There are probably as many recipes for this in Kerala as there are families. Locally called “eshtew”—a charming mispronunciation of the English word—it is generally eaten with appam (rice pancakes), idi appam (rice noodles), or plain rice. There are many ingredients involved, but the dish cooks quite quickly.

    SERVES 3–4

    • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
    • Seeds from 5 cardamom pods
    • 4 cloves
    • A 1-inch piece of cinnamon stick
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
    • ½ teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds
    • 1 dried hot red chili
    • 15 or so fresh curry leaves, lightly crushed in your hand
    • 2 medium shallots, peeled and chopped
    • 2 fresh, hot green chilies, slit in half lengthwise
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into fine slivers
    • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
    • 1 medium potato, cut into ¾ inch dice
    • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
    • 1½ cups cauliflower florets of medium size
    • 1 cup green beans (round or flat), cut into ¾ inch pieces
    • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into ¾ inch dice or rounds
    • ¾ cup peas, defrosted if frozen
    • A 14-oz can coconut milk, well shaken
    • 1 teaspoon vinegar (rice vinegar is ideal, but white wine or red wine vinegar is fine)

    1. Put the peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf into a grinder and grind to a powder.

    2. Put the oil in a wok or frying pan and set it over medium-high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, a matter of seconds later, add the red chili, then, a few seconds later, the curry leaves (take care, as these will splutter). Stir once and add the shallots, green chilies, and garlic. Stir for about 2 minutes, then add the ginger. Stir once or twice and add the potatoes. Stir a few times and add 1 cup water and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and cook gently for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are almost done.

    3. Add the cauliflower, green beans, carrots, and peas, followed by the ground spices and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Pour in just enough water to cover the vegetables, then stir and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and cook for about 6–8 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

    4. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Stir in the vinegar and turn off the heat. Taste for salt, adding more if needed.