Vegetable Korma – Navratan Style (Vegan, Paleo)

Navratan Korma is a rich, creamy and highly delectable dish of vegetables, fruit, nuts and paneer.  It is very rich since butter/ghee, heavy cream and cashew nut paste is used to make the gravy. A blend of different spices is used in this curry along with several garnishes like nuts, seeds and herbs like mint and cilantro.  ‘Navratan’  or ‘Navratna’ means nine jewels and this dish having originated during the Mughal regime really is befitting for a king.! The nine jewels stand for a combination of nine different vegetables, fruits and nuts.

I had been wanting to make vegetable korma since the past few weeks. Now that I am on a paleo diet, I need to eat lots of vegetables to keep me satiated!  My favorite dish lately has been the Keralan Avial which is mixed vegetables in a coconut gravy.  Since this has plantains and other root vegetables like taro root, yam etc this really fills me up.!

Vegetable Korma in Kerala is made using coconut paste or coconut milk and that is what I wanted to make. However, I had some leftover pineapple and so I decided to add some pineapple too and make it spicy and sweet …kinda like ‘navratna korma’. As I began to make it, I thought of adding some swiss chard leaves too! Greens are not common in either vegetable or navratan korma but hey I thought it can’t go  wrong.  And hence this dish was born!  I used only five jewels – cauliflower, carrot, winter melon, swiss chard and pineapple. maybe I should call it panchratna (five jewels) korma 🙂 I decided to make my own spice blend for this curry adding fennel and cardamom along with other whole spices. I loved it very much and this is going to be another of my staple mixed vegetable paleo dishes for now. For a Paleo AIP version, you can still make this curry omitting all spices and using only cinnamon, star anise and cloves.

Vegetable Korma - Navratan Style (Paleo, Vegan)
Recipe type: Main course
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
Delectable curry of mixed vegetables cooked with an aromatic blend of spices and coated in creamy coconut milk sauce to be served over white rice.
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 4-6 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • ½ cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup cubed winter melon (or you can use any other vegetables like squash or zucchini etc)
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup swiss chard leaves, chopped roughly
  • ¼ tsp red chilli powder (optional)
  • 2 tsp spice blend (see recipe below)
  • 1 1 /2 cups thick coconut milk (fresh* or canned full fat)
  • ½ cup pineapple chopped
For Spice blend:
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 -3 green cardamoms, outer shell removed
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 4-5 black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 one inch long cinnamon stick
To make spice blend:
  1. First lightly roast the fennel seeds on a small heating pan for about 2 minutes on low heat. Then add the rest of the whole spices and heat stirring frequently for another minute. Transfer to a spice (coffee) grinder and blend till you get a fine powder. Place in an air tight container.
  2. In a large cooking pot, add the coconut oil and heat. When hot, add the onion,ginger and the curry leaves and sauce for 2-3 minutes. Then add the cauliflower and carrot pieces and stir fry for about 2 minutes. Then cover and cook for about 3-4 minutes or so until the vegetables are cooked. Then add the winter melon, salt and water and again cover and cook for about 4 minutes.
  3. Open the lid and add the spice blend, red chili powder and the swiss chard leaves. Stir to mix well.
  4. Next add the coconut milk and let cook for about 2 minutes till it comes to a boil. Turn heat off and add the pineapple pieces and mix well.
  5. Serve warm!
For making fresh coconut milk:
1cup of freshly grated coconut or fresh frozen grated coconut that has been thawed
1½ cups of warm water
Blend the coconut with 1 cup of the water and strain using a fine mesh sieve. Add the strained coconut meat back into the blender and blend with the rest of the water. Again strain milk thru the sieve. You should have about 1½ cups of milk.
For AIP version:
Omit all spices not permitted under AIP - use only star anise, cinnamon and cloves for spices

Steamed Yucca Coconut Cake (Kappa Puttu)

One of the reasons I find the Paleo diet not only ‘doable’ but in fact, enjoyable is due to the fact that it allows me to go back to my Keralan roots! And yes pun intended there. You see root vegetables are the only starches allowed in Paleo and in AIP (autoimmune protocol).  These root vegetables include sweet potatoes, yams, celeriac root, turnip root, horseradish root, yucca, plantains and taro root.  Sweet potatoes and yams I love love love.  So no issues there and then yucca, plantains and taro root (called as arabi in Hindi) being very common in Kerala cuisine, these are all comfort foods for me. Plus I have so many Keralan recipes to draw from – which gives me so many ideas for new ‘Paleo meals’ for myself.

Puttu or Pittu is a very staple Keralan breakfast food. It is also popular in srilanka and Tamil nadu. It is sort of a steamed cake made with rice flour and coconut.  It is really a very healthy and nutritious breakfast dish since it is steamed and is eaten with a curry so no sugar involved! It is funny that growing up I never liked Puttu!  Whenever amma made Puttu for breakfast, I would sulk. Puttu is usually eaten with Kadala (black gram) curry or some other lentil curry.  I totally hated that combination and would grudgingly eat the Puttu with some sugar sprinkled on top!  Fortunately or unfortunately, my husband nurtured the same ‘not so warm’ feelings for Puttu as I did and so after marriage we never made Puttu at home 🙂 Many years ago when my mom had visited us, she had got a small Puttu Kodam for me. Puttu Kodam is an utensil used to steam the Puttu and looks like this.  Since I had no desire at that time to make Puttu , I sent it back with her!

And now last month as I was talking with my aunt in Kerala about my Paleo diet and how I don’t eat any rice or any grains, she suggested that I try making Kappa Puttu i.e. Puttu made with Yucca (cassava or tapioca) and coconut. She suggested grating raw Yucca and then making the Puttu. However, that seemed too tedious for me and luckily I came across a recipe which used boiled yucca and rice flour.  I tried to use the same method to try making puttu using a ‘make shift’ steamer cum puttu maker assembled using a cooking pot and a large sieve that fit on top of the pot.  I skipped the rice flour and used coconut flour instead.

The Puttu came out fabulous and was really a breeze to make. I ate it with kozhuva curry (anchovy coconut curry).  You could also have with any other curry or just mixed with a ripe banana. Yum.!

In case you are not familiar with yucca or cassava, here’s a picture. It’s a but hard to cut but you need to chop them the same way you chop sweet potato or yams by giving it a hard whack and then breaking it apart using your hands. Peeling the skin is also easier when you use a similar technique. Once you have it cut into pieces, you can either steam them or cook it with some water and salt.  In this recipe, I am using boiled kappa and hence you need to do this step beforehand.

Steamed Yucca Coconut Cake (Kappa Puttu)
Recipe type: MAIN COURSE; Breakfast
Cuisine: Kerala
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
Yucca Puttu is a steamed cake made with yucca and coconut. This has a loose crumbly consistency and tastes wonderful with fish curry or any other spicy curry!
  • 1 cup boiled yucca(tapioca/cassava/kappa) pieces
  • ½ cup rice flour (or coconut flour for paleo version)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup freshly grated coconut (or fresh frozen grated coconut)
  • extra grated coconut for topping
  1. In a food processor, add the boiled kappa (yucca /cassava) pieces. Also add the flour (rice or coconut flour depending upon what you are using and the salt and pulse for a few seconds (10-15 secs)till you get a coarse, crumbly mixture. Do NOT over mix otherwise you will get a big lump.
  2. Now if you have a puttu maker, pack this mixture into the puttu maker mould and steam.
  3. If you do not have a puttu maker, heat water in a cooking pot (water should fill about ¼ of the pot). Place a steamer vessel (or a sieve) on top of this pot and place the kappa mixture as a thin layer on this steamer/sieve. See step wise pictures below. Cover this with a lid tightly to make sure no steam escapes. Steam cook for 7-8 minutes on medium heat. Turn heat off.
  4. Transfer the cooked puttu to a small bowl and press it with a spoon to make it compact. Turn this onto a plate to get a dome shaped puttu. Add freshly grated coconut on top. Serve warm with curry or a ripe banana!

For curry recipes to eat with Puttu, check out my following posts:

Kerala FISH CURRY fish curry with coconut milk post

Kerala Fish curry without coconut milk

BLACK GRAM CURRY kadala curry

Boiled kappa(yucca) pieces

Pulse kappa pieces with flour and coconut in the food processor/grinder

Mixture should look crumbly like this.

Place mixture on sieve

Place sieve on top on pot with boiling water

Cover pot and steam for 7-8 minutes.

Spicy Beef Stir fry with coconut (Kerala Style Beef )

Kerala style beef stir fryTo (eat) Beef or not (eat) Beef? A lot of us folks I am sure ponder about this question. Growing up beef was not cooked in our home. But we did eat some very delicious beef curry on a routine basis at our close family friends’ home. They were Kerala Christians and hence Beef was very common in their meals. Every year we would celebrate Christmas in their home and spicy beef stir fry was one of the specialties served. Chinnama aunty and John uncle would create a slew of dishes – beef, pork, chicken and fish with an unique blend of spices for each of the different meats. This was one treat that we kids waited for all year!  Plus when the six of us (three girls and three boys!) got together, time just flew by -there was a lot of chatting, good natured teasing (with some pillow fighting involved), movies, board games and lots and lots of jokes! Afternoon lunch session easily extended into evening tea and to dinner with the left overs.  Oh boy those were the days! I am so grateful to God that our families are still in touch and our respective spouses are all in tune too so that whenever we visit India now we still try to replicate those times. That’s what life is all about, isn’t it?

OK so back to the beef – is it healthy or not? Based on my research (I have been reading a lot of articles and books in the past year trying to reverse my rheumatoid arthritis by eating a healthy diet), it seems that grass-fed beef does not increase cholesterol and on the contrary it has beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that help to control inflammation. 100% grass-fed beef comes from cows who have grazed in pasture year-round rather than being fed a processed diet for much of their life. Grass feeding improves the quality of beef, and makes the beef richer in omega-3 fats, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and CLA (a beneficial fatty acid named conjugated linoleic acid1.

So now that I am on a Paleo diet, we regularly cook beef – of course we only get grass fed beef – Our local BJs club have started stocking grass fed beef.  This recipe is my attempt to replicate chinamma aunty’s tasty beef curry.

Beef OlathiyathuPressure cooking the meat makes it really tender and moist.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you could use a slow cooker, an instant pot or a regular cooking pot and cook the meat beforehand.Thinly sliced coconut slices and coconut oil add to the flavor of this dish.  In case you are getting intimidated wondering where you are going to get fresh coconut and then cut it open to get the slices, relax… you can get frozen coconut slices at any Indian grocers 🙂 This recipe does taste pretty close to hers although next time I visit india I will try to get the exact recipe from her. Aunty is the epitome of kindness!  She has been sending me quotes from the Bible regularly and has been praying for my health ever since she learnt about my RA. I am so grateful to her and to God for all such kind souls like her who give me courage and positivity everyday to deal with this disease.

Ending with a recent Bible quote that I received from her which I am in love with:

” Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord and not for people” Colossians 3:23 CEB




Spicy Beef Stir fry with coconut (Kerala Style Beef )
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Kerala
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Beef cooked in Indian spices and sautéed in coconut oil with curry leaves and coconut pieces; Makes a great Paleo meal served with salad on the side
Pressure cooking*(see note below) the meat:
  • 2 lbs Beef, Chuck roast (about 1 kg), cut into small bite size pieces
  • 1 tbsp, thinly sliced ginger
  • 6-8 whole black peppercorns
  • 4-6 whole cloves
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ½ cup thinly sliced fresh coconut pieces (fresh frozen coconut pieces)
  • ½ cup water
For sautéing:
  • 2 tbsp organic extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1½ large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 green chillies, slit lengthwise
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 6-8 fresh curry leaves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp freshly ground fennel powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala powder
  1. Wash the beef pieces and add them into a pressure cooker. Add all the ingredients under 'Pressure cooking the meat' to the pressure cooker, stir well to mix all the spices well and then close the cooker and cook on medium heat for 4-5 whistles. Turn heat off and keep aside to cool.
  2. In a large kadai (wok style pan), heat the coconut oil. Add the sliced onions to the oil. Stir for 2 minutes and then add the chopped garlic, green chillies and the curry leaves. Continue sautéing for another 4-5 minutes till the onions turn crispy. Add the salt and coriander powder and again stir for 1 more minute. Now open the cooker and add the cooked beef along with the stock into this pan. Add the fennel powder and the garam masala powder and continue to cook on low to medium heat for a 10-15 minutes until most of the water(stock) is evaporated and you get a thickish gravy with the oil separating out. Turn heat off and transfer to a serving dish. Serve hot as an appetizer or serve with rice and dal.
  1. If you don't have a pressure cooker you can use an instant pot or a regular cooking pot. For regular cooking, you will need to cook for about 30 minutes on slow heat until the meat is tender

Lamb Coconut Curry (Kerala Mutton Stew)

dsc_0329Mutton ‘Ishtew’ is a mildly spiced but rich mutton/lamb stew cooked in coconut milk and garnished often with cashew nuts and raisins.  This curry is really mildly spiced – The mutton pieces are slowly cooked with whole black peppers, cloves, cinnamon along with some fresh ginger and green chillies.  There is no red chili used in this curry at all and hence it has this pale color.  Turmeric is not usually added but by habit I added a pinch when I pressure cooked the meat.

Growing up I enjoyed this curry in our neighbor’s house often and especially on Christmas or Easter where aunty cooked this rich and yummy curry. Its perfect for kids since its not spicy and overpowering. The coconut milk makes it creamy and rich and the potatoes in the stew are so delicious since they soak up all the fat from the meat.

dsc_0335I thought of making this curry today since I am on a Paleo diet (PAI – Paleo autoimmune version) since last two weeks. It has been hard without any grains. I miss my rice and my potatoes even more. I also cannot have any red chillies. However since coconut and coconut milk are welcome in this diet , I thought of this curry.  I decided to use taro root instead of the potatoes.  I also avoided the cashew nuts and raisins this time because nuts are not included in the PAI diet. In any case, this stew ended up being a perfect meal for me 🙂 Do try this – of course you can use potatoes instead of taro root although the taro root also was so creamy and tasty in this stew.

Bringing this rich and creamy stew to Throwback Thursdays and also to Fiesta Friday where the co-hosts this week are Caroline @ Caroline’s Cooking and Tânia @ Iwanttobeacook

Lamb Coconut Curry (Kerala Mutton Stew)

  • Servings: Makes about 2-3 servings when served with rice or 2 servings as a meal
  • Time: 30 minutes preparation time and 15 minutes cooking time
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 lb of lamb/mutton pieces cut into small pieces (include bone pieces too)
  • whole spices – 4-6 whole black peppers, 2 bay leaves, 1 half inch piece of cinnamon stick, 4-5 cloves
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 medium size red onion sliced thinly
  • 2 medium taro root peeled and cubed (or potatoes, peeled and cubed)
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 green chillies, slit length wise
  • 1 cup coconut milk (fresh* or canned)
  • 4-6 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

Optional garnish: cashew nuts and raisins toasted in some coconut oil or ghee


In a pressure cooker, add the mutton pieces along with the whole spices , sea salt, turmeric (if adding) and water.  Pressure cook on medium heat for 3 whistles. Turn heat off and let cool. (Alternatively you can cook the meta in a large cooking pot with a lid on low heat slowly for 30 minutes or so)

To the same pressure cooker or cooking pot, add the taro root (or potatoes), onions, ginger and green chillies. Cover with lid (no whistle) and let cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes until the taro root (or potatoes) are well cooked. Open and add the coconut milk and let simmer for 1 minute. Add the curry leaves and coconut oil. Turn heat off.

*: To make fresh coconut milk

Take 3/4 cup of freshly grated coconut or frozen grated coconut that has been thawed and grind with 1 cup of warm water. Pass the ground mixture through a fine mesh sieve to get fresh coconut milk.



Tangy Bitter gourd curry (Paavakka Varutharachathu) and a round up of Onam Sadya recipes

kaipakka curryHappy Onam to all those who celebrate this festival which celebrates food! Onam sadya (feast) includes an array of delectable, comforting vegetarian dishes made from the choicest and freshest vegetables which include a variety of gourds, pumpkins, green beans, carrots, cabbage as well as starchy vegetables like taro root, elephant’s foot and green plantains.  Coconut is an essential ingredient in almost all the dishes and coconut oil is the main cooking medium imparting so much flavor that you remain licking your fingers! Yes, you have to eat the sadya, which is served on a banana leaf, with your hands to truly savor it.It is an unique gastronomical experience involving all the senses 🙂

We are so fortunate to be able to continue this tradition even in our US home – yes we get frozen plantain leaves from our local Asian grocers and they are of a pretty good quality too! Today I wanted to share this bitter gourd curry which I had been meaning to post for a while. This curry is served for sadya as a ‘thodu curry’ which means kind of like a chutney or pickle to relish on the side.  The bitterness of bitter gourd is tamed by the addition of tamarind and a pinch of jaggery. This time my dad who is visiting us made a version of this curry using kodampuli for me since I am avoiding tamarind. Believe me the curry tasted equally good even with the substitution.

So Happy Onam and Happy Feasting! Scroll below this recipe to see a round of all the sadya recipes that I have posted before.


Tangy Bitter gourd curry (Paavakka Varutharachathu)

  • Servings: Makes about 6-8 servings as a side dish
  • Time: about 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print


1medium sized bitter gourd (paavakka or karela) seeds removed and cut into thin rounds(reserve a few slices for garnish)
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt

Masala for grinding:
1/2 cup grated coconut (fresh or frozen that has been thawed)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red chilli pow
1 tbsp coriander pow

  • 1/2 cup warm water

1/4 med onion sliced thinly
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 green chili, chopped
3-4 curry leaves
1 dry red chilli
1/2 tsp salt

Tamarind pulp 2 tbsp (or 2 small pieces of tamarind/kodampuli soaked in 1/4 cup warm water)
1 cup water
1 tbsp jaggery pieces or grated


First cook the paavakka slices in the 1/2 cup water and 1/2 tsp salt for about 3-4 minutes so that they are just partially cooked (You can also cook in the microwave for 2 mins). Discard the water and strain and keep the paavakka slices aside.

Roast coconut for about 10-12 mins on low med heat until light brown – take care not to burn it. Grind this and all the other ingredients under masala into a paste using the 1/2 cup warm water. Keep this aside.

In a medium flat bottomed cooking pot, heat the coconut oil and the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, lower heat and add the onions, green chili, salt,red chili and curry leaves.  Add the paavakka slices and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium. Salute for another 2-3 minutes or so. Then add the ground paste and again state for another 2 minutes.

Finally add the tamarind pulp (or kodampuli) and jaggery and the extra water. Let simmer so that the jaggery is all dissolved and the curry thickens. Add additional water if needed but curry should be thick. Check for salt and add more if needed.

Lightly Fry the reserved pieces of paavakka in a small pan with little coconut oil and add to the top.

kaipakka curryAnd here’s the round up of all sadya recipes:

Parippu curry (Lentils in coconut milk)

Parippu Curry

Sambhaar (Lentils and vegetable curry)


Avial (Mixed vegetables in coconut sauce)


More Kootan (Yoghurt and coconut curry)

Moru Curry

Mathanga Erishery (Pumpkin and red beans curry)

matanga erissery

Cabbage thoran (Cabbage sautéed in coconut)


Kadala and kaaya thoran(Green plantain and black chickpeas)

Kootu curry (Kadala)

Inji Puli

Pulli Inji

Kumbalanga curry/Olan (Ash gourd in coconut milk)

Kumbalanga curry

Kumbalanga pachadi(Ash gourd in coconut and yoghurt sauce)

kumbalanga pachadi

Paalada Payasam (Rice noodle Pudding)

Paal ada Paayasam

Parippu payasam (Lentil Pudding)

Parippu Paayasam