowledge it but I loved the food prep. I suspect my mom knew it too.
Last few years have been a blur of establishing a married life, starting a family, house hunting, acquiring stuff and raising a kid. My mom and I are best friends and rarely argue over trivial issues.
Now I am trying to ease my son into eating veggies other than potatoes. I take him grocery shopping at Sprouts FM and it is a lot of fun to see him point out all the veggies and fruits. The fact that he helps me pick them does not in any way hamper his resolution to not try them.
When I saw the peppers in the store I thought of my mom wondering that first time, many years ago, what she could do to make me eat it. I could envision the sizzle of the peppers roasting in the kadhai and the sweet peppery smell of the charring skin signaling dinner time. I wondered if my son would try them and decided not to push my luck.
Traditionally in the north the peppers are stuffed with kneaded chickpea flour but potatoes are sometimes stuffed as an alternative. The peppers were spotted and cooked shortly after Manisha announced her IFC: Memories event. I knew I had the perfect memory (admission of guilt?) to ship off to her along with the basket of mangoes (Dare I add a smiley Manisha?).
This is also one of the many apologies, long overdue, to my mom for my brattish behavior.

4 – 5 anaheim peppers
1/2 tbsp of olive oil

For the stuffing:
4 – 5 potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tbsp red chili powder
Salt to taste

In a kadhai or wok heat ½ tbsp of oil, turn the heat to low and add turmeric, fennel seeds and red chili powder. You want the raw taste of turmeric to turn fragrant before adding the mashed potatoes. Add salt and combine. If the potatoes are tinged yellow all over, you know the salt and chili have been incorporated.
Cut each pepper in three pieces and slice lengthwise. Deseed the end pieces and keep aside.
Let the potato sabzi cool down a little before stuffing the peppers.

Heat a non stick skillet or pan with a wide flat bottom. Add ½ tbsp of oil and swirl it around to coat before adding the stuffed peppers. You don’t want the peppers to overlap and steam. The goal here is to char the skins all over or as much as you can. So do it in two or three batches.

Cook the peppers in a single layer on medium heat, turning them around every few minutes as the skins start charring. I like to crisp the potato sabzi which is sticking out the slit end because that is the best part and I save it up to eat last.

Once all the peppers are charred and cooked, transfer to a serving dish and serve with toor dal and rotis.

My son stuck to his resolve and did not try it. Come to think of it I should have spiked it with his khichdi. That’s what my mom would have done.

The stuffed peppers also go to IVW: Indian currently hosted by Erbe in Cucina and the brainchild of Vaishali of Holy Cow.


  1. Hmm. I am the first one to comment. Gr8.
    Was waiting to read this post. Really, even I remember my argumnts with my Mom as a teenager and her patience in dealing with me.But gladly I was not a very argumentative child but surely had fixed ideologies which my parents were comfortable with.
    Coming to the Peppers, even I love the part sticking to the pan, the crispier portion and me and S surely fight for that.Some where the child in us never dies....Right!!!
    I am feeling good typing the post as I can see the younger one sitting next to me playing music on my ipod.He is much better and hopefully will attend school, by day after tmrw.
    Take care dear.

  2. First of all, those are some lovely pictures you have posted today my friend! Wow.... And I have never heard of potato as a stuffing for very delicious I want to try them out right make them. But it is past my bedtime and I must be off to work early tomorrow. I love your story Jaya. I can relate so very much. I thot I knew it all....and domestic?! NEVER! Even now I laugh that I have a cooking took me a long time to share it with anyone as I still strive and rebel against the things my mother taught us girls...grin. I was her horror...the tomboy.. the one with sticks and twigs in her long hair, the one who never settled down, who got into fist fights with the boys down the street and who swore she would never get married and have kids. I am. Grin. Thank goodness Mom got to see it all come about before she passed away last year. But she never knew about my blogging...that would have been hard for her to comprehend anyway. She just had a big open kitchen and heart and made simple, delicious food that would feed everyone near and far. If only I was 1/2 of her goodness and sweetness....sigh.

    Anyway.....great post. I love it....I think you are very creative.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi Jaya:)
    There was so many spelling mistakes in the first post.
    I too look back on my early teens thinking.
    How did she do it???? without smacking me:)
    Have a gorgeous day everyone, from Norway. SP

  5. My grandmom used to stuff peppers with a besan mixture. Though none of the women in my family were keen on teaching me to cook, I was rebellious alright! :-D

  6. @ Pari, Trish and SP: Glad to know I was not the only one to cause so much trouble for my mom. :)
    Trish, sorry to hear about you mom's passing.
    @SP: You have a gorgeous day too SP.
    @sra: my mom also makes the stuffing with besan but the potatoes were our favorite.

  7. great memories back then huh? well, i must admit that i was such a stubborn brat, i never learnt cooking, no matter what..i barely learnt how to switch on the gas when i started to work.
    But yeah, i still remember that night...5 days to fly to US.I was like big deal, anyone can i asked mom to write down the recipes for me. Mom, the sweetest person on earth, as she wrote each recipe, visually explained me every bit she wrote...she even wrote, at time..keep the lid open, the flame shud be every nitty gritty...that book is still treasured and still gets its first place in my kitchen today.
    My cousins in Us who came over to visit were amazed, Rush cud cook??

  8. never tried stuffing anaheim peppers, rather those big capsicums..and wud eventually cut them into two...this is a good idea, small peppers, better taste, better bitesizes!!

  9. What a vivid narrative of your relationship with your mom and coming full circle after becoming a mom yourself, Jaya. I stuff bell peppers, but have never tried it with Anaheim-- I can imagine these would be incredible. They look golden and delicious and, I'm not kidding, they just made me salivate :)

  10. So true Jaya ! I read somewhere along the lines : 'At 4 you think your mom knows everything, 16 you think you are the smartest, at 18 you are at the top of your world and dont need your mom..but come start opening up to her, 30 she is your close confidant and by 35 - again she knows everything !' :)
    Great stuffed peppers too..look yummy..

  11. Enjoyed reading your crisp writing about relationship with your mom, Jaya. It has a breath of freshness to it that even the rebellious nature sounds appealing and endearing.

    Enjoyed reading about Sprouts FM too, we went there just yesterday and our DS likes it there as well. Liked the idea of stuffing potato into the peppers. I have stuffed coconut masala into peppers before with good results.

  12. Hi Jaya,
    Reading your post brought back memories of my mom & I, during my 'know it all' phase. Thank God its over! Hey thanks a lot for the help, i have already made the changes on my blog.

  13. i was a very good girl in my teens ...but but but...i became rebellious and what not in my twenties....for a lot of reasons...he he.
    the way you say you like stuffing the peppers n finding a rhythm , i like that in cooking till date....nice pics n yes i thought it is besan as a stuffing...but it turned out to be a simple potato mash..awesome..

  14. Have you read or seen the movie "Like Water for Chocolate"? I think you'd enjoy it. The whole story is told around the adventures in the kitchen and cooking specific dishes. The recipe sounds great. I think we all have a hard time in the teen years growing up -- thankfully our moms don't hold it against us. :)

  15. Nice post Jaya - and those peppers look great -I think they would make a fantastic starter. I think we have ALL clashed with out moms, its part and parcel of us being damn complicated females.

  16. I meant OUR moms, of course I HAD to have a TYPO on your space right after your rant about them! Grrrrrrrrrr

  17. Hi Again. Please collect your awards from my blog dear and do let me know when you pick.Take care.

  18. I also prepare stuffed chilies... but I never thought of using potatoes.
    Thank you for sharing your recipe with It's a Vegan World.

  19. thanks to your post. terribly gud.


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