Malabar Vegetable Ishtu

Southern Indian Vegetable stew with coconut, curry leaves and black pepper

Malabar-veg-ishtu There is such a vast difference within in the various states based around the southern region of India. For instance the Malayalam speaking muslim community in Kerala reflects prominently in the cuisine of the north of this region. There are distinct cultural differences in Malabar cuisine as compared to Syrian Christians in Kerela. Thorans, moilees and fried fish dishes all eaten with appams or Vellayappams

Malabar cuisine is synonymous with their biryanis, Neichoru (fried rice), Puttus (steamed rice cakes) and also variations of pathiri a rice based pancake eaten with most curries. Stews infused with spices are cooked in most households and the common factor in all parts of Keralan cuisine is the use of coconut oil or coconut milk as part of their diet. One of my favourite dishes for this time of the year has got to be a Malabar mutton stew and my recipe is based on one that I was given by a dear friend from the region, infused with cinnamon, cloves and fresh ginger. Warming flavours for a pot of curry which is perfect served just with some Indian bread. I cook dosas often at home (mostly because they are really simple and wholesome!) but you can even opt for some rice along with the stew. This vegetarian version has a few more spices including coarse black pepper, chilli and of course coconut milk which gives it the creamy consistency and a delicious balance of flavour. You can also add some potato to this stew if you wish.




  1. Heat oil in a heavy bottom large sauce pan on medium heat. Add the cloves and cinnamon and fry for 3-5 seconds. Add the onions and fry for 8-9 minutes as they begin to soften. Now add the green chilli, ginger, half the curry leaves and turmeric powder. Stir well and fry for 40 seconds to mix the spices well. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry for 2 minutes as it begins to soften. Followed by the carrots and green beans. Stir well and fry for 2-3 minutes.


  2. At this stage add the cauliflower and fry for a further minute. Now add the water and season to taste. Simmer on a low heat with the lid on for 8-9 minutes until the vegetable have cooked. Add the coconut milk and simmer for a further 2 minutes. Now add the black pepper and remaining curry leaves. Serve warm garnished with coriander along with rice or bread of your choice.

  • Jane Wilkie

    I have just made this and it is absolutely sublime. Perfect for this time of the year to warm you up. Thank you for your fabulous recipes Maunika ….. Everyone I’ve tried has been a great success.

    • maunika

      Thank you Jane! So glad your enjoying them:)

  • Pieter C. Collee

    Dear Maunika,
    Your stew was super. I gave it a 10 !!
    Thank you ever so much.

  • Sally Hall

    Hi Maunika, thanks for this recipe which I shall try tomorrow for dinner. I have recently returned from my first visit to India and am hooked. I was in Chennai, Pondicherri and other small towns around Tamilnadu. The best food memories are idli and vaddai for breakfast, plus a huge lunch on a banana leaf with rice and a selection of wonderful curries and pickles. I hope to go back again but in the meantime have been practising my dhosas! Have a great and spicy Christmas and keep the recipes coming in 2015. Sally x

  • Manisha

    Just cooked this for dinner. Easy and delicious. Warming for autumn weather. Loved it!!

  • safwana sajeed

    Im making it today! ? Will upload pic in instaagram and tag u .. ☺️

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Thanks! Hope you enjoyed it x

      • safwana sajeed

        My family loved it! ☺️??

  • Gill Cina

    Where I live in the middle of rural France we cannot get curry leaves. Any ideas?

    • Maunika Gowardhan

      Try online on Amazon or spices of india. Or you can leave them out!

  • Katie Egervari
    • Maunika Gowardhan


    • Chandrima Chatterjee

      was it spicy? I want to make it for my parents but they are averse to spices these days.

      • Maunika Gowardhan

        You can omit the chilli and black pepper for a mild stew. Enjoy!


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