Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chicken Stew/Ishtu - Chicken cooked in mild yet spicy Coconut milk..!



Appam (Kerala Pancakes) and Chicken Stew are a match made in heaven..Any doubts?I am sure no Kerala Non vegetarians will have a second thought about it.Such is the fame of this combination.Same as Puttu-Kadala,Idli-Sambar,Porotta-beef curry,Appam-Mutta curry (yea..Appam is lil wayward ;)) etc etc.But this one combo has some serious star value owing to the aspect that it is prepared on Xmas/Easter mornings and has the image of a royal breakfast .After a long period of Nombu(fasting) and abstaining from Non-veg,this rich and thick stew paired with soft pillow-y’ and frilled appams just blows you out of this world.Well..even people like me who prefers only spicy non-veg dishes loves this one and all the credit goes to that rich and fresh coconut milk that goes into this curry..The dish is mild,yet can be made spicy and the flavors are quite subtle yet so piquant.

One of my readers and an avid cook,Sheny wanted me to post this recipe for her.Thanks to her I finally made this at home and am glad I did..Here is it,Sheny..:)





As about my experience with this goes,being a Hindu we never had the appam-kozhi stew Easter/Xmas’ mornings and If I remember correctly my mom never made a chicken stew..because we kids and my dad were always keen about the spicy ones and fried chicken and such.But she always used to make Beef stew..Omigosh..Thats the BEST ever..!!! When we were kids ,she used to send my bro every Sunday morning, to get beef from the shop close to our home.A small portion of it will be shaped into a hot n yum beef stew and rest of it will go for lunch's preparation..Beef curry/fry.Sunday mornings used to be the best then and we would just look forward to them..The aroma of whole spices dancing in ghee and the beef mingling with the fried onions and spices ,swimming in coconut milk used to knock me out of bed..And down there would be my mom ordering me to get a plate and wait by stove-side to catch hot -hot pristine white Appams with a soft mound on middle and lacy hole-filled crisp sides.Just tear a piece ,dig it into tat stew and pop it into mouth with a piece of soft meat.Ok ,I think that is what they call heaven..Sweet Jesus..I can kill now to just go back and have that..Well,I'll... soon..:)

So I have followed the same method with Chicken instead of beef.Feel free to use meat of your choice.As I told it can be made quite mild and hence will be a great choice to prepare for your Non-malalayali friends who cant digest our spice level,plus it will give them a taste of Kerala with all that coconut milk/oil and pepper/spices.If you want to make it spicy,just increase the number of green chillies and be liberal with crushed pepper.The heat will still be kind of subtle with that coconut know ,the type of where you don't feel an instant surge of spiciness but after a while a small burn in the back of you tongue..I love it..!






1 lbs Chicken/Beef/Mutton

1 inch Cinnamon stick+2 cloves+2 crushed cardamom pods+1 small Bay leaf+1 small star anise (whole spices can be crushed n added or added as such)

3 large garlic cloves+1 inch piece of ginger+5-6 hot green chillies ground to paste

1 Tbsp of crushed Black Peppercorns

A handful of Curry leaves

1 Big Onion sliced into thin layers

1 tomato cut into cubes

Carrot and Potatoes cut into small cubes(optional)

1 C thin coconut milk( Randam paal)

3/4-1 C Thick coconut milk (Onnam Pal)

1/2 tsp Garam Masala

Minced Cilantro(optional)


Coconut oil


The whole process can be done in a pressure cooker or a normal kadai/deep Skillet..Doing it in pressure cooker will save tons of time..especially if you have to prepare this for breakfast and you are in a hurry or such situations.I haven't tried it the other way,so cant comment about the taste difference or so. For the Kadai method,pressure cooking the chicken at first and then proceeding in kadai will help save time too.

In a Pressure cooker heat ghee+coconut oil and throw in all the whole spices.

When they are fragrant add the crushed pepper corns and curry leaves and fry for a while.Super-fragrant home..!

Now pop in the ginger-garlic-chilli paste and sauté till the raw smell goes.

Throw in the sliced onions and fry till a shade of brown.The more you fry ,better the taste.You can also fry the onions separately,keep aside and add at last when the chicken starts cooking through.This will be more tasty,but needs little more time and patience which I clearly lack!

When the onions are brown ,add the tomatoes and chicken and saute for sometime,till the chicken is opaque.

Grind coconut and extract 1st thick and 2nd thin coconut milk.If using frozen grated coconut,thaw and grind with some hot water.

Pour in the 2nd thin coconut milk,add veggies(if adding) and salt and pressure cook for a while.Be extremely careful not to over cook the chicken or veggie or onion..We need the bite of them,especially those onions in there.So you can safely resort to your kadai if you have a loose hand with your pressure cooker.

When the chicken is 3/4 th cooked,(here the chicken is tender so it doesn't have to even hit the first whistle),open up and mix and let it cook through for a while..This is my method to save it from over cooking.

When it is cooked ,reduce the heat to med-low and pour in the thick coconut milk and mix with a light hand.Always be careful with thick coconut milk.If over-played with,they can spoil your curry.

Let it heat up slowly till it gets frothy on sides.

Taste,adjust salt..add more cracked pepper and slit green chillies and mix.

Sprinkle the Garam Masala and and let it seep through.

Finally,sprinkle more fresh curry leaves,cilantro and a tsp or two of coconut oil and close to seal the flavor.

This tastes its real self and BEST the next day or after a minimum of 5-6 hours.So if you are planning to have it for Sunday breakfast,better make it on Saturday evening and keep it refrigerated.Also reheating can be tricky..As this has a lot of coconut milk,keep that in mind and take only the portion you are planning to have at a time and slowly heat without stirring on stove top or better in microwave.I have noticed that Microwave reheating cause less spoilage of curries.The best combo is as I said Palappam/Vellayappam/Idiyappam though it goes well with rice and Roti too..We had it with some Appam for dinner..But as I have no appachatti,my appam was flat and pathetic.Nevertheless it tasted awesome with that stew..:)

My Chicken stew is not too whitish,obviously due to the reduced amount of coconut milk.I was running out of coconut and couldn't get much of thick coconut milk for this.If you use real thick ones you will get that beautiful white stew.



Verdict : This is a piece of Kerala..One of the epitomes of its culinary tradition.. and none can go wrong with it, if made in the right way..Please keep in mind that if you don't use the original ingredients ,taste will diminish.For eg.: there is no replacement for that whole spices,black pepper,fresh coconut milk,coconut oil and curry leaves.They are the key and they make this dish...Do try and let me know..:)


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