TILL around 12 years ago, mutton was the only meat dish that I had ever tasted. The mutton that my mother cooked. Spicy, tangy, full of flavours and so tasty. And she hardly used any masala. Just a little salt, turmeric, red chilli powder and ginger-cumin paste and garam masala and she was sorted.
The mere mention of mutton transports me back to my home. I remember how the house would fill with the aroma of garam masala ground on the sil-batta (traditional stone grinder) when the led came off the pressure cooker.
Ma’s mutton curry would have a special fried rice cooked the Bengali way — yeah, a little sweet — for accompaniment. Together, they are still my best holiday food that tastes even better when shared with the entire family.
Here goes the mutton recipe.
Mutton: 1 kg
Onions: 1/2 kg
Tomatoes: 250 g
Ginger-cumin paste: 2 tablespoons
Chilli powder: 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder: 1/2 teaspoon
Salt: To taste
Potatoes: 4 (cut into halves)
Green chillies: 4-5
Mustard oil: 2-3 tablespoons
Bay leaf: 2-3
Whole garam masala: 2 teaspoons
Sugar: 1/2 teaspoon
Preparation: Marinate the mutton with salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder, bay leaves, one tablespoon of mustard oil and the ginger-cumin paste. Also mix in a little sliced onion and the tomatoes and set aside. Heat oil in a pressure cooker and add the sugar. Once it starts caramelising (be careful, it should not burn), add the rest of the sliced onions and green chillies. Fry till the onions are soft and then add the marinated mutton. once the juices dry up, add one cup of water and the potatoes and put the pressure cooker lid on. In the mean time, grind the whole garam masala with a little water and set aside. Turn off the heat after 2-3 whistles, depending on the size/quality of the mutton pieces. Open the lid after 10-15 minutes. If it’s very watery, turn on the gas again and cook it till you get the desired consistency. Add the ground garam masala before serving hot with fried or plain rice.
Photos: Sanghamitra Mazumdar
Last words: Bengali dishes taste best when cooked in mustard oil. A lot of people don’t like the pungent smell that sometimes refuse to go even from the cooked dishes. To counter this, ensure the oil is piping hot before anything goes into it. The sugar used in the dish is not for taste but colour. So, it has to go into the very hot oil as the first item. You can also use curd for marination but it compromises with the rich colour of the dish. But if you are using the chilli powder that ensures the colour, you can try curd as well. The dish in the photo was cooked by me and it looks quite pale when compared to what my mother cooks. This could be because she is quite generous with oil while I am miserly.