The Unbeatable Pahadi Mutton and a new found love for cookbooks
So if you spoke to me last year cookbooks, you would most probably heard the statement, "Oh I am so done with them. I find cookbooks boring" and the likes. I went into that phase sometime around two years ago and the phase lasted for a good year or so I think, then came this new breed of cookbooks (or may be I just got introduced to better cookbooks) and my love for cookbooks started all over again. I am still selective about the cookbooks I pick up and I surely look for one which has something more than just recipes because to be honest one can find all recipes on the net today.
But there are such gorgeous books I have found over the last six months that each one has been worthy of falling in love with. The ones that contain beautiful childhood stories like BongMom Cookbook, the ones that have breathtaking pictures like "Persiana" I recently bought and many more. And while this love of cookbooks was growing again, Aparna Jain, the author of the Sood Family Cookbook started a Facebook group which gets together and tries a cookbook every month and I am having such a good time with that group. I haven't worked with all the books they chose but still I have bought and experimented with atleaast 3-4 GOOD cookbooks this year and I think the one that tops the list is the Sood Family Cookbook.
As the name suggests the book is a compilation of the recipes from the extended Sood family. The first version of the book was self published and essentially meant for the family members but I am glad it reached the masses because each recipe in the book is stellar and so are the illustrations which go with the book BTW. Some of the recipes like Pahadi Kala Channa and chach walle aloo are now pretty much staples at home and just when I was thinking these two are my favorite foods from the book, I made The Unbeatable Pahadi Mutton and oh god just how good was it.
There are recipes and then there are RECIPES. Make no mistake the Pahadi Mutton is most certainly of the second bracket. The man ate the mutton and after finishing the whole meal said "Boss, this curry has depth and character". It's a curry which involves patience and as Aparna's aunt says it's the labour of love and when I told N this he was like ofcourse "Character is build over time, you can't get it quickly. Success, yes character no". Such is man, giving life gyan while talking about a fingerlicking mutton curry.
Like I said this dish is a labour of love, the mutton is first marinated for 6 hours or overnight (I actually ended up marinating it for a week in deep freeze since I had a family emergency after marinating it) and then slow cooked for about 3 hours or so and then in the end smoking it with coal for about 5 minutes. That smoking is what takes it to an altogether different level if you ask me. So don't make this dish on a day you are in a hurry but whenever you make it I assure it will be the star of the evening so you go easy on anything else you want to make that day because this doesn't need anything apart from a few paranthas or rice. I made a couple of changes to the recipe from the book, the book uses more of garlic and less of ginger paste. I just used the standard ginger-garlic paste one buys off the shelf but the biggest change I made was the amount of ghee used. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of ghee and somehow I just couldn't get myself to use that much ghee. I reduced the measure to 2 tablespoons. It does increase my work in terms of more stirring but the taste was still spectacular
- Marinate the cleaned and washed mutton for a minimum of 6 hours and if you are like me who always forgets to marinate it. Clean and marinate it when you buy. Shove it in the freezer and thaw it the day you want to cook. In the marination you will need to mix yoghurt, ginger-garlic pastes, red chillies and salt.
- The day you are ready to cook, bring the mutton to room temperature.
- Heat the ghee, be daring and use the 1/2 cup ghee that the recipe mentions. I am sure you the result will be even better but if you are like me use 2 tablespoons, it worked. Remember to use a heavy bottom pan since this is going to cook for a long time.
- Add all the whole spiced and fry for 2-3 minutes till the cardamoms swell up. Add the onions and cook until they are browned.
- Now add the mutton, stir the mutton till the onions coat the mutton. Since the marinade is curd based it will all be creamish in color. You need to keep stirring it every now and then till the whole thing turns deep brown in color. This is where your patience is help, the process can take anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour. Be patience and keep stirring every couple of minutes. If the mutton is sticking to it, add some more of the marinade water to the pan and stir.
- Now when the mutton is deep brown in color, add the tomatoes and coriander powder. You can slow down on the stirring now since there is a lot of liquid which has gone in. Cook it till the mixture is somewhat dry, for me that took another 25 minutes or so.
- At this point you have two choices, continue with the labour of love (yes I did) or do what Aparna does and use a pressure cooker. If you use a pressure cooker, cook on medium flame for three whistles else cook for about an hour stirring often.
- When the mutton is cooked, add the garam masala over the dish. Yes you are almost done.
- Now just before serving it put a piece of charcoal on fire and wait for about 10 minutes till it is well lit. Put it in a little bowl and put the bowl on top of the mutton mix in the pot and pour 1 tsp of ghee over it. You will the smoke coming out, immediately cover the pot for 2-5 minutes letting the smoke infuse in the gravy.
- Garnish the mutton with fresh coriander leaves and serve with paranthas or rice.