What does Heritage Food mean to you? What thoughts do a Heirloom recipe invoke? To me and my kitchen, they mean much more than nourishment! They are treasures locked in my heart and mind…my culinary heritage, is what I started my kitchen journey with. The warmth of the love of my great grandmothers that was passed down to me. A friend tells me that it’s a way she connects with her past and yester-generations. The food that her big family bonded over, during their annual reunions. Or what her GrandMa would make and her Mom did for her. They bring back our childhood joy – the food we grew up relishing. The rich lingering aroma of Mom’s home-cooked Sunday meals, at our dining table. These traditions lead you through the doors to a whole new world. They provide you homeland comfort in a far away land — those precious things that keeps you tied to your roots and remind of who you are. They touch and shape our lives in a certain manner. Family culinary traditions symbolize preservation and continuity and of handing down a legacy. These traditions are among what I inherited and which I shall pass down to my future generations through my children! I am glad these precious things aren’t lost and I could hold onto to them!
One of the favorites from my heritage family recipes is this Mutton Korma.
Classic, traditional, timeless, aromatic, rich, fiery and a taste to remember, is how I describe this curry. It’s a recipe that cooks divinity.
Customarily, “Kormas” are curry based dishes of red meat (and sometimes of chicken or veggies) that have been made to sit in a yogurt based marinade for a while, then seared at high heat to seal in the juices and then braised and stewed moist, slowly in a sealed container with minimal addition of water. It is important for me to keep traditions of the women in my family alive. And as an ode to them and my childhood, I follow this recipe entirely and have not changed it to make my own.
Keeping up with the tradition of how goat meat is cooked in my family, I start cooking the meat in my large aged stainless steel Karahi (circular and deep, Indian cooking pot) with handles, and finish making my Korma in my 5 year old, 5 liter capacity, Classic Indian “whistling” pressure cooker. One which when heated, releases a huge puff of steam and uproaring whistles every few seconds, like a steam engine, to relieve itself of the pressure built inside! As scary as it may sound, this equipment is a life saver when it comes to cooking red meat, which otherwise would take endless hours to simmer and cook over my stove-top. This Korma can also be made in an oven. So, happiness everyone!
The most important ingredient is the goat meat. Yes, it can make or break this Korma. Men in my family have always been this particular when buying goat meat. I have been taught that an old goat’s is a terrible fibrous chewy and strong smelling meat — stuff that you need to run away from! The Mantra is to select and buy tender meat from a young goat. The best “mutton” cuts are from the slender fore-legs and shoulder/collar of the goat. Yes, the best meat is NOT from Raan, or hind-limbs of goat – though meatier, they are more fibrous and tougher muscles and not as tender.
Among other ingredients, the amount of oil used here is key — it locks moisture and softens the meat, preventing it from being too chewy. Using less than the prescribed quantity of oil here, cuts drastically on taste and makes it a little dry, calling for adding more water. In the past, I tried using less oil and have been dismayed. And as what you’ll usually see in my recipes, I work with fresh ingredients and do not generally use the commercially available spice mixtures like Curry powders or Meat Masalas or Meat Tenderizers.
Mutton Korma is traditionally cooked in mustard oil that also provides a nice punch to the flavor of this dish. However, if you find it too pungent, please use light olive oil in place of mustard. This recipe could also be adopted for Chicken to make Chicken Korma. Do not get intimidated by the long list of ingredients. These can be readily sourced from your nearest Indian/Pakistani stores and meat shops. Once you have them by your side, the cooking is (a little time consuming yes!), but very easy. And the delightful “end-fruits of your labor” will have you come back to make more soon! Follow the ingredient quantities closely for a rich flavorful Korma. I strongly recommend adding Ghee to finish this Korma — it greatly enhances the flavor and the olfactory appeal! This one of the those rare dishes that is like “wine” and gets better with age. If you have a strong heart and are able to save some of the Korma in your fridge for later, you’d know what I mean. This Mutton korma tastes better the second day and even better on the third! God bless our greed…
- 2 lbs or 1 kg Goat Meat with fat (medium cut pieces)
- 2 heaped tbsp of thick plain Yogurt or Dahi (avoid using watery yogurt)
- 1 US cup or about 175 gms finely chopped onions
- 0.5 tsp Nutmeg powder or grated Nutmeg (Jaiphal)
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder (Haldi)
- 0.5 tbsp mild Paprika (Kashmiri red chilly powder) — the variety that provides color but negligible heat
- 1 generous tbsp Coriander powder (Dhania powder)
- 1 tsp Cumin powder (Jeera powder)
- Salt to taste
- 2 generous handful of fresh Coriander leaves (Dhania patti) – may include young tender stems along with the leaves
- 2-3 tbsp Ghee or Clarified butter
- About 250 ml Mustard Oil or light Olive oil
- 1 large Bay Leaf (Tejpatta)
- 3 Black Cardamoms (Bari Elaichi)
- 2 Green Cardamoms (Choti Elaichi)
- 15 Cloves (Lavang)
- 0.5 tsp Shajeera (grab some from the Indian stores) — if not, then use 0.5 tsp Cumin seeds (Jeera)
- 4 inch Cinnamon Stick (Dalchini) — broken into 2-3 pieces
To make the paste:
- 2 US cups chopped onions (1 large) — about 250-300 gms
- 4.5 tbsp coarsely chopped ginger (about 2 thumb thick piece of root)
- 3 tbsp coarsely chopped garlic (about 6-7 large cloves)
- 1 Dry red chilly (optional)
- 2 Indian hot green chilies (use less or more depending on how much heat you’d like)
- Wash the goat meat thoroughly in a colander and let all the water drain out.
- Transfer the meat into a mixing bowl and add all the yogurt. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for marination for a day or overnight — more, the better! (I DO NOT add salt at this point.)
- With about 2 tbsp of water, grind the ingredients listed under “to make the paste”.
- The next day or when you are ready to cook Mutton, place a Karahi or deep cooking pot over medium heat and pour all the mustard oil and then the whole spices. (I avoid adding whole spices when oil is smoky for 2 reasons. One, there’s a high chance of burning the spices and thus ruining the flavor. Two, because we use more oil in this recipe and it’s always wise to avoid accidents due to splashing hot oil!)
- As soon as you see the spices splutter a bit, add a cup (175 gms) of the finely chopped onions and saute for 2 minutes.
- Next, carefully add the onion-ginger-garlic-chilly paste and saute for 2 minutes.
- Add turmeric powder, Red chilly powder, Coriander powder and Cumin powder. Saute, and cook this “Masala” (spice mixture) very well. Keeping stirring and mixing to avoid the masala from sticking to the bottom and charring. This is the most important step in cooking, and determines the texture, flavor and taste of the Korma. The masala is cooked and done, when you see it dry up a little, releasing/bubbling oil and turning into a deep brown color (I’ve provided 3 pics for your reference). It took me about 15 minutes to do my masala mixture right over medium-high heat.
- Add the mutton pieces plus the marinade, adjust salt and cook on medium-high heat for another 20-25 minutes, turning them occasionally. The mutton would have had slightly browned towards the end of this step.
- I then transferred all the contents (the meat as well as the gravy), into my “whistling pressure cooker”, added 1 US cup of water (about 250 ml) and cooked on high heat for 12-15 minutes. The kind of “middle-aged goat meat” that we get here in the meat shop, I had to open the pressure cooker, stir the contents, add another cup (250 ml) of water and cook for another 12-15 minutes on high heat, to cook the meat into tender pieces. You may have to adjust this cooking time, based on the quality of your goat meat.
- If you do not use these pressure cookers, you may have to cover, seal and simmer the meat and gravy over low heat. Keep turning in sometime for even cooking and to avoid burning. Add water as and when needed. This Korma is NOT a watery curry, so add water sparingly and only as much required. Alternatively, pre-heat oven to the standard 375F. Transfer the meat and gravy in an oven safe deep-dish and cover with a heavy duty aluminium foil. Place this in the lowest oven shelf and bake for 3.5 to 4.5 hours. Different quality goat meats have different cooking times. Carefully keep checking the meat for it’s “doneness” and turn them, once or twice in between the oven-cooking time.
- When the mutton and the gravy is well done, I transfer them over stove-top, on low-medium heat and add ground/grated nutmeg. Add washed and shredded coriander leaves and simmer for 2 minutes. Adjust salt if required.
- Switch off the stove. Add and mix Ghee before serving. Serve it piping hot! Enjoy it with fresh made Indian breads or steamed Basmati rice.
- Refrigerate what is left — it tastes even better the second day!