My current state of employment (that being, the marketing and PR work I do is for free or for trade and, unfortunately, not for money) has necessitated a certain pattern to celebrating special occasions with friends and family. Chances are, I’m going to invite you over for a home-cooked meal. Spending an entire day dedicated to treating someone I love to a meal they will (hopefully) enjoy is one of the purest ways I know how to express love, affection, and gratitude.
My mom’s birthday was a dark day in 2015, so it was important to me to turn things around in 2016 by making her birthday as bright (literally) and celebratory as possible. She loves coconut and curry which inspired me to host a mildly Tropical Asia-themed evening complete with hot pink, turquoise and green place settings for the family, Keralan Vegetable Stew and a chocolate birthday cake made stuffed with a coconut macaroon-like gooey ring nestled in the center of the cake. (Like I said, the inspiration was Tropical Asia, the execution was what one can accomplish by visiting a small-town Target.)
As far as birthdays go, I’m usually of the mindset that I can splurge and splurge until I need to be rolled to bed to recover from all of the sugar, fat and alcohol. As my relationship with food has evolved to be more positive and less fear-based, this type of frenzied indulgence has lost its appeal. My mom has long been a shining example of clean eating and I wanted to make a dinner that balanced the indulgence of a birthday (the cake) with actual nutritional value (the stew).
Keralan Vegetable Stew is a simple curry dish that relies on turmeric (everyone’s favorite super-spice) and bay leaves to season the broth. The dish only takes about 40 minutes from prep to dining. Some vegetable curries require each vegetable to be cooked individually, this curry throws them all into one pot. It’s curry in a hurry for those with no tolerance for 27 ingredient meals that require a delicate hand. The original recipe from Food & Wine can be found online here.
I make minor adaptations to lower the fat and switch out some of the veggies. I found that the pearl onions get very soft and I found the texture unpleasant, so I don’t use them. We always have broccoli in our veggie drawer, so I threw that into the mix as well. My ingredient list is below, with adaptations in italics. Throw them into a Dutch oven on the stove, make some rice, and voila a warm, rich, vegetable-filled dinner that has you dreaming of sandy beaches half-way across the world.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely julienned peeled fresh ginger
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 jalapeno peppers, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 pound small broccoli florets
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock or broth
- 1 cup low-fat unsweetened coconut milk