There is something oddly comforting about weekends..especially the winter weekends.I have a a strange habit though.I like to wake up early..really early on Saturdays,sometimes around 4 a.m. or so.Not that I go for a jog or anything like that.I get up and make a cup of masala chai.Then I sit on the couch nestling myself in a warm quilt..sipping on the tea and reading New York times on computer and in no time I fall asleep again.The best thing about saturday morning is sleeping on couch like a baby. You may feel that if I have to sleep again then why do I get up early in first place?Well, the thought of a long relaxed day ahead at 4 a.m. is overwhelming..at least for me
But Sundays are slightly different.Me and P really look forward to our Sunday lunches eagerly.In both of our families back home, Sundays were Mutton lunches..either a mutton biryani, mutton & potato curry, dry roasted mutton or mutton stews.
In India,shopping at supermarkets, though existent,is still not very popular.It is considered that the most fresh produce and spices are the ones sold at the weekly vegetable markets or by the vegetable vendor who goes from door to door.Similarly butcher shops are the best for buying meats. You can see long queues outside the butcher shops on weekends or before any big festival.I remember in my own family when my father or brother used to set out as early as 8a.m. to get mutton for Sunday meals!In some places even tokens are distributed and the waiting time can be as long as 1 hour or long.Well,Indians like to choose the kind and size meat pieces which go inside their preparations.That is possible only at butcher shops.
I would not say that getting mutton in Vegas is difficult.I have a big chinese super market which sells goat meat.The problem is that you are expected to buy the whole cut at once.I can’t dream of getting 6 lb mutton for 2 people and neither I have a deep freezer big enough for that.So whenever we lay our hands on a smaller cut which is around 3 lb or so, we are more than happy For us mutton stew is a hearty & wholesome food that satisfies the soul and reminds us of Sunday meals back home.Preparing a mutton stew is a good old-fashioned way of cooking meat over low heat along with lots of whole spices.It takes time which is worth the taste.The spices which go in along with onions are simple and no grinding or any high-flying technique is required.Infact, you can put in the stew on the stove or oven and forget about it for hours with amazing results & no damage.
Each family has a different recipe for cooking stews.In mine,using tomatoes in red meat recipes is criminal and a stew becomes a curry if you put ground spices into it.Though I am giving you recipe which I have learnt from my Grandfather, you can twist it around as per your liking and it will certainly work with lamb and beef too.
What I need:
- 1.5 lb of [bone-in ]mutton, cut into medium pieces [or lamb or beef]
- 1.5 cups of buttermilk [slightly sour]
- 3 fat garlic cloves, grated
- 2″ shoot of ginger,grated
- 1 tsp nutmeg, grated
- Salt to taste
Whole Spices :
- 2 cups onions , thinly sliced
- 10-12 whole dry red chillies
- 1 tbsp whole black peppercorn
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 nos black cardamoms, cracked open
- 3 bay leaves
- 5-6 cloves
- 1″ shoot of cinnamon
- 1 twig mace
- 4 tbsp cooking oil [I use mustard, you can use olive/canola]
- 2-3 cups warm water
How I did it:
- Wash and pat dry the mutton pieces.
- In a ziplock plastic bag, pour in the buttermilk, grated nutmeg,grated garlic & ginger along with salt.Give it a shake to combine well.
- Next, tip in the mutton pieces into the bag and give it a shake again to make sure that the buttermilk covers all the pieces.Lay the bag flat in a big square tray and let marinate overnight or at least 3-4 hours.
[Method 1 : Cooking in an Open pot [with lid]/Dutch oven]
- Heat the oil in a pot/dutch oven to a smoking point on medium heat.TIP: When using mustard oil, you need to heat it up till the point it starts smoking to ensure the raw smell is gone.For 4 tbsp oil, atleast good 8-10 minutes.If using olive/canola, the heating time will be way less.
- Once heated,reduce the heat to low and wait for 5 minutes to lower the temp a bit so that spices don’t burn.Add all the whole spices except dry red chillies to the oil and cook until the spices emit their aroma..around 3 minutes.
- Next add the onions, raise the heat to medium and cook the onions stirring constantly untill they become translucent to light brown.
- Add the dry red chillies then.
- Strain the mutton pieces from the buttermilk mixture, retain the marinade.
- Add the mutton pieces to the pot and on high heat, cook the mutton pieces for 10-12 minutes until all sides of the meat have browned.
- Next, add the marinade & 2 cups of warm water to the pot, check the salt and cover the pot/dutch oven.
- Let the water come to a boil on high heat and then reduce the heat to as low as possible.
- Let the meat simmer in the pot/dutch oven for good 4-6 hours periodically checking to make sure the liquid doesn’t dissipate, and adding warm water if needed.
- The stew is considered finished when the meat is very tender, just about to fall apart from the bones and the flavor of the gravy is intense. Adjust the salt again if needed.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro & serve with warm khamiri rotis [yeasted flatbreads] and onions.
[Method 2: Using a pressure pan/cooker]
The time taken by this popular Indian method is very less and the taste is slightly different and less intense. The cooking steps remain the same except that you need to cook the meat as per your pressure cooker.To give a rough estimate, the meat will take at least 25-30 minutes with 6-7 whistles on a low heat to become tender.
Sending this to Hearth n Soul #29