Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Kerala Style Vegetable Ishtew

I had this ishtew for the first time at a friend’s house in California.  I was pregnant with my first child.  We had gone to visit a close friend, my husband’s college classmate.   It was Christmas time.  Another classmate, originally from Kerala, invited us for Christmas dinner at their place and they made appam and vegetable ishtew.  I was in foodie heaven.  It was an amazing combination and I haven’t forgotten the rich taste of the vegetable stew I had that day.

Kerala Style Vegetable Ishtew
I don’t make it as often as I would like to because of all the bad rap about coconuts.  Coconuts were such a constant in my mom’s kitchen while I was growing up.  My mother in law would also use it regularly.  They would break a coconut every day and use it up in that day’s cooking.  Once I moved to the U.S, I kept hearing about coconut contributing to high cholesterol because of the high saturated fat content and stopped using it.

Now that coconut and coconut oil are back on the good side of healthy eating, I decided to make this stew for my party.  Since I had around 30 people coming, I made idiyappams instead of appams, to go with the stew.  I looked up various recipes online and came up with this hybrid version that works for me.  It tastes much better than it looks in the pictures :)

Here is what you need:

  • ½ cup grated coconut
  • 4 green chilies
  • 1” piece ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 – 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into big chunks
  • 1 small cauliflower, separated into florets
  • 2 carrots, cut into big chunks
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 blade of mace
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (cut onion in half, slice off the head and the root.  Peel the dry outer layers and discard.  Cut into very thin slices parallel to the layers.  Separate the layers.  I learned this technique from Vasu, who used to work in my friend's house)
  • salt to taste
  • ½” piece of thinly slivered ginger
  • 2 green chilies, slit
  • few curry leaves
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can coconut milk

Here is how I made it:

  1. Grind the first four ingredients (grated coconut, green chilies, ginger, and garlic) into a smooth paste.
  2. In a large pot, bring water to a boil, add vegetables one at a time and cook them till they are cooked though, but still firm.  Set aside.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a big pan. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, and mace. Fry for a few seconds.
  4. Add the slivered onions.  Keep frying till the onions are gently browned.
  5. Add salt, ginger, green chilies, and curry leaves.  Stir and fry for a few more minutes.
  6. Now add the tomatoes and fry till the whole thing gets cooked well (about 10 minutes).
  7. Add the ground paste and keep stirring occasionally till all the water gets dried up (another 10 minutes).
  8. Now add the coconut milk and reduce the heat to low, because you don’t want the coconut milk to get curdled.
  9. When you see small bubbles forming – showing you that the coconut milk is heated through, add the vegetables and mix well.
  10. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes on low heat so that the vegetables absorb the spices. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  11. Serve hot with idiyappams or appams.
This is a good recipe for the crock pot.  I made the dish in the morning.  When I reached step 9, I refrigerated the gravy.  About an hour or so before people were scheduled to come, I put the coconut gravy and the vegetables in a crock pot and set the heat to low.  The vegetables slowly absorbed all the flavors from the gravy and the stew was perfectly cooked when people were ready to eat.

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