Meat. I grew up vegetarian. Not the ‘oh but we eat egg or it’s ok if the cake is made with eggs’ kind nonono! My family was strictly vegetarian. The mere mention of meat could get you into trouble. Then I got married into a family that absolutely loves meat. Not the ‘oh we eat chicken every other day kind’ nonono! These guys are hard core non vegetarian. Breakfast would be, among other things, goat liver on toast. Lunch-chicken/goat curry. Dinner more chicken/ mutton curry. And if there could be more meals in a day, I can assure you they would most certainly contain some meat or the other.
Although home is Jodhpur (where my in laws stay), my husband worked in Mumbai and that’s where we lived in the beginning. Close to our apartment building was a butcher shop, who was our meat source. He would open shop around 11 in the morning and by 2-3 o’ clock in the afternoon, he would be done with business and the shutters would come down. We obviously envied him but never really figured out what he did for the rest of the day. So because these timings clashed with office timings, and because we had a vegetarian cook, I was the only one left to buy the meat. My husband made me practice what I should say to the butcher since I had never seen one much less bought from one, and without giving it much thought I decided to go the next day. It was a small shop that spilled over onto the pavement and the butcher with his fat cleaver sat on the threshold taking orders with his helper deep inside the shop sorting and butchering the various cuts. Along the front of the shop, hung carcasses of goat, ready to be cut. Now remember we’re talking about a girl brought up not only in a vegetarian home but also a predominantly vegetarian state! I quite obviously went into a state of shock upon seeing this sight. The butcher sat there staring at me willing me to say something but I felt paralyzed, unable to get a word out. Eventually I did manage to tell him what I wanted, and then stood there praying he gave it to me quickly before the dizziness took over. Of course by now I was totally regretting not having given it a thought earlier. On the plus side though, I did something I had never thought I would, I learnt something new, the family had a good laugh and I got a story to tell.
Lal Maas. The quintessential Rajasthani mutton curry; red, fiery, hot! I knew that as a Rajasthani bahu, whether I learnt to cook anything else or not, this I absolutely had to know. There is no one right way to make lal maas. Every cook and every family will have their own interpretation of it, because that’s what food is all about after all. This recipe is my familys version, taught to me by my mother in law (along the way I’ve made minor changes to it). Lal Maas is not difficult but it can be if you include all the dry roasting and grinding the spices and frying the onions and grinding it to a paste etc. For me though, since it’s a regular feature in our home, even if I have the time, I don’t have the inclination to go through all the drama. So this a simple everyday lal maas recipe passed on from my mother in law. Needless to say, it’s a family favourite.
Goat meat/Mutton-500 grams (bone in, preferably from the shoulder or leg)
Ghee or vegetable oil- 1/2 cup
Yogurt- 1 cup
Onion- 1 (medium to large)
Garlic paste- 1 tbsp
Ginger paste- 1 tsp
Cumin- 2 tsp
Salt- 2 tsp (or to taste).
Red chilies- 2-3 (optional)
Fresh coriander- for garnish
Hot Water- 2 cups
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder- 1 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder- 2 1/2 tsp
Dried Bay leaf- 1 large
Black cardamom- 1
Cinnamon stick- 1 inch piece
- Peel the onion, cut into thin, even slices. Keep aside. Lightly whisk the yogurt, keep aside. Prepare the ginger and garlic paste, keep aside.
- In a pressure cooker or a heavy bottomed pan (with a lid), heat the ghee/oil. Add the whole spices, then add the cumin and let it splutter.
- Next, add the onion and fry till golden brown on a medium flame.
- Once the onion turns a golden brown colour, throw in the meat (you don’t HAVE to throw it, but it is easier) and briefly fry till browned. To the meat, add all the powdered spices and fry till the liquids evaporate and the meat is coated with the spices.
- Then pour in the yogurt and again cook till the liquids dry up and the oil separates. Add the ginger paste and garlic paste and let it cook for a few minutes making sure the masala doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan (bhunao).
- Pour in the hot water and add the red chilies (if using).
- If like me you’re using a pressure cooker, then cover the cooker with its lid and let it cook on a high flame till the first whistle. Immediately lower the flame to its lowest setting and let simmer for 12-15 minutes. Cooking time will depend on how big/small the pieces of meat are. I prefer medium- small pieces.
- If you’re using a pan, put a tight fitting lid on and let simmer for 45 minutes or until the meat is nice and tender. In this method you’ll probably need to add more than 2 cups of water.
- Garnish with chopped fresh coriander.
*Boneless meat works just as well.
*Feel free to adjust the amount of chili powder, according to your level of heat tolerance.
*You can add more or less water, depending on the consistency of the curry you want. You will also have to adjust the salt accordingly.
*If this is something you’ll be making once in a while, do make it with ghee, there’s nothing like mutton in ghee.
*You could reduce the amount of ghee/oil but do so at your own peril.