Carrying forward the tales on mutton this week are insights on the varieties of Sunday curry at both ends of my families. Nature of the curry has changed with seasons and reasons; each person acclaimed as a cook in the family has created their own recipe based on their taste and sensibility. From the homely jhol by mother-in-law, an aromatic kosha by baba, a rich spicy gravy by mashi to a soulful Sunday jhol by M – mutton has evolved in my lifespan as no other food. Let me guide you through a tour of this motley of the enigmatic mutton.
The homely jhol by mother-in-law – Relatively easy to cook than its richer versions, this jhol has often been underestimated. With its unpretentious appearance, the jhol has successfully eluded people about its character. It might look a tad bland, but it is not. At my in-laws’ place, this jhol by mothership is served in a little pressure cooker, the one in which it is cooked. We have tried to replicate the same measures of meat and condiments in the exact cooker, but it didn’t turn out the way mother-in-law makes it taste. Like home. Like a refute from meat dunked in puddles of oil at restaurants. If you look at her silhouette against the slightly dark kitchen, pored over the pressure cooker with left hand rested on her waist to balance, a steel khunti (spatula) in her right hand – you will realise that the jhol isn’t a result of careless work. It is the ultimate level of comfort on a sultry summer afternoon, served with wedges of lemon and extra green chillies on the side.
How to – For 500 g of meat, you will need at least 3 pola (6 T) oil. Slice 2 medium onions thickly. Grind or grate 7-8 pods of garlic and 2 inches of ginger. Cut 3 medium potatoes into halves and dice 1 tomato. Heat legit measure of mustard oil in a pressure cooker. Add the onions and fry. When they are translucent, add the meat and stir well. The onions will start to melt and mix with the meat. Add ginger, garlic and mix well. Add turmeric, red chilli, cumin and coriander powder (1 t each, chilli may vary). Splash a handful of water, mix the spices, add the potatoes, tomato and stir. Now add salt, a pinch of sugar, water and let everything boil. The meat and potatoes should be well immersed in water. Throw in a few slit green chillies, add 1 t garam masala powder, close the lid and let the cooker whistle for at least 3-4 times. Squeeze half a lemon into the jhol before serving onto steamed rice. It is a little heavy on ginger than garlic in my mother-in-law’s recipe, which makes the jhol organically smell of the meat and not the spices. While that is comforting for mutton lovers, others might find it a bit odorous.
The aromatic kosha by baba – Since baba has lost the habit of cooking mutton on Sundays (as referred to in The Legacy of Sunday Mutton), his treatment of the meat invariably turns it into a kosha fit for occasions like me and M visiting him, a Nabami afternoon during Durga Puja, or a random Sunday. Baba believes in a Mughlai preparation of mutton relying a little more on spices like nutmeg, mace, garam masala and brown fried onions for garnish that render a bit of sweetness. Such are his measures of water that when you open the pressure cooker before serving, there’s just enough of a smoky gravy for you to scoop up with plain/shahi parota, luchi or even a spoonful of pulao. This kosha is perfect for warm cosy dinners in winter or a princely lunch during Durga Puja when luchi/parota arrive guilt-free.
How to – Finely slice 1 large onion, fry till brown, strain the oil and set aside to dry. Heat any white oil (4-5 T for 500 g meat) in a pressure cooker, add whole garam masala (cinnamon, green cardamom, cloves, peppercorn), finely sliced onion (1 large) and fry. When the onions are nearly browned, add the meat, 7-8 pods of crushed garlic and fry. Make a paste of the spices (turmeric, red chilli, cumin powder, salt – 1 t each, 1 inch grated ginger) with 2 T water, add to the cooker and mix well. Keep stirring and mixing everything until the water dries, then add 2 T water. Repeat this process at least thrice. This will render a lovely brown hue to the mutton. Now add warm water, do not immerse the meat, keep the level down. Let it boil, add 1 t garam masala powder and 1 t crushed mace and nutmeg. Close the lid and let the cooker whistle at least 3-4 times. Garnish with the fried onions before serving with luchi/parota/pulao. The heat factor is low in this recipe, and the ground spices might be a little overbearing. That’s about the only flaw I could find.
The spicy curry by mashi – My aunt-in-law or M’s mashi is an excellent cook and has a lot of go-to recipes up her sleeve. She’s the one we call for quick fixes and goof ups or while cooking with minimum ingredients. She’s the one who cooks a finger-licking mutton curry for about 15 people on Bhaiphnota. With that kind of expertise in her skill set, she’s ought to be allowed a little extra oil for the curry. Mashi doesn’t believe in frugality when it comes to mutton. Looking at the recipe will let you know the reason. This is the sinful curry that will linger long after you’ve scrubbed the fat off your fingers. Albeit you can’t cook or eat this every Sunday, this is a special.
How to – Boil 500 g mutton with a little salt and turmeric in a pressure cooker. Strain the meat and keep the stock for later use. This curry is best with a few strips of fat clinging to the meat chunks. Indulge once in a while if you aren’t on strict watch by the doctors. Heat about 80-100 g of mustard oil for 500 g of meat. Add whole garam masala (cinnamon, green cardamom, cloves), 2 bay leaves, 2 dried red chillies into the oil, followed by 3 medium onions diced. Fry till light brown, add the meat and fry further. Add grated ginger (2 inches), grated garlic (10-12 pods), turmeric, red chilli powder (1 t each), salt, a pinch of sugar, 2 halved potatoes and 1 whole tomato diced. Mix everything well and keep stirring. Add 2 T water, stir till it dries from the wok. Repeat this process at least thrice. Add the stock, 1 t garam masala powder, transfer into a pressure cooker and close the lid till it lets out at least 4 whistles. Serve with steamed rice and wedges of lemon to cut into the heat. The mutton fat will melt into a layer over the curry when you serve, but that’s where the taste comes from, if you can handle the guilty pleasure.
The soulful Sunday jhol by M – This is what we consume every or on alternate Sundays. Skimming lessons from all three recipes sorted above, M has created his own and it’s a winner for us. The meat we buy is lean, with barely a thin sliver of fat for taste. The measure of oil in which he has to cook is parsimonious since I gingerly add it to the wok. We have tried to cut down on powdered spices, foron (tadka) of whole garam masala and up the garlic quotient instead. The jhol isn’t runny and is optimised to be had with both rice and roti. It took us years to find our own recipe though we had the calling for mutton since long. As I keep saying in jest, the day we lose interest in mutton, we’d leave for the Himalayas and practice penance since life would have lost its value.
How to – Heat 2 T mustard oil in a wok. Add 2 dried red chillies and 1 large onion sliced. Fry till the onions are light brown. Add 500 g of meat and fry well. Throw in grated ginger (1 inch) and crushed garlic (10 pods). Mix well and keep stirring till the meat almost clings to the wok. Add turmeric, red chilli, cumin powder (1 t each), a pinch of sugar, salt, 2 diced tomatoes and 3 halved potatoes. Splash a little water and mix till it dries up. Repeat the process at least thrice. Heat water in a pressure cooker, add 2-3 slit green chillies, mix and add the meat mixture. Stir everything well, let it boil, add 1 t garam masala powder, close the lid and let it whistle for at least 4-5 times. Serve with wedges of lemon on steamed rice.
Do try the recipes and let me know how they turned out 🙂 Hope you enjoy reading these, cooking and savouring the mutton as much as we do.