This mixed vegetable stew recipe with spices and coconut milk is popularly known as Ishtew and originates from Kerela, south India. This is a traditional recipe that is gluten free and vegan. It is full of flavour but is quite mellow. Recipes from south India are distinct from other parts of India. They are not overpowering and use simple ingredients and fresh curry leaves for flavour. (well mostly, unless its from the chettinad region )
Usually ishtew is eaten with appams (pancakes made from rice and coconut batter), or idli (made from rice and lentil batter)or dosas, but it is also delicious with a good sourdough bread. The spices are warming and comforting and the vegetables make it wholesome and hearty so it definitely falls into the comfort food category.
This vegetable stew recipe will certainly give you your five-a-day vegetable portions but in a very tasty way!
- Green beans
- Red onion
- Green chilli
- Fresh curry leaves
- Coconut milk
- Crushed black pepper
- Cinnamon stick
Even though there are quite a few ingredients here, this vegetable stew recipe is quite easy to make.
Begin by gathering and preparing the vegetables.
Wash and pat dry the vegetables.
Peel the carrots and turnip. Then cut them, along with the green beans, courgettes and cauliflower, into bite sized chunks similar to that shown in the ingredients photograph above. Juts make sure that the size of the vegetables are similar so that they all cook evenly at the same time.
Finely chop the red onion, garlic and ginger.
Remove the curry leaves from its stem if you are using. I invested in a curry leaf plant a couple of years ago. It is thriving on my window sill and makes such a wonderful addition to my dishes. Here in the UK, I purchased mine from the Citrus Centre. Please note, this is NOT an affiliate link.
Slit the green chillies down the centre but don't cut them in half.
Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the cinnamon stick and green chilli. Adding these first gives them thirty seconds or so to bloom and release their flavours.
Add the chopped onions and sauté until the onions are transparent, about five minutes.
Then add the ginger and garlic and continue to sauté for two to three minutes. Follow this with the curry leaves.
Next, add the vegetables and sauté. Add them one by one according to the relative time they take to cook. So first add the harder vegetables - the cauliflower and the carrots and sauté for four minutes.
Follow this with the turnips and courgettes and sauté for another four minutes
Pour in the water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are almost cooked. This will be about five minutes.
Add the green beans to the vegetable stew and simmer for a further two to three minutes.
At this point add the ground black pepper and salt to taste and continue to simmer until the green beans are tender.
Finally, pour in the coconut milk to the vegetable stew and bring back to a simmer. This will take about five minutes. Do not cook for longer than this as it will cause the coconut milk to split.
There you go! A delicious south Indian vegetable stew! Serve with dosa or plain rice.
How To Video
Here is a video guide to making Ishtew vegetable stew.
You can switch the vegetables to your preference. Just make sure you have 600 gms of vegetables in total. A bit more or less will not alter anything. You can even use frozen vegetables, just reduce the water by half since the vegetables are already cooked. This will reduce the cooking time as well.
Fresh coconut milk will result in a better flavour in this vegetable stew. Just make sure to reduce the water as the fresh coconut milk will have more water as you try to extract it.
You can use dried curry leaves for this recipe, it will alter the flavour a bit.
This vegetable stew recipe is a vegan version, however the original Ishtew made by the christians in Kerala was usually made with chicken. You can add meat or poultry if that's your preference. You can either add pre boiled chicken to the recipe, or add the chicken before the vegetables to insure it all gets cooked at the same time. If you choose to pre boil the chicken then save the stock and use that instead of water for more flavour.
I highly recommend using a digital scale for all recipes as its most accurate. However for this recipe, you can eye ball it.
The vegetable stew keeps well in the fridge for upto three days. When reheating, gently bring it to a simmer, rather than a boil. If you boil, the coconut milk will split.
This recipe doesn't freeze well, the coconut milk splits when reheated.
If you like the coconut flavour, you can take the flavour up a notch by using coconut oil to cook rather than olive or vegetable oil.
Accompany this Ishtew vegetable stew with my moong bean dosa.
- Digital scales
- 100 gms Cauliflower Cut into small florets
- 100 gms Carrots Cut to bite sized slices
- 150 gms Turnips Cut to bite sized slices
- 150 gms Courgettes Cut to bite sized slices
- 100 gms Green Beans Cut to bite sized pieces
- 100 gms Red onion Finely chopped
- 10 gms Garlic Finely chopped
- 10 gms Ginger finely chopped
- 2 nos Green chilli slit down the middle
- 1 nos Cinnamon stick whole
- ½ teaspoon Black pepper crushed
- 10–12 nos Fresh Curry leaves stripped from stem
- 500 ml Water
- 400 ml Coconut milk (thick)
- 1&½ tablespoon Olive Oil
- salt to taste
- Cut the cauliflower into small florets and all other vegetables into similar bite size pieces.
- Finely chop the red onions, garlic and ginger.
- Slit the green chilli down the center lengthwise, with the top still together.
- Wash and dry the curry leaves and remove from the stem.
- Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat and add the cinnamon and green chilli.
- Follow this with the chopped onions and sauté till translucent, approximately three minutes.
- Add the ginger and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.
- Add the curry leaves.
- Add the vegetables one by one and saute. I add them in the order of the time that it takes for them to cook. So add the cauliflower and carrots first and sauté for four minutes. Then add the turnips and courgette and continue to sauté for another four minutes.
- Pour in the water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are almost cooked. Then add the green beans and continue at a simmer for about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the black pepper powder and salt to taste.
- Continue to simmer until the green beans are tender.
- Pour in the thick coconut milk and simmer for no longer than five minutes. It will split if cooked any longer after adding the coconut milk.
- Serve with dosa or even plain rice.
In a professional kitchen, food hygiene and safety is a top priority and from the very beginning of training I practiced good habits and routines. Of course, it is also very, very important to practice good food hygiene and safety at home. Here are some fundamental practices to adopt in the kitchen.
- Wash your hands regularly while preparing, handling and cooking food
- Wipe down counter tops and high contact points regularly
- If you cook meat and fish, do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat. Use separate chopping boards for meat and fish. Wash your chopping boards immediately after use.
- Thoroughly cook food to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods (more than 2 hours)
- Store food correctly
For more details of food hygiene and safety in the home, visit the UK Government's Food Standards Agency webpage.