Mark Morris Shares His “Stone Soup” Kerala Vegetable Stew Recipe

March 6, 2024

In the folktale “Stone Soup,” members of a village each bring one ingredient to a simmering pot; it doesn’t matter what they bring, but they learn that the combination of items is more delicious than each one indivi­dually. That’s how Mark Morris thinks of this vegetable stew hailing from Kerala, a state in the south of India. “It’s a very, very common dish, which is why it doesn’t matter what goes in it,” says the choreographer and artistic director of Mark Morris Dance Group. “I’ve eaten it in many different places. Homemade, restaurant-made, me-made, it’s different all the time.” Morris, who travels to India every few years, learned to make this stew and other dishes by working alongside seasoned cooks there, both when attending an Ayurvedic retreat center in Kerala and when visiting friends at the Nrityagram Dance Village outside of Bengaluru, and then experimenting back home in New York City. “It’s always been sort of collaborative,” he says. “Not always sharing the same language, but sharing the same interest in delicious, delicious food.”

Morris became interested in cooking as a teenager, helping out his widowed mother. Years of traveling and touring have served to develop his passion. “I can do Indonesian, I can cook a Spanish meal, I can cook Italian food, French food…Chinese I’ve just been starting to get kind of good at,” says Morris. When asked if his approach to cooking has any similarities to his approach to choreography, he answers cheekily, “In that I’m very, very good, yes.” Morris adds that though cooking takes less time than making a dance, they both have ephemeral results. “You cook for hours or days, and then everyone eats it in five minutes,” says Morris. “Same with a dance. I work on it for years, and you’re done in 20 minutes. It’s both true and a joke at the same time.”

Photo by Laura Giannatempo, Courtesy Morris.

Yield: 6 servings

  • 5 tbsps canola oil or peanut oil
  • 6 whole cardamom pods (black or green)
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 chili peppers, split in half (jalapeño or Thai, with heat level to taste)
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 3 medium red onions or 5 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 6 cups any mixed vegetables, cut into about 3/4-inch chunks (Morris recommends any combination of sweet potatoes, eggplant, peas, long beans, pumpkin or squash of any kind, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, and bell peppers.)
  • 5 fresh curry leaves
  • 3 cups water
  • salt (to taste)
  • 3 cups unsweetened
    coconut milk
  • 1 tsp peppercorns (red, black, or white), crushed


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon, and stir. After approximately 30 seconds, add the chili peppers, ginger, and onions. Sauté, stirring, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the mixed vegetables, curry leaves, water, and a generous pinch of salt. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the vegetables are cooked through, about 15–20 minutes.
  3. Add the coconut milk and crushed peppercorns. Simmer on very low heat (to avoid curdling) for about 2 more minutes.
  4. Serve the stew with rice or papadam (an Indian flatbread made from bean flour).
Photo by Laura Giannatempo, Courtesy Morris.