Stew forms an integral part of the Kerala Christian Cuisine. The word ‘Stew’ essentially means to cook slowly in a liquid in a covered vessel. In a kerala stew, the liquid which is used to cook the stew is coconut milk. The meat/vegetables is first cooked in the most diluted form of coconut milk.
Just to give a background for those who do not know the process of extracting coconut milk, the coconut is first grated and the grated coconut is then ground in a mixer with very little water. The ground coconut is then squeezed and passed through a sieve to extract the thick coconut milk or what is called the “onnam paalu” (first milk). The coconut residue left is again ground with more water and the same process is repeated two to three times to get the second milk and third milk. The last extraction is the most dilute form and this is what is used first to cook the vegetables and meat in any preparation that uses coconut milk. The first extracted milk or the thickest milk is added at the end, after which you generally don’t let the gravy come to a rolling boil. As soon as the first set of bubbles start appearing, you turn off the heat.
Appam and Stew is a classic pairing in the Kerala cuisine. And stew can be vegetable stew, chicken stew or meat stew. The recipe I am sharing is of the chicken stew and I am making this with the ready to use coconut milk tetra packs that are easily available nowadays. The reason I am deviating from the traditional way of making stew is due to the fact that many times we tend to not try out the traditional recipes as we feel the process of making it is either too long or too complicated or both. So in such recipes, I try to substitute some of the traditional processes/ingredients with what is more readily available and suits our fast paced life!
Few things to keep in mind
- Oil: I have used coconut oil in this recipe. And that’s what any traditional recipe from the kerala cuisine will use. However, if you do not have coconut oil or do not like the taste, you can use any other regular unflavoured cooking oil too.
- Coconut Milk: I am using ready to use coconut milk that is available in the stores. However, you can extract the milk from fresh coconut and use that too in the recipe.
- Chicken – 250 gms, cut into medium size pieces (with bones or boneless)
- Peppercorn – 1/2 tsp
- Cinnamon – 1/2 inch stick
- Cardamom – 2 pieces
- Cloves – 3
- Garlic – 3, thinly sliced
- Ginger – 1/2 inch piece, sliced thin
- Curry leaves – a few
- Onion – 1 medium, sliced thin
- Green Chilli – 1, slit lengthwise
- Potato – 1 small, cut into cubes
- Carrot – 1 small, cut into cubes
- Cashews – 4-5, soaked in hot water and ground to a paste (optional)
- Coconut milk – 200 ml (Ready to use coconut milk)
- Salt – as per taste
- Pepper – as per taste
- Garam Masala Powder – 1/4 tsp
- Coconut Oil (Can replace with regular cooking oil if you don’t prefer coconut oil)
- For garnishing – a few small onions fried along with curry leaves
Step by Step Process
- Soak the cashews in a little bit of hot water and leave it aside for a while. This has to be ground to a fine paste and will be added to the gravy towards the end. This is an optional step though.
- In a sauce pan, add the cut potatoes and carrots and cover them with enough water. Add a little salt and bring it to a boil. Simmer it and keep it covered for 5 min and turn off the heat. Leave the pan covered for another 5 min and drain the water. Keep the potatoes and carrots aside. We just need them half cooked.
- In a kadai, add coconut oil. Once hot, add all the whole spices, followed by the sliced ginger, garlic and curry leaves. Fry till the ginger and garlic are fragrant, taking care not to burn the spices and the curry leaves.
- Next, add the onion and green chilli and saute till the onions are translucent. We do not want to brown the onions.
- To this now, add the chicken pieces and stir it well in the onions. Add the half-cooked potatoes and carrots to the kadai. Season with enough salt and pepper.
- Take 100ml of coconut milk and add about 1 cup of water to this and mix well. Add this to the kadai and stir well. (if you are using freshly extracted coconut milk, add the 2nd and 3rd milk at this stage)
- Cook this covered till the chicken pieces are cooked through.
- Adjust the salt and pepper and let it all come to a boil for a minute on high flame. Add the cashew paste, if using, to the gravy.
- Reduce the flame, and add the next 100ml of coconut milk. (if you are using freshly extracted coconut milk, add the 1st milk or the thick coconut milk at this stage)
- Add the garam masala and let the stew come to a single boil and then take it off heat.
- Garnish with fried onions and curry leaves.