On First Encountering Mutton Ghee Roast
I think I was twelve and in Chennai when I first ate Mutton Ghee Roast. It was April and my father and I were traipsing around the city streets, looking for a bite to eat. We ended up in a small, neat little place, where not much was available, and we finally decided on the “Gee Rosht” and rice, because we weren’t quite sure what to order. The hot, fragrant slightly moist rice was the perfect foil for the fiery hot roast, served to us in a bowl quite unceremoniously, with some onions slices and chillies laid down on the table, together with an unknown, yet tasty, bowl of pickle. The meat was spicy, tangy, and smelled of ghee tempered with curry leaves. It was also mildly charred on the edges, and that sort of added to that ubiquitous stickiness that a good cut of meat leaves behind, compelling the eater to abandon shame and suck their fingers, one after the other, slowly and methodically, to ensure every bit of that meaty goodness is a part of the experience.
Needless to say, I was charmed.
The Ghee Roast at Nagarjuna
Over the years, I have had Mutton Ghee Roast from many places, but I particularly like the stuff they dish out at Nagarjuna. The meat is seasoned to perfection, with a bounty of curry leaves and chillies, but there is a delicate restraint while using spices – Less is more is clearly a good thing. The sensory experience of enjoying a slice of mutton, cut against the grain, cooked, rested, and then fried in ghee is, to me, an essential part of being at Nagarjuna, Bangalore. When I look at this version, though, it is sadly not the same as the one I had started out with, so the other day I got a hankering for that version.
Mutton Ghee Roast Recipe
This mutton ghee roast recipe has been partially adapted from the one made at Steffi’s Recipes. I found the video on Facebook first, then traced it back and followed it to the tee for the first time, a couple of months ago. Then, as usual, I began experimenting, and the end result may not be true to its Mangalorean heritage, but it is darn tasty!
Start by marinating 500 gm. mutton in 50 ml. plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon ginger paste, 1 teaspoon garlic paste, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, a pinch of salt, and the juice of half a lime. Keep this for at least an hour.
Heat a pressure cooker, and when its hot, throw in the meat and sear it from all sides. I don’t add water, because the yogurt would not allow the meat to stick to the pan, and once the meat starts to get seared and the yogurt dries up a bit, add 1/2 cup water, cover the pressure cooker, and cook till the meat is soft, about 10 minutes after the pressure cooker builds up to full pressure.
Turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool down on its own before opening the lid.
Meanwhile, make a spice paste. Roast 3 Kashmiri Chillies first, for 30 seconds on each side. Keep aside.
Then, roast together 5 gm. coriander seeds, 5 gm. cumin seeds, 2.5 gm fennel seeds, 2.5 gm peppercorn, 3 red chillies, 1 one-inch stick of cinnamon, 4-5 cloves, for a few minutes. Grind this with the kashmiri chillies with 1-inch long slice of ginger, about 1 teaspoon garlic paste, and enough water to make a thick paste. Set aside.
Heat ghee in a pan. Don’t ask me how much. Its your party – you get to add as much or as little, depending on your failing career as a cholesterol monitor. Add to it the prepared spice paste. Cook for a few minutes before adding 2 tablespoons of beaten yogurt. I would suggest working the yogurt in slowly, over low heat, to stop it from curdling. Then, once you have mixed this enough, and the spice mix is darker, add, bit by bit, all the broth you obtained from the mutton.
Cook this in until the cooking mixture is cooked to a point where it is slightly more runny than how you want your ghee roast to be. I tend to go for about 10 minutes over low flame, but do what you please, and let no one tell you any different (until they say you need to take the rice off the flame ‘coz its burning).
Add the meat, stir to make sure the meat and the spices are mixed well. Roast for 4-6 minutes over medium heat.
Add 10-2o curry leaves, depending on your love for the particular herb. I am not a fan, so I didn’t add many. Also, add a couple of whole green chillies. Then, check for seasoning. Cover the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes before turning off the heat. Keep covered for another few minutes before serving with rice, appam, rotis, or any other form of carbohydrates you would like to eat.