It would be fitting to say that I discovered a lot of South India on my plate once I moved to Bangalore with my sister. As an Andhrite, typical meals were served to us mostly during festivals, apart from the regular everyday fare like rasam or sambhar. Thanks to my mother who was brought up in MP, we got best of both worlds – North and South India.
But when I moved to Bangalore, I started falling in love with the simplicity and complexity of South Indian food. Udupi food became my favourite with just the varieties of dosas they would bring to the table and then my sister introduced me to her favourite – Vellappam and Stew. Fast forward to 3 years from that time, and I was being served home-made vellappam-stew by my mother-in-law. Little did I know way back in 2009, that Kerala food would soon become a homely affair!
One of our friends describes vellappam quite aptly – a bowl shaped dosa with thick idli in between! My mother-in-law is one of the best cooks I’ve come across, she has a Midas Touch when it comes to food and boy there was no way I could match up to that. But learning never stops and hence I slowly dived into recipes from this state. While the batter of vellappam was simple to make, it involved preparation ahead. What caught my attention was the potato stew which is so delicious and much more easier to make. That was a relief and thankfully, I mastered the art of a near-perfect potato stew; while vellappam still varies sometimes.
And so here it is, the simplest of potato stews that you can cook up in a jiffy, literally:
5-6 medium sized potatoes, roughly chopped
2 medium sized onions, thinly sliced or roughly chopped (depends on preference)
1-2 tbsp chopped ginger (an important ingredient)
Slit green chillies, as per preferred spiciness
Coconut milk – I use Maggi coconut milk powder
1-2 tsp crushed black pepper (you can add more or less depending on preference, but pepper plays an important role in the stew)
1 tsp mustard seeds
A handful of curry leaves
1-2 tbsp coconut oil (preferably) or any other normal oil.
In a pressure cooker, take the potatoes, onions, chopped ginger, green chillies and water – about an inch more than after vegetables are covered. Cook this mixture for 3-4 whistles, so that potatoes can be mashed easily later.
Let the pressure release by itself.
Meanwhile, read the instructions on the coconut milk packet and prepare the thick version of milk, about 1/2 to 3/4th cup only (since we already have water in the cooker).
Open the cooker and mash the potatoes roughly. Put this back on the flame on simmer, add pepper powder and coconut milk.
At this stage, if you feel the stew requires more water, add it.
Stir to mix everything well and bring to one boil on a low flame.
Add salt, check for the need to add more pepper powder and turn off the flame.
Heat oil in a separate, deep bottomed pan. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter; add curry leaves and turn off the flame.
Spread this seasoning over the stew and close the lid for the aroma to be infused.
Till I share the recipe of vellappam, savour these with dosas!