"Eshtu" aka Stew is traditionally served with Palappam ( Kerala’s laced rice pancakes). Generally carnivores like us don’t prefer the vegetarian version of many of the traditional delicacies but Potato Stew is an exception. It is as good as its opponents like Beef Stew or Chicken Stew or Mutton Stew and the taste and charm of this traditional favorite lies in its simplicity. Cooked potatoes stewed in rich coconut milk and flavored with whole spices is a treat on its own and this is one dish that I prepare confidently whenever we have some vegetarian friends coming home for food and I don’t remember an instance where our friends have left without asking for the recipe or atleast the method of cooking. So here we go:
- 2 large potatoes
- 3 medium size big onions, thinly sliced (around 3 cups)
- 6-8 Indian green chillies, slit open lengthwise
- 1 small piece of garlic, thinly sliced
- A small piece of ginger ( 1 ½ to 2 inch piece)
- 2 sprigs of curry leaves
- 4-6 small pieces of carrots (Optional)*
- 3-4 small ½ inch pieces of cinnamon
- 3 cloves
- 3 cardamoms
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ½ cups thin coconut milk/Radaampaal
- ½ cup thick coconut milk/Thanipaal
- 2 tbsp oil, preferably coconut oil.
- Salt to taste
- Wash and clean the potatoes thoroughly and cut them into big cubes; pressure cook or microwave the potatoes in enough water with salt, until cooked well. When warm enough to touch, peel off the skin from the potatoes.
- Heat oil, throw in the whole spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaves and let it fry in oil for 30 seconds. Add the thinly sliced big onions, ginger ,garlic and green chillies and cook until they turn soft and transparent. To this add the cooked potatoes and halve each of those cubes with the back of a wooden spoon and mash a portion of the halved ones. (Note: The cubes should not be mashed overly; they should still remain as pieces and at the same time a small portion should be mashed lightly as this adds thickness to the stew). Add the carrot pieces and combine everything well. Add thin coconut milk and salt and let it cook covered in low heat, for around 10-15 minutes. Now add the thick coconut milk and bring it to a boil and immediately reduce the heat, cook uncovered in low heat, until it reaches a creamy and thick stew consistency. Just before turning off the stove, add the curry leaves for the flavour and fragrance and stir well.
- To Serve: Though Appam and Stew is a match made in heaven, Stew served with white bread also makes a great pair.