Building a masala (curry) from scratch with fresh spices creates an intoxicating depth of flavor for minimal effort, and is one of the foundational techniques of Indian cooking. This curry dish makes the most of late season peppers and tomatoes and is a good starting place for cooks who are used to pre-ground curry blends, as it calls for a small and widely available set of spices.
If you don't have black mustard seeds, you can substitute yellow, but know that their flavor profile is quite different. It is worth seeking out black (sometimes also called brown) mustard seeds if you plan on making this and other masalas part of your repertoire. Black mustard's pungent kick ties the aromatic qualities of this dish (and many other Indian dishes) together in a way that yellow mustard just can't imitate.
Serve this curry with rice and a protein for a complete meal. It is also lovely over a bed of steamed potato chunks or with sauteed wild mushrooms added with the bell peppers. There is a good amount of pepper heat in this recipe as written, so scale back the chile peppers if you want to tone it down.
Serves 6 as a side dish
1 bunch green onions, white and green parts separated, chopped into thin rounds
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
2 cups (11 oz) thinly sliced shallots
1 pound tomatoes, chopped
3 large jalapenos (or other chile peppers), finely chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon mild paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black mustard seeds (grind in a mortar and pestle or, if you don't have one, place in a plastic bag and pound with a rolling pin until coarsely ground)
3 to 4 red bell or sweet Italian peppers, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch thick strips
2. Stir in the bell peppers and cook, covered, for 3-5 minutes, or until they reach your preferred texture. Stir in the green parts of the green onions and serve immediately.