Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ishtu - vegetables stewed in rich coconut milk

Lunch box sharing is a very interesting affair when you get to eat a little of many dishes. One does not heed to what exactly pairs with what when you just want to relish the food with friends. Lunch hours during my college and working years have been thoroughly enjoyable experience. While in college I had never paid attention to the preparation of the dish while it only mattered that we had a satisfying meal packed with love by moms at home and all we did was exchanging gossip with friends and gobbled everything down.
It just got just a little better while I worked. As many of us girls were working away from home and were put up in hostels, we did not look forward to the dubbawala bringing our lunch, for we knew that the food would be just not so good. However, we still survived on those. One of our officers, a lady manager was very kind to cook something special often and bring it for us whenever she had time to cook elaborately and in larger quantities.
It used to be a treat when one of us returned after visiting family who lived in the same city. On one such occasion a colleague had carried this Ishtu made by her aunt and needless to say that it had been the star dish for the day.
Years down, I had forgotten the taste of this dish until I spotted the recipe in the book "Vegetarian fare at the Taj". This book was available for guests in the rooms at The Gateway Hotel, Bangalore and the senior staff there were kind enough to let me carry a copy back.
The book details many recipes cooked and served in many of their fine dining restaurants and makes a very interesting read and has many simple recipes that can be recreated at home.

This recipe Vegetable Ishtew features in Vivanta by Taj - Kumarkom section. I am day dreaming of the bliss that would be when you are outdoors on a kettuvellam and are being served something exotic as this.
I made this preparation with kal dosai on a weekend. It was quite a filling breakfast and just enough reason to laze around!
Recipe fully adapted from Vegetarian Fare at Taj. I have rephrased the same.

Serves two people
1 cup washed, cleaned and cut vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beans and cauliflower
2 table spoons fresh green peas (or frozen peas)
200 millilitres coconut milk (use the first extract for a rich and creamy ishtu)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 inch long stick of cinnamon
2 cloves
4 cardamoms
1 teaspoon ginger julienned
1 large red onion sliced finely
3-4 green chillis slit
a small piece of bay leaf
1 sprig curry leaves
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Salt to taste.

Heat coconut oil in a pan and saute the peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaf.
Add the curry leaves, ginger and onions. Saute until onions are translucent. Add the green chillis and a cup of water. (I used the second extract of the coconut milk as it yields more taste).
Drop the vegetables in and cook until they are tender.
Add the salt and finally the first extract of the coconut milk. Cook on a low flame until the stew thickens. Over cooking will break the coconut milk.
Serve hot with appams, idiyappam or like I did, with kal dosai.


  1. Thank you for the recipe. My sister and I love stew a lot. We are always on the look out for the recipe on stew. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Love the flavor of coconut milk in gravies

  3. Rich and a comforting stew that goes well with dosa, appam or kal dosai. It's been a while since i ate kal dosai.

  4. I LOVE ishtu!! Especially with appam and idiappam. Haven't made kal dosa ever, would love to try it!

  5. Looks so nice Lataji. That too combined with the fact that it has cinnamon and coconut cant get better than this! Lovely colours almost remoinds of our kumbakonam kadappa!


  6. wow creamy and delicious stew, have to try this soon

  7. I love ishtu too akka... and anushka likes to eat this with aapams... Looks so tasty.

  8. this looks really delicious n very new also....loved it....

  9. delicious! love it...
    loved the story too!

  10. Yummy recipe, I recently only started liking stew,thats because I recently only taste a stew :):)

  11. wow.. stew looks very rich and delicious... love it!!

  12. nice idea.. thanks for sharing.

  13. Hi lataji, I have a recipe in my book with the same name I have to check if the ingredients are same, which I wrote long back from R's maternal aunty, I have never thought of posting it, funnily I thought there might not be anything like this :), and here I see the recipe, fantastic.., I should check out my book and try it out..


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Thanks once again,
Lata Raja.