|Mutton Kawsha on Sunday|
Or rather, this post of mutton kawsha or kasha is about one race’s meat preference. As a child, I would wait for Sundays. The entire week would be all about eating everything in the plate, which would include, typically in my house (and still is the same, mind you!) rice, an assortment of vegetables cooked in different ways, daal, and fish. But on Sundays, the fish would be replaced by meat. My family, till I was around 8 or 9, did not like chicken much, and it used to come once or twice a month. On the other hand, mutton would appear in the menu virtually every Sunday.
My father would source the meat from different butchers. There was one butcher in the general market near my house who would supply my father with kochi pNatha, or the meat of a baby goat, i.e. Kid. It would be good for making a light, slightly runny jhol, thanks to the fact that the meat would be considerably lean and easily cooked, and it would be consumed within the day. Apparently, keeping it overnight was not advised, since all the nutrients would evaporate. Typically, ma would throw in halved potatoes, raw papaya cut in large pieces, and occasionally whole tomatoes and onions, and I would love mashing everything in with my rice, scooping it up after squeezing a hefty dose of lime over it all.
|Potato! Yes, I’m a Minion.|
But then there was the lure of the “other”. This was sourced from a man called Sharif, who supplied my father with rewaji meat. The essential difference between normal goat meat and rewaji is in the way the goat is raised. Unlike normal goats, who would generally eat a diet of grass and straw, these goats would be fed chana, which would enhance the growth of intramuscular fat, the elusive parda which would separate layers of meat. My childhood was laced with afternoons spent with my mother, finishing off the last bits of fat with rice, scraping the huge kadai clean with my fingers, and licking them clean. My mother would look proudly at me and tell me that the meat was what made it possible.
And she taught me a very basic thing – good meat needs minimum decoration to dress it up.
My mother makes a killer Mutton Kasha. In fact, boudir mangso is a common term of appreciation in my house. I make mine slightly different, but it is beautiful all the same. In fact, every Bengali household probably has its own version of this dish, and I am nothing if not a Bengali. The idea of Kawsha or Kasha is actually a cooking process, where you take the meat and cook it over a period of time to essentially sear and reduce the water and increase oil content.
You would need rewaji meat to make good mutton. It is advised to get the meat from the foreleg, or the shoulder, and if you are buying a kilo, about 200 gm. of it should be fat. Because the meat, ultimately, will benefit from it. Also, there must be at least one piece of liver, which is essential in a good mutton kawsha. Finding the liver used to be something akin to the quest for the holy grail, and as a child, I had had the reputation of being the one who would sneakily steal it before anyone else could.
|The Nali Haar – the shinbone which would have glorious bits of marrow in it which would be sucked out.|
There’s something delicately naughty about mashing some of the silky fat into your rice, and letting it sit on your tongue, savoring the essence of the goat for a few moments as your eyes automatically close on a sigh.
There is also something beautiful about sucking on the nali haar, the beautiful shin bone, which would be sucked on (and my father would always suck it like he was playing the flute of Lord Krishna), till the jelly-like marrow will emerge in its glistening glory.
I can die now. No seriously.
Marinate 1 kilo goat meat in 150 ml. yogurt, 1 teaspoon ginger paste, 1 teaspoon garlic paste, and a dash of salt. If possible, separate about 100 gm. of fat from the rest, and chop it up into small cubes, about 1/2 inch long. Essentially this is what will make the meat supremely tasty, so do not miss this step.
Start by heating up 75 ml. mustard oil till it is no longer raw and is near its smoking point, but not smoking. If you do not have mustard oil, you can use refined oil, but the taste will never be the same. Fry 3 peeled and halved potatoes till they are golden. Scoop the potatoes out of the oil. Add to the mustard oil 4 whole green cardamoms, 6 whole cloves, a stick of cinnamon about two inches long, 10 peppercorns, and 4 whole dry red chillies. Let this splutter for 20 seconds, and then add 150 gm. chopped onions (the red variety works out very well here) along with 1 teaspoon of sugar and a dash of salt.
|Look at that FAT.|
Fry over high heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, till the onions start turning golden. Add the chopped fat, and sear them, stirring continuously, for another 2-3 minutes. Lower temperature, and let the fat and onion cook for 10 minutes. After that, turn up the heat, and cook till the onion is golden brown and delicious.
Add the meat and cook over high heat, searing the meat in all sides. It will take about 5-6 minutes for this to happen. Do not stop moving the meat around. Then, add 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (or you can paste three dry red chillies with a bit of water and add that too!), 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, 1/2 teaspoon amchoor powder.
Yes. Amchoor powder.
Stay with me here. Focus. Or you can skip it. It doesn’t matter in the long run.
Or does it?
You will never know till you put some in.
Stir this in, and then, over medium-low heat, keep pushing the meat around, till its color darkens considerably. Then, lower the heat, cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, and cook for another 10 minutes. Then, add half a cup of water. Here, you can cheat and put the meat in a pressure cooker (or, if you are not as dumb as I am, you can use the pressure cooker instead of the kadai), and pressure cook till the meat is mostly cooked, simmer for about 12 minute after the first whistle in my pressure cooker, or whatever floats your boat. Or, you can even do this over slow heat, adding a little water here and there, but then I have discovered that I have zero patience, and no wish to waste a lot of energy on stirring.
Once the meat is mostly cooked, remove it from the pressure cooker, put it in a kadai, and add the potatoes. Cover and cook over simmering heat till the potatoes are soft, about 15 more minutes. Reduce whatever gravy remains till you can see mostly fat. Adjust seasoning, turn off the heat. Serve with a big pot of white rice, chopped cucumbers and onions, a few long, green, fiery hot chillies, and a big smile.
Or you can serve it with rotis, parathas, pulao, whatever. Eat it solo. Sneakily savor the liver. Spread it over toast. Who am I to disagree?
Been there, done that!