Wedding Stew

Lagan Nu Istu

This stew is often found on festive menus, served as a course on its own, or as the vegetable component of an everyday meal. The vegetables traditionally used are potatoes, sweet potatoes, elephant’s foot yams, carrots, peas, and sometimes cherry tomatoes in a sweet-and-sour base of melted onions and tomato, like a Latin American sofrito. Some versions include a banana, but not my mother’s. She stresses that the vegetables should be cut into cubes the size of a child’s fingernail.

The traditional method for making this stew is to fry the vegetables separately, but I prefer to roast them. Use a combination of any root vegetables you like, leave out the Parsi spicing, use olive oil, and take the dish into that vague Mediterranean category. Should you ever find an elephant’s foot yam (Amorphophallus spp.) at an Indian shop, it’s worth a try, especially if you don’t have to buy the whole elephant-foot-size article. (In India, vegetable sellers cut off just as much as you need.) In a Parsi meal, serve lagan nu istu with katles or kavabs; in a non-Parsi meal, with grilled or roasted chicken, along with an assertive green vegetable such as amaranth greens or kale. For a very simple lunch, just lagan nu istu with Chapatis and a little yogurt or Creamy Panir would be perfect. Or eat it with Everyday Dal with rice.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups peeled and cubed waxy potatoes (such as Yukon Golds)
  • 2 cups peeled and cubed carrots
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (about) salt
  • 4 tablespoons (about) vegetable oil
  • 2 (or more green chiles, slit to the stem
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, pounded
  • 3 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Ginger-Garlic Paste
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or Indian chilly powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 to 3 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped or grated
  • ½ cup cane vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon or more jaggery or brown sugar
  • 1 to 2 cups young peas (frozen peas are all right in a pinch)

Method

  • Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Lay the sweet potatoes, waxy potatoes, and carrots out on a baking sheet. Salt them lightly and drizzle them with about 2 tablespoons of the oil, or mix them in a bowl with 2 tablespoons oil and about 1 teaspoon of the salt. Roast until golden, about 25 minutes.
  • While the vegetables are roasting, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil (or the same amount of ghee) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chiles and cumin and sizzle for a couple of minutes. Add the onions and let them soften over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the paste, cayenne, and turmeric and stir for about a minute. Add the tomatoes and let things stew until you get a thickish sauce; a few minutes should do it. Add the vinegar and jaggery and about ½ teaspoon of the salt. Taste. It should be hot, sweet, and sour.
  • Now add the roasted root vegetables, combine everything gently, and let the mixture stew, covered, until the potatoes and sweet potatoes are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add the peas at the very last moment. Check the balance of seasonings again before you serve the dish.
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