Sunday, September 29, 2013

Potato-Kadala stew (Ishtu) - Going Minimalistic on ingredients for a burst of flavors

I am not a movie buff, by that I mean I am not the kind of person that has the need to go catch a movie the day it is released and nor am I the kind of person that watches all/many movies. There are some genres I favor over others but my movie watching at best is far and few. With Netflix making streaming movies so easy and accessible, I don't even feel the urge to go to the crowded theatres any longer. My own family room, a pot of home made butter less popcorn, fruits on the side, some throws to keep me warm and cozy - best theater in the World :-). But then yesterday DD had to go watch a Spanish movie for a class credit and paired up with a classmate. We went to drop the girls off and since we didn't have anything else planned for the rest of the afternoon (wonder how that happened??), on a whim decided to go watch a movie ourselves. It was a toss between 'Enough Said' - a story of two middle aged divorced parents or 'Prisoners' - a dark thriller starring Hugh Jackman. Since the facial expression on BH's face was enough to understand that he had obviously written off 'Enough Said' as a sure fire chick flick, I decided to go with him to Prisoners as it promised Hugh Jackman on the big screen if nothing else :-).
The movie is well made, not so suspenseful as I kinda knew who the real culprit was (this is what comes of watching too many Law & Order episodes on Netflix I guess) but it is a movie that grows on you and makes you think or atleast ponder a little bit. There is no spoiler alert here but if you want, just google it and Wikipedia has the entire story typed out. It is rated R for violence and language so definitely not for younger kids, both HJ and Jake Gyllenhaal act well and get into the skin of their respective characters. I would watch Les Miserables any day over this movie if I wanted to catch a glimpse of HJ, the bonus being beautifully sung songs. Here is the story line - HJ's 5 year old daughter is kidnapped along with a friend from the neighborhood on Thanksgiving day and he believes that a man whom police have confirmed as not a suspect has the key to finding his daughter, abducts him, imprisons and tortures him. While I could empathize with the father that has lost his daughter, I couldn't condone his treatment to the other man especially since he knew all along what he was doing :-(. So how far do you go when you are pushed to the wall or options are limited? Is compromising on core values ok if that is the only way to get at where you want to be? Does the end always justify the means? I didn't think so, I realize I am being judgmental here, but something to ponder over. Well, so much for a fun Saturday evening.
But then we had a great Saturday brunch at home before the movie and a heavy one at that. Home made, silky smooth akki shavige with gasagase payasa and for a change some Kerala special stew instead of our usual lemon shavige or other savory options. There is a restaurant in the neighboring town which many of our friends kept giving glowing recommendations, and we kept putting off going there for a while now. It is quite a drive from home, not on the way to any place we generally go to, so it didn't get bumped in priority. Finally we made it a couple of weeks back with visiting family. Food is totally worth the drive and the wait. Menu is limited and quantity is just right, the best part of the experience was it felt like eating fresh Indian food after a long time. DD tried their Idiyappam and Kappa-Kadala stew and loved it. The mild flavors of this curry made her wipe her plate clean (and the fact that she was hungry and had not eaten in hours :-)). Since I have never tried my hands cooking Kappa and do not know how to select one (I welcome any tips on this from you guys as I do want to try this vegetable at home), I chose to try the same dish with potato replacing kappa and the end result was delicious and extremely flavorful.

This stew or Ishtu or Eshtu as it is called in Malayalam, is a very mild (no strong spices at all) but bursting with flavors curry and usually served with Idiyappam or Appam. If you are like me and love fresh ginger and curry leaves, this stew is for you. Very easy to make if you have some fresh coconut milk on hand (or go ahead and purchase a tin from your Indian or Thai store), gets done in a jiffy and stays with you a long time on a happy tummy. The important thing is to let cook the vegetables along with ginger and green chili. I found that mashing up/pounding part of the ginger to get the juices going helps concentrate the ginger flavor.
What do you need to make Potato-Kadala Ishtu?
1 cup cooked black chana/black chickpeas
1 cup cubed potatoes
1/2 cup chopped carrots (optional, I added to enhance the nutrition boost)
2 Tblsp onion - chopped small
1.5 inch piece fresh ginger
2-3 green chilies
1 inch piece cinnamon (broken in two)
2 cloves
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tsp oil (coconut oil for extra flavor or any other oil if you prefer)
1 cup coconut milk
12-15 curry leaves
How do you make Potato-Kadala Ishtu?
  • Soak black chick peas the previous night, rinse and cook until soft in pressure cooker with a pinch of salt.
  • Wash potatoes and carrots and chop them into similar sized cubes (bite size pieces work perfectly)
  • Clean and peel ginger, chop them into thin juliennes, mash half of them in a mortar and pestle to get the juices going.
  • Clean and slit green chilies vertically.
  • Heat a deep pan, add oil and add cinnamon and cloves. Let them sizzle for 30 seconds before adding chopped onions.
  • Mixing frequently, let the onions sweat and turn translucent, do not fry to make them crisp or change color.
  • Add the ginger (juliennes and the mashed), green chilies and half of the curry leaves. Mix them in the oil.
  • Add the chopped potatoes and carrots along with salt and a cup of water. Cover, reduce heat to medium and let cook for 8-10 minutes until the vegetables are fork tender.
  • Add the cooked black chick peas, add the coconut milk and let it come to a gentle boil.
  • Tear the remaining curry leaves roughly and add it in.
  • Switch off when the curry starts to boil, cover and set aside for 5-10 minutes for the flavors to mingle.
  • Serve warm with Idiyappam, appam, dosa or rotis. Yum!
  • I do not use coconut oil in my cooking so I just seasoned with my regular sun flower oil.
  • Coconut milk: Use fresh grated coconut and grind one cup of grating with 1.5 cups of water to get the milk. I used a store bought tin this time which worked well too.
  • I find that roughly tearing up curry leaves before you let them float in boiling liquids brings out their flavor better, try this trick when you throw in curry leaves into your curries, sambars etc.


NamsVeni Pothas said...

very nice dish with colorfull pictures. healthy and must be tasty also

kitchen queen said...

delicious tempting inviting stew.

Kannada Cuisine said...

Iiyappan and istew! Wow yummy! I have been watching movies like crazy these past few weeks therefore missed all action in the blogosphere :)

Priya Suresh said...

I tried ishtu just with potatoes, adding black channa sounds fantastic, will definitely make some soon.

Swati said...

I just made the stew and it is delicious