I am not kidding…..think about it…..when you stay away from your homeland, the food you serve to others, who belong to different cultures and cuisines, is a representation of your own homeland, its years of culinary legacy and hence a part of its culture. Most of the time food is powerful enough to stir up an active discussion among your guests on various cuisines and styles or if I may put it simply, it’s a sure ‘conversation piece’. Food is a window to knowing a new culture and sometimes a good avenue to learn a bit of new language as well.
Well, this inference I have made is based on my personal experiences……Ever since I learned cooking and ever since I gained the confidence to invite people home for food, I have noticed our friends getting excited and showing a genuine interest in discussing and finding out about our traditional Kerala cuisine. Consciously or unconsciously it has influenced our menu planning too. Even when I start our dinner gatherings with a fancy finger food and wrap it up with a decadent and elegant dessert, I make sure that the main food served is our traditional food showcasing the culinary legacy of my homeland, especially if our friends are non-Keralites and visiting us for the first time. One of the regular appearances in such occasions is a thick and creamy stew, meat or vegetable, served with white bread or Paalappam. I got this habit partly because that is how my mother hosted such dinners. She always served a course of stew and Paalappam or the classic stewed fish preparation, Fish Molee with white bread. My family background paired with our friends’ excitement over discovering such delightful creations, always gave me a nudge to include this combination whenever I hosted dinners. Most of the time we saw our friends initiating a discussion on their culinary traditions and variations of the same or similar preparations……it always brought us together, creating a more cozy and warm atmosphere and here I am convinced quite well that food can bring people together and one can be cultural ambassadors sitting in one’s own dining room.
Whenever we served stew, it was always a delight to our friends…..something new but very scrumptious. I was asked to share the recipes on numerous occasions……………I have even come across men who made me mail the recipes to them, so their wives could recreate this tasty creation at home. So when we hosted a dinner two days back, I had this natural inclination to go for Paalappam and Stew and what followed was repetition of the history itself. They loved it so much! So I thought I will share my family recipe for Chicken Stew, which is stewed chicken in silky and creamy coconut milk, embellished with minimum spices and herbs. It’s amazing how such simple ingredients can turn a dish into pure elegance.
For pressure cooking:
- ½ kg chicken with bones, cubed and cleaned
- 5 Indian green chillies, chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- ¾- 1 tbsp garlic, thinly sliced
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper powder
- Salt to taste
- 1 large (golden) onion thinly sliced
- 8-10 Indian green chillies, split lengthwise
- 1 tsp ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 sprigs of curry leaves
- 1 medium size potato
- ½ tsp + ¼ tsp homemade masala powder/garam masala
- 1 ¾ to 2 cups of thin coconut milk
- ½ cup thick coconut milk
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- ¾ tbsp ghee
- 8-10 cashew nuts, split opened
- Marinate the chicken with all the ingredients specified under pressure cooking for 10 minutes and then pressure cook until chicken is well-done. I usually wait for 3-4 whistles.
- While chicken is cooking, wash the potato well and cube them into small chunks. Microwave or boil the potato with a pinch of salt and enough water, till it is cooked and when warm enough to touch, peel off the skin from the potato.
- Heat oil in a large saucepot, when chicken is done and cooled enough to open the pressure cooker. Add thinly sliced onion and cook till it begins to soften. Now add the green chillies and ginger and curry leaves and cook till onions are transparent. At this stage add the pressure cooked chicken, including the stock it produced while cooking as well as the boiled potato chunks and sprinkle ½ tsp homemade masala powder/garam masala. Stir gently to mix everything coated well and let the boiled potatoes suck up some chicken stock for 2 minutes. Mildly press on the potato chunks with the back of a wooden spoon, so it gets mashed partially still holding a firm shape. Pour thin coconut milk and bring to a boil and then simmer it for around 10-15 mts or until the sauce begins to thicken. Now add the thick coconut milk and sprinkle 1/4 tsp homemade masala powder/garam masala; in medium heat bring it to a boil and immediately reduce the heat, until it reaches a creamy and thick stew consistency. Just before turning off the stove, add rest of the curry leaves for the flavour and fragrance and stir well.
- In another shallow pan, heat ghee and roast the cashew till they begin to look golden. Pour the entire thing to the top of the dish. This dish gains its taste and flavour as it rests for a while, so please make sure that you cook this atleast 1 hour before serving.
- Goes best with Paalappam or white bread. Ideal with Chappathi as well.