Tomato Coconut Stew. Remembering my grandmother through her favorite recipes.

by Sala @ Veggie Belly on March 18, 2014

My paternal grandmother passed away a year ago this month. My grandmother raised me, and taught me a great deal. In her memory, I will be posting a series of her favorite recipes. The first in the series is this tomato stew with coconut milk. My grandmother relished this dish, often eating it with steaming hot idlis for dinner.

I’ve already written a little about my grandmother and what an accomplished woman she was in this post. In this series, I will share more memories of her through her favorite recipes. My grandmother was far ahead of her times. She pursued higher education, a career and a public life – something very few Indian women did during her time. She was a PhD in philosophy and literature, a public speaker, author of many books and an educationalist. And she spent a life time championing womens’ education in India.

Not only was she a career woman, she also enjoyed hosting and entertaining guests in her home..

Tomato stew with coconut milk - one of my grandmother's favorites.

My grandmother playing with my iPhone on Pongal day 2013. This was the last picture taken of her.

Diwali, 2002

Getting ready for bedtime, 1982

My grandmother’s dinner parties were legendary and her hospitality impeccable. Although she never took an interest in cooking, she had a keen palate and a great love of hosting and feeding people. She would give her cook, Mariappan detailed instructions before the dinner parties. She would have the coconut trees in her lawn decorated with strings of light bulbs. She took care of every detail – the decoration, neatly folded napkins, extra large sized silver plates, polished cutlery, and a lovingly curated menu.

A typical menu made by the talented cook Mariappan would include tomato rasam and rice wafers for dipping, green pea rice scented with cumin, plump vegetable cutlets coated with golden bread crumbs, fried puris, fragrant garlicky cauliflower masala and delicate sweet polis made with lentils, cardamom and drenched in ghee. As a child, I looked forward to those balmy evenings when my grandmother would regale her guests, laughing, quoting poetry, and coaxing them to eat more. Nobody ever went home hungry after visiting my grandmothers house!

Even in her passing she found an opportunity to entertain people. Let me explain. Where I come from in India, it is customary to host a lunch in the honor of the deceased a few days after the funeral. My grandmother must have known intuitively that her death was near. So one week before her passing she wrote out the menu for the post funeral lunch, along with detailed instructions on how it should be served. Thats right, my grandmother made the menu and gave instructions for her own funeral lunch!

As per my grandmother’s wishes, my family organized a multi course lunch, with four desserts (she had quite the sweet tooth!) served on the largest, freshest banana leaves on the very same lawn where she had regally presided over dinner parties for fifty years. It was the best send off we could have given to a woman who was so passionate about food, people and life.

It is an honor to have been raised by a woman who was so intelligent, beautiful and exuberant. Her life was grand and her love was abundant. This post is the first in a series of recipes I will be posting as a tribute to my grandmother. These recipes have all been tried and tested over decades. Every single recipe I will be posting was a favorite of my grandmother’s. Each one brings back a flood of memories.

In creating these posts, I am filled with tremendous pride to have been part of this incredible woman’s life, and at the same time I am filled with great grief that she is no more.

 

Tomato Coconut Stew

serves about 4 as an accompaniment/curry

Ingredients
1 lb ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon oil
1/4th teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4th teaspoon urad dal
1 small onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
6 curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Method
1. Bring plenty of water to boil in a saucepan. Drop the tomatoes into the water. Let them boil till their skins blister, about 2 minutes. Then drain.
2. When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and discard the skins. Then puree the tomatoes without any water. Set aside.
3. Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add the urad dal, and mustard seeds.
4. When the mustard seeds pop, add the onion, garlic, curry leaves and cook for about 2 minutes.
5. Pour in the tomato puree, chili and turmeric powders, salt, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil.
6. Then reduce heat, and cook on medium-low heat, uncovered, till the sauce becomes thick. About 15 minutes.
7. Add the coconut milk, stir, and turn off heat.
8. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with roti, idlis, dosa, or neer dosa.

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Comments

comments

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meena March 18, 2014 at 6:42 am

Lovely Blog ! Your post made me nostalgic. Your Grandma is truly awesome. Pictures are beautiful . Love your blog

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2 shoba March 18, 2014 at 6:45 am

HI,

Just a great post, You wer so lucky to get moulded by such a great personality. Thanks for sharin wonderful recip, looking forward for more.

Thanks
shoba

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3 Stephanie March 18, 2014 at 8:29 am

What a beautiful tribute for a very inspiring woman. Thank you so much for sharing. Peace, Stephanie

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4 Joyti March 18, 2014 at 8:51 am

Your grandmother sounds like a magical lady. And she is very beautiful.

The soup sounds delicious. Such a nice tribute to her.

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5 Nitya March 18, 2014 at 4:42 pm

You are beautiful. Enough said.

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6 Shobana March 18, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Your grandmother sounds like an amazing woman and now I want her to be my grandmom too :) What a lovely childhood you must have had with her to guide you all along! Knowing little about her, I am not surprised at your love for adventure, food and life. And this curry happens to be my fav, though I don’t puree the tomato, but just chop chop it. Looking forward to reading more about this amazing lady.

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7 Susan March 18, 2014 at 8:13 pm

What a wonderful tribute to your beautiful grandmother. She sounds like a remarkable woman, and I can see her influence on you in so many ways. What better way to remember someone than sharing the recipes for the food they loved? Thank you.

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8 Meena Ravi Annamalai March 19, 2014 at 10:29 am

Sala, not only are you an artist with food but also with words! Your affection for your grandma is touching to behold. Hope you hold these affectionate memories for a long time to come. I am reminded of my relationship with my own grandma who was my favorite person in the whole world! Beautiful tribute.

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9 Nancy Rose Eisman March 19, 2014 at 11:55 am

Wonderful post and the recipe looks amazing. I love coconut milk + tomatoes. Thanks for sharing!

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10 Terry Covington March 19, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Two beautiful and inspirational women. I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for continuing to share your memories of your grandmother. Are any of her books still available? I have three daughters, and would like to share your grandmother’s books with them if possible.

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11 Radhika Vasanth March 19, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Sala, this is a very touching post and a great tribute to your grandma. The yesteryear pics made me nostalgic. May her soul rest in peace.

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12 Adeana March 20, 2014 at 5:49 am

I googled ‘urad dal’ and it looks like they are lentils. It seems strange to only add a quarter tsp of lentils. Is this right, or is it another ingredient? I live in Korea, but have a grocer that sells Indian products, but maybe need to know the English name (if there is one). Also, is there something i can substitute for the curry leaves?
Thanks- this looks delish!

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Sala @ Veggie Belly Reply:

You add urad dal to the oil for the crunch. So all you need is a quarter teaspoon. All Indian grocers will have urad dal. If you can’t find it, simply leave it out. There is no substitute for curry leaves unfortunately. So leave them out as well if you can’t find them. The recipe will still taste good without the urad dal and curry leaves.

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13 Rachel March 26, 2014 at 7:53 pm

What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing your Grandmother’s amazing life and one of her favorite recipes.

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14 Hari Chandana April 6, 2014 at 6:03 am

Lovely post.. a great write up on your grand mom.. Thanks for the recipe! :)

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15 Lakshmi Raj April 30, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Well to start with, the recipe is very much good. I loved it. The way in which it is explained makes it quiet easy and appealing too. And not to forget, you have an awesome and dynamic grandmom. I wish I too had one but I am not so lucky too see my grandmom. But I loved the way you and your grandmom are. I wish you stay same with her always.
The pictures are actually very good!! I have decided in trying the recipe and in this regard, I have ordered all the ingredients from an and I will try this recipe very soon. Thanks for it.

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