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Kale, Coconut and Cabbage Stew

A sumptuous vegan main course especially hearty on a frosty winter’s night.

Kale, Coconut and Cabbage Stew
15 mins
Preparation Time
60 mins
Cooking Time
Serves 4

Hmmmn. On my garden forum I was asked if I’m a planner or a plunker. On Facebook I was asked if I planned my meals, or if they spontaneously happened. The Facebook friend suggested I go indulge in some jaggery while I thought that through.

I made myself some ginger, lemon and jaggery tea, and mulled these ideas over. Finally I wandered into the kitchen, my mind a blank, simply trusting that dinner would get itself made. Usually I’m more of a planner than a plunker, but tonight was time for an experiment. I’m glad I just let go and trusted, because otherwise this magnificent vegan stew would never have come into creation!

  • 1 ½ cups masoor dal (the small orange lentils)

    chunk of peeled fresh coconut (about 3 tablespoons)
    3 to 6 Thai chillies
    5 fresh garlic cloves
    1 ½ inch piece of ginger

    1 teaspoon cumin seed
    2 black cardamom
  • crushed with husks removed
    5 cloves
    ½ teaspoon ajwain seed
    1 teaspoon coriander seed
    1 flake mace
    1 cassia stick

    1 teaspoon turmeric powder
    1 teaspoon hot paprika powder

    1 tablespoon mustard oil
    ½ teaspoon dark mustard seed
    ½ teaspoon cumin seed
    10 curry leaves
    1 bay leaf

    1 red onion
  • diced
    1 bunch kale
  • rib removed and leaves torn to bits
    2 cups cubed red cabbage
    1 cup water (optional)
    1 teaspoon tamarind paste
    1 teaspoon salt
  • or to taste


First, add the dal to a medium size pot and wash the dal carefully, till the water is clear.  Fill the pot with water and put on high heat.  When it starts to boil, turn to simmer and let cook.  Scoop off and discard any foam that arises.  While the dal is simmering, break the coconut into smaller pieces and put in a blender, along with the chillies, garlic and ginger.  Buzz the ingredients in the blender to a chunky paste.  Set aside.
In the large pot you will be using to make this entire dish, add the cumin, black cardamom, cloves, ajwain, black cumin, cassia, coriander and mace.  Put on medium high heat and shake the pot while the dry spice mixture gently roasts.  As soon as a bit of smoke wafts up, and a fragrance fills the air, pluck out the cassia, but sweep the spices into a grinder, along with the turmeric and paprika.  Grind to a powder.  Set aside.
Pour the oil into the large pot, and put back the cassia stick, and turn heat to medium high.  Add a few mustard seeds, and when they splutter, add them all, along with the cumin seed, curry leaves and bay leaf.  Immediately add the onion, stirring, and lowering the heat to medium.  Let cook for a few minutes till the onion softens and gets a little browned.  
Grabbing that blender, scrape out the ground coconut mixture, and add to the cooking onion.  Let cook a few minutes, stirring, then add the ground spices.  Stir and cook for another two or three minutes.  Check on that dal.  It should be soft by now.  Pour it, liquid and all, into the big pot, adding the almond butter.  Stir carefully and add the kale.  If the mixture looks a bit dry, add about a cup of water to that blender, give it a final buzz, and add the water and coconut remnants to the pot.  Add the tamarind and salt the dish to taste, cover and cook for another ten minutes.  Add the cubed red cabbage, and cook till tender, about another fifteen minutes.  This dish is healthier when the kale and cabbage still have some of their colour, so make sure you serve this while they’re pretty!  
I served this with store bought lacha paranthas, which probably had some butter in them.  You can keep this dish 100 % vegan by serving it with rotis made with oil, or some fragrant basmati rice.  
An exact plan can be a wonderful support, but cooking creatively without a plan can yield some great results.  I’m thankful for those two questions—without them, I wouldn’t have come up with this great new vegan stew!