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.