Spiced Vegetable Stew (Kerala Vegetable Stew)
Thank you December for the sugar-rush good times, now it's time to get back on the healthy New Years' Resolutions bandwagon.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it just so happens to also be my favourite. I tend to reach for the comfort of oats and fruits right after a large mug of warm lemon water with a dash of salt to kick start a working day. Why? Just because it's easy and in the morning rush, easy comes naturally.
So, following in that same vein, I decided to change things up a bit with a dash of spice, a cup of the good ol' coconut and a pinch of ease (yep, I went there...:P). This stew is one of my Kerala breakfast faves! I look forward to a breakfast that starts with appam and stew. You literally cannot go wrong in a day that starts with appam and stew! Appam is basically a pancake version of the vattayappam we made earlier. Instead of being steamed and garnished like our vattayappam/ mini steamed rice cakes, appam is made with a dollop of ghee or coconut oil in a pan. But it's not all that easy to make appams early morning during the rush to get to work. You've got to cook each fresh off the stove and, ideally, eat it there and then otherwise it loses its crispiness. I live for texture but ease won the battle and I decided rice for breakkie was the next best option. So, into the rice cooker the rice grains went.
Spiced Stew - The Morning Routine
You can put anything you really want in a stew. Traditionally, we put peas, carrots and potatoes - they tend to be the kitchen staple so put 'em in a pan and why not make a meal of it? Perfection for the lover of breakfast ease.
This beauty starts with the spices. Cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves (hey, alliteration!) along with a tablespoon of coconut oil go into a pressure cooker (a time-constrained cook's BEST friend). Low flame lets the spices stew and splutter and also gives me the time to clean, peel and roughly chop up the carrots and potatoes. But first, add the aromatics. I'd cut up the onions, garlic and ginger the night before (prepared like a baus!), and added that to the spice mix. Once the onions had softened up nicely, in went all the veggies and a 1/4 cup of frozen peas.
Did I mention this stew packs in the flavours? Well, it does! The flavour truly shines when the veggies have a proper toasty coconut aroma to it. So two tablespoons of coconut cream (thank god for coconut cream cartons amirite?!) along with a cup of water to cook the veggies does the trick. Any more coconut milk or cream into the pressure cooker, at this stage, will split the coconut milk. We eat with our eyes too, so not today split coconut milk, not today!
Now, place the lid on the pressure cooker, add the weight, on medium flame wait for 15 minutes or 3 whistles. Normally, two whistles would do fine, but to be sure the potatoes are thoroughly cooked, I erred on the side of caution and went for 3. Best part about the whistles, you can hear it from a distance. Perfect - time to tend to nature's call and brush my teeth. :D
PSA: With pressure cookers, as the name suggests, it cooks food using steam and the build up of pressure. So, although the whistle blows to let out steam (also a good way to gauge cooking time), you have to let it sit for ALL the steam to fully evaporate. Or, carefully, with a wooden spoon, release the weight to let the steam escape. Speaking from experience, PLEASE be careful!
Here's where the beauty of the pressure cooker comes in. As we need to give time for the steam to escape, this gives more than ample time to take a shower AND dry my hair. WINNING. A quick test to see if all the steam has escaped is to carefully lift the weight. No steam = time to open 'er up! The stew should still be warm and the potatoes nice and tender. Now, to really amp up the coconut flavour, in goes an additional 1/2 cup of coconut cream with a dash of water to stir it into the stew well. If you're using coconut milk, 3/4 cup will do nicely. Taste for salt, another quick stir, and ...
BREAKFAST IS SERVED! A proper start to the day AND I'm dressed on time. Call me Super Woman.
A 4L pressure cooker. We've been using our stainless steel Prestige one for years and the only thing we need to do is change out the washer (the rubber ring inside the rim) every few years once it wears out. Everything else *touch wood*, continues to be ace.
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1. In a 4L pressure cooker, heat the oil and add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and pepper. Let splutter.
2. Stir in the ginger, garlic, green chillies and onions. Once the onions become translucent, add in the chopped carrots, potatoes, green peas and, for added colour and flavour respectively, add the turmeric powder and curry leaves. Stir well. Now add the 2 tbsp coconut cream with 1 cup water. Cover the pressure cooker, add the weight, on medium heat wait for 3 whistles (approx. 15 minutes). Switch off the flame.
3. Once steam evaporates, to the semi-hot stew add the 3/4 cup coconut cream with water and stir.
4. Serve :)