Go slow

Stews are the ultimate in winter food, providing comfort and warmth, as well as instruction on how to live life. Aviva Dharmaraj shortlists three variations on the one-dish meal to help get you started on your own stew story

Kerala Ishtew

Said to be a derivation of the European stew, the Kerala Ishtew is comfort food at its most basic. The vegetarian version has potato cubes, carrots, beans and peas in a coconut milk-based gravy, fragrant with the flavours of curry leaves and whole spices, including star anise, green cardamom and cinnamon.

Pic/ Sayed Sameer Abedi

The non-vegetarian ishtew is made with either chicken or mutton. Traditional recipes often call for the use of coconut oil into which the whole spices can release their fragrance. The stew is best mopped up using bite-sized pieces of pillow-soft appams. If you're planning on making appams at home, the chef advises adding an extra cup of coconut milk to the batter for
soft appams.
Try it at: Spice Tree, 95 Hill Road, Bandra (W).
Call: 26405053
For: Rs 340 for Chicken; Rs 360 for Mutton

Burmese Khao Suey
Legend has it that the Khao Suey originated in Myanmar, but it was in Burma that it found its home. This one-dish meal traditionally stars beef or chicken in a thick coconut milk broth. Vegetarians can choose to have the meat in the dish substituted with chunks of tofu or paneer instead. The silkiness of the curry is contrasted with the crunch of a variety of accompaniments that typically include coarsely crushed peanuts, fried onions, fried garlic, crunchy spring onion greens and even boiled eggs.

Pic/ Sayed Sameer Abedi

Thick wedges of lime and chopped coriander add a flavour dimension to the gravy that is best enjoyed over a bed of rice noodles. A popular choice on the menu of Lemon Grass Cafe, the accompaniments are served here on a quarter plate, instead of individual bowls. You could, however, always make a special request for the additional crockery. Looking to recreate the recipe at home? The chef suggests soaking, not boiling, the rice-noodle strands in warm water for half an hour before serving. 
Try it at: Lemon Grass, Carlton Court, Turner Road, Bandra (W).
Call: 26429193
For: Rs 285 for Veg; Rs 325 for Chicken; Rs 365 for Prawns

Hungarian Goulash
The origin of the Goulash might be dubious, but there's no doubt that this dish is strictly for carnivores. The Hungarian Goulash is a stew of meat, noodles and vegetables, and is made with lamb, veal, beef or pork. The recipe calls for chunks of seasoned meat to be thrown into a pan that's sizzling with browned onions.

The meat is then cooked until brown, sprinkled with chilli flakes, after which water or stock is added. The dish is brought to a gentle simmer after which carrots and red or green peppers are added, followed by garlic and fresh herbs. Diced potatoes are chucked in soon after for its starchy content, which helps thicken the stew.

Salt and a generous splosh or two of white vinegar later, the Goulash is served alongside a type of soft egg noodle called Sp tzle that's native to the cuisine of Germany and Austria.

The Hungarian Goulash occupies pride of place on the Specials wall at Cafe Churchill. Generous bits of well-done beef in a rich brown sauce that might weigh on the doughy-side, but still bursts with flavour is served with a portion of fettuccine. The day we tried the dish, though, the ribbons of pasta appeared tired from what imagines must have been repeated tossings in olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes, garlic, celery and basil. The Hungarian Goulash still makes for a hearty meal, just make sure to request that your pasta is served al dente.
Try it at: Cafe Churchill, East West Court Building, opposite Cusrow Baug, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Colaba.
Call: 22042604 
For: Rs 330

Urulaikizhangu Saagu
(Potato Stew in Coconut Milk from Karnataka)

Recipe extracted with permission from Southern Flavours: The Best of
South Indian Cuisine by Chandra Padmanabhan;
Rs 595; Published by
Westland. Available at leading bookstores.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

7 to 8 medium-sized potatoes
1 cups grated fresh coconut
3 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
2 to 3 green chillies, finely chopped
" piece ginger, peeled and grated
4 medium-sized tomatoes, blanched, peeled
and finely chopped
tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt or to taste

Spice paste
1 tsp poppy seeds (khus-khus), powdered
3 to 4 dried red chillies
1 tbsp roasted Bengal gram (bhuna chana)
1 tbsp coriander seeds (dhania)
tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
" cinnamon stick

5 to 6 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1 tsp husked, split black gram (urad dal)
1 tsp husked, split Bengal gram (chana dal)
1 dried red chilli, halved
1 sprig curry leaves


2 to 3 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves

* Scrub potatoes and boil in their jackets, till tender. Peel and cut into " cubes.
* Mix coconut with 1 cups hot water. Process for 1 to 2 minutes in a blender.
* Pour liquid through a strainer lined with muslin cloth and press out coconut milk.
* Grind ingredients for spice paste to a fine consistency, gradually adding 2 to 3 tbsp water.
* Heat oil for tempering in a wok or frying pan. Add remaining ingredients for tempering, in the order given. Fry over moderate heat, till mustard seeds splutter.
* Add onions and saute for about 3 minutes, till golden.
* Add green chillies, ginger, tomatoes, turmeric powder and salt. Fry for about two minutes.
* Stir in 1 cup water, cover pan and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes.
* Mix in spice paste and potatoes. Simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes, till well blended.
* Pour in coconut milk and simmer over low heat for a few minutes.
* Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with idli, dosai, roti, paratha or puri.

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