Bengali Mutton Curry with Rice and Chopped Cucumber and Onions

 My mother has no patience for fools in the kitchen, and if my father instructs her to cook something which she thinks would not suit the cut of meat, she shoos him out of the kitchen with a single “GO!” and a raised spatula or khunti, whichever is closer to her. Meekly, my father will succumb to her, with a bemused expression on his face, nodding gently, and wondering what was so impossible about it.

Ma is correct of course. The right cut makes all the difference while cooking, especially when it comes to meat. My father is fond of bringing shanks of goat meat back home, so recently when I started off making a simple curry with it, thinking of making it light, my mother came in, took one look at the meat, and told me to make it hot. By hot, I mean hot. She wanted heat, and I decided to deliver.

Goat Meat Curry Bengali Style

So here’s how I started off. Take 500 gm. mutton, preferably from the shank region and not with too much fat clinging to it (but loads of intramuscular fat if you have it). The thing is, in Bengal, Mutton is goat meat, and lamb is difficult to find here, unless you really want to go all the way to New Market and get yourself some. Apply salt, a teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of Kashmiri Mirch powder, 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons of onion paste and a teaspoon of ginger-garlic paste. Leave this alone for an hour.

Soak 3-6 dry red chillies in water for an hour. When the red chillies are fully soaked, make a very fine paste of them. Also chop two onions. Set aside. Take 3 medium potatoes. Wash them, cut them in half, and fry them in mustard oil. You can use this mustard oil later to cook the meat.

Heat 75 ml. mustard oil in a pressure cooker or a heavy kadai or heavy-bottomed vessel with a good bit of surface area to cook the mutton. When the oil smokes nearly, add 3 green cardamom, whole, slightly bruised with the back of your spatula, an inch-long stick of cinnamon, 6 cloves, 6 whole peppercorns, a single bay leaf, and 5 whole dry red chillies. Let this fry for 15 seconds. Add the onions, chopped, and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium low heat, stirring often, till the onions are soft and golden brown.

mutton curry

Raise the heat and add the mutton, stirring briskly to make sure the meat is sealed in with the juices. Cook for 6-7 minutes, or until the mutton is seared. Add the red chilli paste, stir it in to mix well, lower the temperature to a simmer, cover the meat with a lid, and let cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add 2 cups of hot water, and cover the pressure cooker. Ideally, in my house, I let the pressure cooker come to full steam, let it release a single whistle, and then simmer it and cook for 10-12 minutes.

After that, I turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool down naturally. You can do that, or you can simmer the meat till it is soft. Once the meat is soft, but not super-soft, add the potatoes, cover, and cook till the potatoes are done (one more whistle in the pressure cooker, or 15 minutes on stove top). Adjust salt, and if you are like my uncle, sugar, and serve with boiled rice.

In my house, a typical Sunday would contain this meaty curry, rice, and a big batch of chopped cucumber and onions, and a lime wedge. The key is to squeeze the lime into the rice while mixing it with the runny mutton curry, and mix in a potato as well. The result is absolutely, perfectly, satisfying.

Mangsher Jhol
Written by Poorna Banerjee

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