I was excitedly visiting the home of a friend, Luz Ariztia, to take picture of it for an article I will write very soon . Josephine, our housekeeper , meanwhile was cooking away. I returned in the afternoon to find she was about to cook a chicken stew – her mother-in-law style. And any time she says it is something from her ma-in-law, I get intrigued. So I brought down my camera and piece of paper to record her cooking.
Josephine’s mother-in-law with her Kerala , Goa and Christian missionary influence had her own version of the western stew which Josephine now cooks. It is called not ‘stew’ but, in good Indian style, ‘Shtoo’ or ‘Ishtoo’ . Mind you, in India there are different versions of the ‘Shtoo’ . My Irish friends will be amazed to learn that we have our own version of the Irish stew as well(my mother used to cook it and we loved it!)- no doubt brought to India by the many Irish who served in the British army in colonial India and the Irish missionaries of which we also had many !
10 chicken legs or thighs ( Indian curries are always better with bone-in meats because the juice from the bones adds a lot of richness to the gravy, but if you find it a hassle to eat such meat, you can certainly use boneless chicken leg or breast meat), 1 large onion (grated), 1 tbsp ginger and 1 tbsp garlic (grind with a little water to a paste– you can grate both, if grinding is a hassle), 2 medium carrot, 1 white Indian radish ( we didn’t have it so Josephine added 12 pieces of small, red salad radish–very pretty — turnips will also be alright), 2 white potatoes. We added 1/2 a swede as well. All vegetables cut into large pieces.
2 cups coconut milk ( a 450 lt tin is perfect),1 tbsp dessicated coconut and 1 tbsp poppy seeds -ground to a paste with a little water(optional but it gives a very nice thickness and texture to the gravy), 2 bay leaves, 4 pods green cardamom, 1, 1 inch stick cinnamon, 3 cloves, juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt to taste, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp chilli powder or to taste( we love it but you can leave it out)
Heat a kadhai (this is an obligatory Indian utensil–it is basically a thick walled wok–if you don’t have one- just a wok or deep saucepan will do).Add 3 tbsp sunflower oil or olive oil or any other oil you are happy with. Heat till almost smoking.
Add bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves (move away or cover lightly but immediately with a lid- something can splutter !).
Wait a second and add the grated onion. Fry till lightly browned. Add ginger-garlic paste- continue to stir and fry until light brown,again.(see the colour below).
Add chicken pieces. Stir.
Add all vegetables.Stir. Add salt, chilli powder, poppy seed, coconut paste. Stir. Add coconut milk . Cover and simmer till everything is cooked.
Remove from heat and add lemon juice and sugar. Scatter coriander leaves or parsley and green chillies(or not) for more colour.
Serve hot with plain boiled rice.