We are just back from Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu, India. This was our first trip outside Mumbai, after relocating from Hong Kong a few months back. I must say, this was a much-awaited break and we thoroughly enjoyed every moment of being so close to nature. The weather was perfect there and we loved the greenery. When we saw the beautiful pine forests, the trees reminded me of old Bollywood movie songs: singing and dancing around the trees was a common sight in the Hindi movies of the yesteryears. Kodaikanal was amazing in its own right. There was a sense of space and freshness everywhere, which we really miss in a metropolitan like Mumbai. The Berijam lake near Kodaikanal was particularly serene.
While driving back from the Berijam lake, we had a homely mutton stew at a local restaurant and that was something which was so warm and satisfying in the evening when it was so cold outside. Nothing better would have suited our palate that evening. That moment itself, I decided to replicate this simple South-Indian stew at my home kitchen, with reduced amount of spices, so that it suits my family’s taste. As I sit in my Mumbai home and write for this post, the warm aroma of fresh curry leaves being infused into the stew and the waft of flavours arising out of cooking succulent pieces of meat and fresh winter vegetables together, made me nostalgic of my Kodaikanal trip. It was truly memorable.
Light Indian Mutton/Lamb Stew
[Choosing the right meat is very important. Never compromise on the quality of the meat. For tender meat, it must be derived from a very young goat or lamb. A pressure cooker is very convenient for making mutton stews.]
- Mutton or lamb pieces with bones (front thigh meat with bones preferred): 500 g
- Fresh curry leaves: 15
- Spring onion leaves’ paste: 2 tbsp
- Salt for marination: 1.5 tsp
- Salt for the stew: 1 tsp (adjustable)
- Turmeric powder: ½ tsp
- Red carrots (roughly chopped): 2
- French beans (roughly chopped): 15
- Medium-sized potatoes (de-skinned and halved): 2
- Dried bay leaves: 2
- Green cardamoms: 3
- Black cardamom: 1
- Spring onions: 7
- Spring onion stems (around 2-inch size): 7
- Purple onions (small; quartered): 2.5
- Ginger paste: ½ tsp
- Lime juice: 4 tsp
- Sugar: ¾ tsp
- Freshly ground black pepper powder: 1 tsp (adjustable)
- Medium-sized tomatoes (each quartered): 3
- Warm water: 4.5 cups
- Oil: 3 tbsp
Marinate the meat with the spring onion leaves’ paste and 1.5 tsp salt for 3 hours.
Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add the bay leaves and the cardamoms. When these start sputtering, add the quartered purple onions. Sauté for 5–7 min.
Add the tomatoes, potatoes and the curry leaves, along with the salt, ginger paste, lime juice and turmeric powder. Mix the contents in the cooker well.
Add the carrots, beans and the spring onion stems and continue cooking for 5 min.
Now add the marinated meat and give the mixture a good stir. Cook for 10 min, stirring after every 2 min. Add the water, sugar and the ground pepper.
Secure the lid of the cooker tightly and simmer. Let it have two pressures. Open the lid and give the stew a gentle stir. Remove the vegetables into a bowl (so as to prevent over-cooking) and transfer the meat and the soup once again to the cooker. Secure the lid and simmer once again. Pressure-cook until the meat is tender (around five cooker whistles). Switch off the gas and open the lid after 15 min. Check for the tenderness: if you are not satisfied with it yet, pressure cook for some more time.
Once the meat is cooked thoroughly, transfer the cooked vegetables back to the cooker and cook everything together (with lid open) on a slow flame for just 10 min more. Serve hot with appams, chapatti, paratha or steamed rice.