Cookery Book Author, Culinary Historian and Independent Food Consultant and Trainer in Anglo-Indian Cuisine

April 29, 2008


The origins of “Stew” as a typical Anglo-Indian dish can be traced back to the advent of the Europeans in […]

The origins of “Stew” as a typical Anglo-Indian dish can be traced back to the advent of the Europeans in India, with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498 on the south-west coast of Kerala in search of Pepper (called Black Gold by them) and spices. These European invasions brought with them foods and ingredients such as Tomatoes, Potatoes, Green peppers, paprika, etc which were quickly assimilated in the cuisine of India. These ingredients are synonymous with Indian food today. However it was the British, who left an indelible mark on Indian Cuisine. The Cuisine they left behind was a result of reinventing and reinterpreting the old quintessentially western cuisine by assimilating and amalgamating ingredients and cooking techniques from all over the Indian sub-continent. Thus a completely new contemporary cuisine came into existence making it truly “Anglo” and “Indian” in nature, which was neither too bland nor too spicy, but with a distinctive flavour of its own, comfortably straddling both cultures. It became a direct reflection of the multi-cultural and hybrid heritage of the new colonial population.

This new cuisine is often called “Club food,” referring to the food served even today in country clubs throughout India. Stews, Bakes, Sandwiches and white bread are a legacy of the British, and Indians have taken these to new heights, making them part of their daily cuisine.

While the Portuguese left us their Vinha de Ahlos or our very own Vindaloo, it was the British who left behind their very appetizing Stew. Stews are thick, meaty soups that are usually served as a main course. I’m sure that many will agree, there’s nothing more comforting on a winter evening than a delicious bowl of stew. Stew is comfort food, the perfect meal to gather the family around the table. A good stew mixes different flavors that soak into the meat through slow cooking. Filled with lots of vegetables, it’s an easy one pot meal. Ingredients in a stew can include any combination of vegetables such as potatoes, beans carrots, peas, cabbage, capsicums, tomatoes, etc, combined with any meat, poultry, sea food, pork etc., depending on personal preference. While water can be used to cook the stew, any stock can also be used as also a dash of wine. Seasonings and flavourings such as green chillies, spices, onions, peppers and thickening agents such as flour or cornstarch are used.

Stews are typically cooked at a relatively low temperature i.e. simmered, not boiled, to allow all the flavors to merge with each other. The earthy flavours of vegetables combine with the meat stock and spices to give out an enticing aroma while cooking. However, Beef stew is best made in a pressure cooker since the meat and vegetables would be cooked to perfection

This hearty, healthy one-pot meal can be eaten by itself or served with bread or rice. Perfection. A Stew is not only filling, but also low in calories, the fat content is remarkably low, since by trimming the meat the fat is further reduced. It is also an ideal way to get children to eat vegetables, and no vitamins are lost by throwing away the water. The great thing about stews is that they can be tailored to suit your family’s personal tastes and preferences. Don’t like carrots? Leave them out. Have a passion for potatoes? Double up on it. Want to add some wine? Add a dash. More spicy? Add a little more pepper or green chillies. So get adventurous with the flavours and spices. Coconut paste makes lamb stew even more delicious. Try the recipe below, then invent your own.

Anglo-Indian Meat and Vegetable Stew

Serves 6 Preparation Time approx 1 hour


1 kg Beef or Mutton / Lamb cut into cubes

2 tablespoons oil

2 onions sliced finely

1 Bay leaf

4 or 5 cloves

6 or 8 peppercorns

3 cardamoms

2 pieces cinnamon

1 teaspoon garlic paste

1 teaspoon ginger paste

2 teaspoons flour or cornstarch

2 tomatoes chopped or pureed

2 carrots peeled and cut into pieces

2 potatoes peeled and cut into cubes

1 cup cauliflower florets

½ cup beans cut into 1 inch pieces

3 green chillies slit

2 tablespoons coconut paste (optional)

Salt to taste.

Heat the oil in a pressure cooker or suitable pan. Add all the whole spices and fry lightly. Add the onions and fry till golden brown. Add the ginger paste, garlic paste and green chillies and fry for a few minutes. Add the tomato and fry till the oil separates. Now add the meat and stir fry for 5 more minutes. Next add the cut vegetables, coconut paste, salt and sufficient water and cook on high heat for 10 minutes. Release the steam and open the pressure cooker. Now add the flour / cornstarch mixed with a little water and mix well. Simmer for a few more minutes. Serve hot with Rice or bread

Article written by Bridget White-Kumar
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