Indians enjoy a very unique food culture. India holds a special place in the culinary map of the world. Authentic Indian Cuisines are varied according to the region, culture and tribe. External and internal influences have contributed to the development of Indian cuisine. Indian cooking and Indian recipes are as diverse as India with full of striking contrasts but the base preparations and ingredients remains the same for many. The British rule has influenced the food and food habits of us Indians. The Portuguese, Middle east and Afghanistan also have influenced to a major extent the carving of the domestic cuisines.
Kerala, the tiny South Indian state which lies at the tip, though small in size, have one of the most varied food habits and flavours which are authentic to this region. Though stew was originated in Ireland, may be due to the influence of the British, we have imbibed and developed our version of the stew. India is a land of curries. And every curry is paired with a style of bread or rice. Stew in our part is paired with different type of hoppers or white bread. For me, the combo of bread and stew urges in a bout of childhood memories. During my hostel days, we used to await Sundays and special occasions, the reason being the special breakfast served during this time. Mostly it used to be stew and bread. Sundays are the days when they used to serve potato stew with bread, which was yellow in color and the gravy used to be creamy with coconut milk. On special occasions it used to be mutton stew with bread. The taste still lingers in my mouth whenever I reminisce those days. Another memory used to be the weddings. It was customary to serve bread and beef/mutton stew for the breakfast on the day of wedding. In the wee hours of the morning, in our sleep, we used to inhale the aroma of the spices and the stew being cooked in the background. Those days, the houses were built in huge compounds or were farm houses. There was no hall or hotel culture. Outstanding cooks who did catering for weddings used to come equipped with right from matchbox to the mobile set up of hand washing facility. They used to come days ahead the wedding and start preparations right from there, as relatives, friends and neighbours start pouring in for a helping hand. The amount of fun and frolic we used to have was indescribable and the food nothing short of a heavenly bliss.
This recipe of the stew is my version of the dish. I make it different every time I go for this dish. I like to keep it simple as possible. Kerala style stews have lighter and thinner gravies. Often I simply add first and second extract of coconut milk and maintain a loose gravy. When I don’t cook in pressure cooker, my stew turns perfectly white in color. Seldom I make stew yellow in colour by adding turmeric. Often I add carrots and french beans in my stew along with some fried cashews. When I feel like having thick gravies stew, I add cashew paste or a combo of cashew and poppy seed paste. Once in a while I go for the option of mixing the flour to thicken the gravy. The tempering part is very dear to me. Shallots, cilantro, raisins, garam masala and pepper powders fried in ghee gives the much needed punch, aroma and flour to the stew. I just relish every bit of the minimal flavors which goes into the making of this stew along with the aromatic spices, which imparts the richness in this recipe.
N.B: I don’t like overpowering of the whole spices, so I’ve added the aromatic spices according to my taste. You can add in a couple of more if your heavy spiced person :))). Adding bay leaf is also another option.
Wash and drain the mutton chunks.
Slice onions, slit green chillies and chop cilantro
Heat a pressure with coconut oil. Add the whole spices and let it crackle. Add the onions, green chillies and curry leaves.
Add salt and saute till tender and pink.
Pop in the ginger garlic paste and saute till aromatic.
Throw in the mutton and fry in high heat for 5 minutes until all the masalas are well coated on the mutton.
Add the second extract of coconut and adjust the salt. Cook till tender or for 4 whistles.( 2 on high flame and 2 on low flame)
When the pressure is completely released, open and let it simmer.
Add the first extract or thick coconut milk which is mixed with the flour of your choice.
Adjust the salt and add the sugar. Reduce to low flame and allow it to simmer for sometime.
Heat a pan and add the ghee. Throw in the shallots and fry till slightly golden. Add in the raisins and fry again till it double in size and golden in color. Add the spice powders and cilantro and give a quick stir. Add to the stew.
Boil for couple of minutes and serve hot.