you're reading...
Kerala Dishes, Sadya, South Indian Dishes, Vegetarian Dishes

Amma’s Istoo – Vineyards and A Lake

Looking back, I am amazed at how secure, unchanging and predictable my childhood  world was. No wave big or small was allowed to disturb the routine of our days. Only after being a parent, did I realise how much my parents must have worked to make it that way.

Studies were of prime importance but it was not all work and no play! Come Friday and we would all troop into the theatre to see the new movie in town; come holidays and we were treated by Achan to the wonderful experiences from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. From Nepal, where I remember “Kanchi re Kanchi re…..” from Hare Rama Hare Krishna being sung again and again ,staying in a boathouse in Kashmir on Dal Lake, to Hyderabad in the sylvan surroundings of the grape gardens,looking with wonder at the Taj Mahal in Agra, and a hundred other pleasant memories crowd my mind.

Back home from the holidays; that evening would be a busy one for Amma and her willing little helper, my sister. I the dreamer and my brother, the baby of the family would be left to ourselves.  An hour later, the heavenly aroma of Amma’s wonderful istoo would waft from the kitchen and we would soon have dinner with potato stew and bread. What better end to a marvellous vacation!


Potato Stew in Coconut Milk:

Istoo is the malayalee version of Stew. It is made with freshly extracted creamy coconut milk and subtly flavoured. It is eaten with Appam, Chapathi, Bread or Rice.

Serves: 4-5           Preparation Time-15 mins.                       CookTime-15 mins


  1. Potatoes – 3-medium-sized, cut into cubes
  2. Onion – 1-medium-sized, chopped
  3. Green Chillies – 3, slit
  4. Ginger – 1.5 inch, chopped finely
  5. Black Pepper Corn – 1/2 tsp, freshly ground (optional)
  6. *Thick Coconut Milk – 1 cup – first extract
  7. *Thin Coconut Milk – 2 cups – second extract
  8. Curry Leaves – 1 stalk
  9. Coconut Oil – 1 tsp (optional)
  10. Salt – to taste


  • In a heavy-bottomed pan, combine potatoes, onion, green chillies, ginger, pepper, salt and the thin coconut milk
  • Cook till the potatoes are very soft, but intact.
  • Add thick coconut milk and curry leaves.In low heat,when it starts simmering,off the stove.Allow to stand,covered,4-5 min.before serving. Goes well with almost anything – Appam,Chappathi,Bread,Rice. .


  • Another variation of this stew is the Mixed Vegetable Stew, which combines Potato with vegetables – carrot, beans, peas, cauliflower.
  • To thicken the stew, either mash the potatoes or add a tsp of cornflour diluted in a tbsp of water to the stew.
  • Add extra green chillies you like it spicier.
  •  To make the first extract (thick) of coconut milk, combine one cup of water to 1/2 a grated coconut. Blend it. Squeeze this mixture through a sieve. This is the first extract. To make the second extract, do the same with two cups of water.

Quick Snack: Combine one cup of thin beaten rice flakes (aval), half a cup of grated coconut,  quarter to half cup of sugar (depending on your sweet tooth) and a sprinkling of milk. Mix it well. Keep aside for 10 mins. Your mouth-watering dish, a Kerala snack called Aval Nanachathu, is ready. Easy to prepare and tasty too. 🙂


About Paddy

When I married and came to Bangalore, it was a real ‘Pensioners’ Paradise.’ The climate was as today’s generation would say – ‘Awesome’. It was cool and pleasant throughout the year. My parents cautioned me to keep warm and have given me the loveliest Kashmir shawls, which I treasure to this day. Since I could not distinguish between rice and dal, cooking was an uphill task. I had a cook from Kerala, but the cold weather did not suit her and in a month’s time, she went back. Looking back, I have come a long way now… Cooking for me has metamorphosed from a daily routine of making edible and nutritious food for my family to an exciting journey of creativity by experimenting with different flavors and ingredients. To me, food is not only for nourishment and sustenance. Its taste and flavors take us back to our good times too. Food is nostalgia and comfort. It brings home our culture. Food is a treat and nourishment for the soul too. I dedicate this blog to my parents, who instilled in me a strong sense of ethics and discipline, and whose affection, love and support gives me strength in this journey of life. I feel the need of today’s generation, who come away from their homes and crave for home cooked food. To you too, I dedicate this blog, where I will share the recipes that I have learnt and grown to love over the years.


6 thoughts on “Amma’s Istoo – Vineyards and A Lake

  1. Dear Padmini
    Very nostalgic and a fine tribute to your parents. Even a luke warm cook like me treasure family recipes handed down.

    It is written very touchingly with a natural flow to it. You will also make a good witer apart from being a great cook and an excelllent human being.


    Posted by Vatsala | January 21, 2012, 5:01 PM
  2. DEAR CHE,
    “ORMAKAL ODI KALIKKUVAN ETHI MUTTETHE CHAKKARA MAAVIN CHUVATTIL” ………..ISTOO.. A dish which was an integral part of our menu….hot chappathis, amma’s salad- ulliyum – thakkalikkayum- thayirum- garnished with oh -so- hot green chillies, the loyal,loving cook–dear old Paru Amma. Better stop now before I bore you by my cascading memories. Great work,CHE,great work and effort. Your Sis, Sarala

    Posted by tsaralapillai | January 21, 2012, 11:11 PM
  3. I read it somewhere that every dish, every recipe has a story behind it. You have been able to marvelously capture and present the dishes from your childhood and the memories behind them. It makes the recipe much more interesting, rich and memorable. Well done!!

    Posted by Kanika | January 24, 2012, 3:29 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: