Is-really-a-stew! (Ishtu Keralan stew/soup)

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I was in Kerala in October 2012 and it was a delight in more ways than I could ever begin to describe.

One of the reasons is of course that Keralan cuisine is at the top end of the eating experiences that India could offer you. Kerala is in some ways gourmet India, a land blessed with tropical fruits, vegetable and spices and the starting points of many trails of wealth and cultural influence. If you are a culture vulture, a foodie, and a seeker of genuine community spirit, serenity and natural diversity you should make some time to visit Keralan land.
The stew dish I am introducing today is not one I tried when in Kerala- when by the way I was delighted to wake up to savoury rice puddings with egg curry for breakfast.

I learned how to cook Istoo on my return to Wales and whilst reading Vijayan Kannampilly’s, Keralan Cookbook. It is very easy to make, it is light and nutritious, and below is my fish version of it, which I hope you enjoy.

Istoo ingredients for six

700gr white fish (skinless and bones) [1]
3-4 medium potatoes , cubed (3cm cubes)
100-150g finely chopped ginger
1-2 coarsely chopped medium onions
1 finely chopped chili pepper
1 stalk of fresh curry leaves or a handful of dried curry leaves
2-3 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
250-200g spinach
2-3 tins of coconut milk
Salt and pepper (about 1 tsp each)

Preparation

Place the potatoes, ginger, onions, chili in a deep pot and add enough boiling water to cover the ingredients.

Season and simmer until the potatoes are just soft.

Add the fish cubed in big chunks, and if the fish is not covered add some more boiling water.

Simmer for another 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked.

Stir in the coconut milk, add the coconut leaves and heat to a low simmer [2].

Option: add the washed spinach leaves to the stew as you do this.

Once the stew has reached its simmer turn the heat off.

Heat the coconut separately or other oil and pour it in.

Taste and season more if necessary before serving .

Notes

[1] You can find out about what fish you should consume to minimise your impact on our sees at the Marine Conservation Society’s website: http://www.goodfishguide.co.uk/. Look for alternatives to monkfish for this stew.

[2] You can add two of the coconut milk tins and some water for a thicker stew that is not as strong in coconut flavor. Or for a more soup-like version of the stew add some three tins of coconut milk and some more water.

photo (14)

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