Monday, 16 June 2014

Moreish Mutton

Years went by; I gathered as much knowledge about food as possible. Yet, I couldn't quench my thirst for it. I always wanted to know more. Throughout my growing years, all I did was tried to learn more about cooking from my elders in the house who, according to me, are perfect ladies. My Paternal grandmother, my mother and my aunt, they were blessed with inborn knowledge of cooking good food. For me, good food meant food prepared by any of those three ladies. My mother’s beautiful potato and fish curry, Auntie’s (Borma) amazingly fragrant and lusciously thick and gloopy Yellow Split lentil along with the simplest of Fried potatoes and notably, my paternal grandmother’s perfectly spiced and succulent, melt in your mouth mutton curry. On festivals especially on uruka, she used to cook mutton using firewood. It gave a perfect smokiness and aroma to the curry. I would take a whiff and I would be transported to another world full of culinary pleasures.  I can still remember the delicious, mouth watering and soul satisfying smell that would drift through. It was simple home cooking but no matter how much I or anyone else in my house tried, we could not replicate it. For me, it is as beautiful a memory as any of my other childhood rendezvous.

As I grew up, I would salivate over the thought of getting to eat something similar to that. During my college days in Bangalore, my father visited me often and every time he did, we tried to replicate the dish. Hmmm !! I would say we never even went close to reproduce the same delightful and pleasurable curry that Grandma made.

I started trying to remember and gather as much information, in my head of course, about the curry as possible. Sometimes, I would sit with my room mate and discussed the various ingredients that could go into it. Alas! I dropped the idea and decided to make my version of Grandma’s Mutton Curry. Of course! without the smoky flavor and I named it Mutton Stew for I added few more ingredients to bring out the warmth that a stew has. 

Take about ½ kg of mutton, cleaned thoroughly and dusted with plain flour. Heat 2 tbsp of oil and cook the pieces of mutton on a high flame to give them some color. Once it’s brown, take it out and keep aside. Saute 1 ½ cup of onion with a pinch of salt in 4 tbsp oil and sweat it off completely. Add ½ cup of diced carrots, ½ inch cinnamon stick, and ¼ tsp of nutmeg, ½ tsp cumin powder, ½ tsp coriander, 1 tsp garam masala, ¼ tsp cardamom powder, 1 tsp red chili flakes, and ½ tsp of freshly ground pepper, 2 bay leaves, salt and turmeric. I use carrot to give the stew a beautiful sweetness. Throw the browned pieces in and cover, reduce the heat and let it simmer for at least 40 mins. Keep stirring in between and once the fat has separated and the pieces are cooked, you can add 1 cup of good chicken stock. Cover and let it come together for about 15 minutes. If you like it a little thick, just let it bubble away on high heat for sometime and you will be left with the consistency of your choice. Serve it piping hot with some crusty bread like baguette or with parantha or roti. Sometimes, I alter the recipe a bit and throw in thick cut potatoes to the stew. It makes the stew all the more appealing.

That was the most simplest of stews that I tried. Sometimes or rather most of the times, I prepare the Goat liver with spices and onions in a pan. This is between thick gravy and a pan fry but I would still like to call it my mother’s pan fried liver.

Take about ½ kg of liver. Chop them into cubes about ½ inch thick. If you are too squeamish, ask your butcher to do it. They do have a firm, neat hand and they will cut the offal according to your liking. I use a lot of onions for this recipe because it is the onion that gives it all the taste. This recipe is sweet, spicy and salty all at the same time. The union produces a much more yielding and soft liver and not elastic ones.

Use about 2 ½ cups of Onions and ¼ cup fine grated raw papaya. Heat the tbsp of oil and pop 1 tsp of whole cumin and 2 dried chilies in it and fry them. You want them to sweat and not to fry. When you add the onions to the oil, sprinkle a little salt over. Reduce the heat to low and allow few minutes for the onions to become translucent. Many people like to use tomatoes for this but I just go without it. If you like, you can add 1 cup of chopped de-seeded tomatoes. Dump the entire washed and cleaned liver straight into your pan and saute them on a high heat for about 2 minutes. Do not take your eyes off this now. Keep stirring and do not let it sit for even a second or else you will have a burnt after-taste. Now add 1 tsp cumin powder (preferably fresh), 1 tsp coriander powder, ½ tsp red chili powder, 1 tsp kasuri methi, 2 tsp garam masala, ½ tsp black pepper, ½ tsp cardamom seed powder, ½ tsp cinnamon powder, 2 tsp garlic paste, 1 tsp ginger paste, 3-4 chopped green chilies, 1 tsp turmeric, a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. The garam masala already contains few of the spices that I am using again but it is just to accentuate the flavor of the liver. I do add a pinch of sugar to almost all my recipes and this is just to bring out the flavor and saltiness of the liver. Fry the spices for a few minutes and by now a fragrance should be wafting through your kitchen. Cover it with a lid and let it release all its juices. Keep stirring after every 5 minutes. We do not need to this to stick to the bottom of the pan.

You will be able to see the fat separating in the pan and in another 10 minutes, you should check it doneness. I do it simply by eating a piece. I do check the seasoning in it. Without the proper amount of salt, even with all those spices it will taste absolutely bland. I do make another very quick onion salad to go with it. Slice some onions, chop green chilies into it and add a squeeze of lime. Drizzle some mustard oil and toss it gently. Season with salt and pepper and garnish it with a little chopped fresh coriander.

Serve hot as an accompaniment with your main dishes or as a starter with some beautiful fried bread.

There are a lot of benefits of eating mutton. For instance, it increases libido in both men and women. It’s a great source of vitamin B3 and Vitamin B12 and provides the body with zinc which is vital for healthy immune system, and wound healing. But of course there is a downside to eating mutton. People with high blood pressure and undesirable limits of cholesterol should completely stop eating this red meat. Also, it is not advisable for people with liver problems to eat mutton.

The liver too has its benefits and disadvantages. It is loaded with protein, iron and Vitamin A but on the other hand it is quite fatty due to which cholesterol levels can increase.

As Rick Stein says, good food begins at home. 

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