October 30, 2018
Fall in Houston often reminds me of the late monsoon season off the southern coast of India — the sweltering heat tapers off, with the occasional sprinkle or shower. Kerala, a state on the ancient Silk Route, is on the southwestern Malabar Coast of India. The original birthplace of black pepper, it is also known as the “land of spices.” Since 3000 BCE, traders from the Middle East and far-away lands including Venice, Lisbon and Amsterdam traded black pepper, cloves and cardamom via ports in Kerala. If you were to journey to Kerala today, the best way to enjoy its lush beauty is to rent a fully staffed houseboat to take you up and down the state’s beautiful backwaters. The boats usually come equipped with a kitchen and your own private cook, who utilizes the local bounty at mealtimes. If only we had similar houseboats in Galveston … The fragrant coconut stews of Kerala are especially transporting and legendary — and we can create the same flavors in Houston with seasonal local vegetables.
makes 5 to 6 cups
4 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
8 to 10 curry leaves
2 cups minced onions
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 hot green chili, minced (serrano, for example)
2 cups carrots, peeled and cubed into 1-inch pieces
2 cups cauliflower florets
3 cups chayote squash, cubed into 1-inch pieces
One 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro for garnish
In a Dutch oven or a stockpot with a lid, heat the coconut oil and pop the mustard seeds. Then, add the curry leaves.
Quickly add the onions, ginger, and green chili. Cook on medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes until the onions are soft, translucent and light golden in color.
Stir in the carrots, cauliflower, and squash, cover the stockpot and cook on low heat until they are cooked through, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. The vegetables should be fork-tender yet firm and holding their shape.
Add the coconut milk and salt and bring the stew to a boil. Immediately lower the heat and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.Turn the heat off and let the stew rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve with white rice cooked with turmeric.
Feel free to substitute vegetables for the stew. Don’t use ones with high water content. Potatoes, butternut squash, green beans, and zucchini work well.
To turn this into a seafood stew, add 6 to 8 ounces of fish (cut into 1-inch pieces) or shrimp 2 to 3 minutes before turning the heat off.
Lemony-pine-fragrant curry leaves are used to flavor foods all over India. The curry leaf tree is a tropical yet hardy perennial that does very well in Houston climate, so consider getting a plant.
Sprinkle chili powder on top at the end for added heat.
December 02, 2022