About 10 days ago, I had a good day in the kitchen when I made a mutton curry that turned out fine. I have a kind soul to thank for the mutton: Amaru Mandal.
A good mutton curry requires good mutton and an even better pre-preparation. In fact, I have been told that one could ruin great mutton with bad pre-prep.
Now I know a lot of great chefs, food designers, amateur cooks, traditional cooks, and have seen (closely) a lot of cooks cook mutton. And here’s what I have learnt: Chefs, cooks, and people who cook have their own approach to mis-en-place or pre-preparation or as I call it: Getting on with it. There are three broad approaches to pre-prep: completely separate the prep from the cooking, scientifically separate prep that should be done before the cooking and do some prep while cooking, and the third is the method I follow: do everything simultaneously. I don’t recommend the last method at all, because it is a sure-fire way of ruining good mutton, 7 out of 10 times.
I use that method because am cavalier, not really an authentic cook, and am wired to push the envelope because it makes the cooking exciting for me, like an Alfred Hitchcock mystery: will the onions be ready just as the oil is hot enough (which means the onion should go in the instant the sugar turns golapi)? Will the ginger-garlic paste be ready in time to go into the frying onions? Will I be able to chop the tomatoes in time or will I burn the onions and the dry masala?
So what is this Golapi sugar? Well, Sundays was the traditional mutton curry day in our house when we were growing up, and it was also the day Baba (my father) would cook He was a good cook and one of the things he taught me was to pour some sugar into the oil when you started cooking a curry. Sugar. Right at the beginning. Into the mustard oil. Yes, mustard oil. And then you watch for it to turn Golapi which is Bengali for pink. The moment the sugar turns pink, put the bayleaf, and whole garam masala, and immediately after, dump the chopped onions into the pot and fry fry fry. Apparently, the Golapiness of the sugar was the key to achieving the desired deep brown (almost red) colour of the curry.
But am rushing ahead to the actual cooking. How I started that day was by marinating the mutton in some salt, turmeric and home-made curd, and letting it sit for 2 hours.
This is usually when one should wash, cut, chop, grind all that you need washed, cut, chopped and grinded. But I got around to all that two hours later, just at the moment when I decided what ingredients I would use. That’s right, make up the recipe. So, here’s the method that one should not follow.
I took all the vegetables listed in this post and washed them. Took out all the masala on a plate.
Then I put the pot on, turned the flame to low, poured the mustard oil in and the sugar. And then chop chop chop the onions, keep an eye on the sugar. Sugar goes golapi, stop chopping, put in the bayleaf, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, get back to chopping – flame still low. And onions into the pot, flame to high, stir stir stir. The smell is heavenly. There something about onions frying with while garam masala.
Reduce the flame and back to peeling, chopping ginger and garlic. Stir onions. Then grind the ginger and garlic into a smooth paste. Onions light brown. Add the paste and stir. Start chopping the tomatoes. Stir the onions and ginger garlic paste. Chop chop chop. Onions now brown. Add all the dry masalas, increase to high flame and focus on stir-frying continuously. The masala can easily get stuck and that’ll be the end of the curry. I figure out when to put the tomatoes in base on the aroma of the masala – uncooked dry masala and roasted masala smell very different.
Reduce flame, finished chopping tomatoes and into the pot. And so on till I see trickles of oil leaving the masala. That’s when I add the marinated mutton – curd and all – increase to high flame and give it a good frying for about 15 minutes. Then, still on high flame, peel and cut potatoes and into the pot and fry fry fry. The whole motley crew is now the shape of a curry. This is the time when I cover the pot and let the whole thing simmer on a medium flame for about 15 minutes, opening and stirring every 5.
After that, I keep adding a glass of water every 5 minutes till the full curry complement is in the pot. Now if you are using a pressure cooker, this is the time (about an hour into the cooking), that you close the lid and give it a couple of whistles and one for the road and you are done. If you are not using a cooker, keep a lid on the pot and simmer for a good 20 minutes- you’ll see the red-brown colour and know it’s done. Chop coriander and add it just before you serve. Goes well with rotis but I prefer it with hot, steamed rice.
So what’s with the pink sugar? It’s caramelisation pure and simple, that gives you the added advantage of a deeper colour. But as you already know, it’s not the caramelised sugar that makes the curry.
Good Morning World. If you want a good curry in life, you have to put in the hours at every stage and tend to the curry all through the journey.
Mutton Curry with Potatoes
For the Marinade
- Mutton – 1.5 kg
- Curd – 300 gms
- Turmeric – enough to make the curd lemon yellow
- Salt – To taste really
For the Curry
- Mustard Oil
- Red Chilly Powder
- Coriander Powder
- Garam Masala Powder
- Jeera Powder
- Marinated Mutton
- Coriander Leaves
As rambled above.