Books. “I love books. I love that moment when you open one and sink into it you can escape from the world, into a story that’s way more interesting than yours will ever be.”- Elizabeth Scott. So apparently Ms. Scott and I think alike.
My love of books is courtesy my mother. From as far back as I can remember my parent’s room was always filled with books. It got to a point, where friends and family suggested mumma start a library; which she eventually did do for a few years. I had only ever seen one library and that was the one in school; so as a child I loved the thought of having my own library and hundreds of books to choose from. Of course I soon realized, more than half of those books were way beyond my years, nevertheless the feeling of being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of pages and words was quite surreal for a small child.
My mother always insisted on bedtime reading; much before I was old enough to actually read. It was frustrating and annoying at the time but mumma later told me that she obviously hadn’t expected me to be able to read; she just wanted me to get used to the feeling of holding a book in my hand, turning pages and seeing words even though I didn’t understand them. It still didn’t make sense to me, I mean if I’m not old enough to read, how does it matter if I’m holding a book or not, right? But we both shared a common love and it didn’t matter how it happened, so I didn’t give it another thought.
And then a decade or so later, I found myself playing the mommy role and guess what I did? Yes, I too insisted on bedtime reading for baby boy, way before he was actually able to read. Now with birthday number nine coming up, my not so little baby boy absolutely loves books and loves to read. So I guess mom is always right. “It is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding.”- Erma Bombeck
When I discovered my love of food, it naturally translated to cookbooks. This book in particular- Cooking Delights of the Maharajas, is special. A couple of months after I got married, my mother in law came to visit us in Bombay and of course she came bearing gifts which among other things also included some of her cookbooks. Cooking Delights of the Maharajas by Digvijaya Singh was one of them. Now at that time I didn’t cook at all and I thought this was probably mama’s way of nudging me towards the kitchen. Whether it was or not, I did eventually learn to cook and soon this book became my go to, especially for meat dishes. This book is filled with lovely recipes, some of which are almost forgotten. I also love how precise the recipes are, all quantities including that of salt are given by weight. Can you imagine the amount of time it must have taken to measure and weigh every single ingredient?!
This Musallam Raan (musallam means whole and raan means leg) is great to create some food drama. It will definitely impress your guests and is also perfect to feed a crowd. As you can see from the pictures, I tried this recipe with both, lamb and goat and it works equally well with both (the raw meat pictures are of lamb and the cooked ones are of goat meat). I have given two options for the ingredients below; first is the amount I have used and in the brackets is the amount specified in the book (it is not an exact conversion).
- Leg of lamb/goat (whole)- 1 kg
- Ghee/Clarified butter- 115 grams
- Yogurt- 1/4th cup (60 grams)
- Onions- one small (60 grams)
- Salt- 1 ½ tsp (18 grams)
- Red chili powder- 2 tsp (9 grams)
- Coriander powder- 1 ½ tsp (9 grams)
- Pepper- ½ tsp (9 grams)
- Garam masala powder- ¾ tsp (3 grams)
- Almonds- 8-10 (9 grams)
- Poppy seeds/khus-khus- 1 ½ tbsp (9 grams)
- Cardamom powder- ½ tsp (1.5 grams)
- Ginger paste- 1 tbsp (25 grams)
- Raw papaya, ground- 25 grams
- Khoa- 25 grams
- Kewada essence- 2-3 drops or Kewada water- 30 ml
- Saffron- a pinch.
- Peel and slice the onions. Blanch the almonds. Grind the raw papaya with a little water. Dilute saffron in a tbsp of warm water. Keep aside.
- Remove all the white membranes and fat from the surface of the meat. Prick the leg thoroughly down to the bone, using a fork or a knife.
- Heat ghee and fry onions, remove when golden brown. Do not discard the ghee. In a mixer or food processor, grind to a paste the fried onions, blanched almonds, yogurt, poppy seeds and khoa.
- Mix this paste with ALL the remaining ingredients (except ghee). This is your marinade. Apply the marinade evenly all over the meat. Prick the meat again after applying the marinade. Let the leg marinate for two hours at room temperature.
- In a large heavy bottomed pan, heat the same ghee in which the onions were fried. Place the leg in the pan, cover tightly and cook on a low flame. Turn leg occasionally and baste with the ghee. Cook till it is absolutely tender.
- Alternatively bake in a moderately hot oven (150-175 C), turning and basting occasionally. Bake for about 2 hours or until tender.
*I repeat, the two amounts given for the ingredients are not a conversion. The first is the amount I have used and the amount in brackets is what is specified in the book.
*Khoa can be easily found in Indian stores. If not, you could substitute it with ricotta cheese though ricotta does have higher water content.
*If you don’t have and can’t find kewda essence, you can just leave it out. I have made it without the kewda essence as well, and I didn’t think there was a noticeable difference in taste.
*I garnished the meat with a salad of finely chopped onion, tomato and fresh coriander and seasoned it with a little salt.