Some good days make me walk to the market, I get good produce home and make great food for ourselves. Other days I just rely on what I buy weekly. The days I get minced mutton home are the ones when I get to have an easy meal that tastes like heaven. Gushtaba is one dish that comes from heaven. Kashmir, the heaven on earth. And the dish is truly heavenly.
It helps that it gets ready within half an hour, even when I have to work on two burners at a time, it's something anyone can do who knows shaping balls and boiling water. And someone who loves to work with nice aromatic spices, and still doesn't want too spicy food. Got the picture?
A decadent curry with delicate flavors of almost sweetish fennel and green cardamom, just a bit if warm heat from dry ginger and a slight kick from red chilly powder, all flavors melded beautifully in a yogurt and cream based curry..
Can it get any better?
For the meatballs ...
keema (machine ground) 250 gm
ginger minced or pounded 2 tsp
2 green cardamoms pounded and powdered well
2 cloves powdered
1/2 tsp black pepper pounded
2 pinches of salt
mutton stock 3-4 cups
Mix all these together , knead the mutton mince together so everything gets mixed up properly.
For the gravy...
fresh yogurt ( I used from a tub) 200 gm
ghee 2 tsp
one medium sized onion sliced
one fat garlic clove
1 tsp fennel seeds
1-2 tsp dry ginger powder
1/2 tsp special garam masala
black pepper powder 1/2 tsp
red chilly powder 1/2 tsp
salt to taste
heavy cream 3 tbsp ( I used malai)
fresh mint 4-5 leaves or dry mint a pinch
Most people use fennel powder in the yogurt gravy but I prefer grinding whole fennel along with the fried onion. This gives a better flavor as the fennel is freshly ground. Sieving the onion and fennel seeds paste ensures you get a smooth gravy.
Using freshly ground keema is the key to a great tasting Gushtaba. Most people like pounding the meat fresh at home. But that is something I can't bring myself to do. So I get my freshly machine ground meat from the market as I said earlier. Just get a few bony pieces too to make the stock.
Boil the bony pieces of mutton in a pressure cooker with 3 cups of water , 2 bay leaves and a small piece of ginger. This will be stock for boiling the meatballs. The stock can be made ahead and even can be used for making soups.
Make oblong balls with the mince meat mix while you have kept a pan of boiling mutton stock on stove. Gently slide the oblong balls into the boiling stock with salt to taste. Let them boil on gentle heat till you do the preparations to make the curry sauce.
The meatballs will be fished out from this boiling stock and the stock will be saved to make a soup for another meal. The same can be used to adjust consistency when the yogurt gravy is cooking. Alternately, you can boil the meatballs in plain water, in that case the meatballs loose some flavor but are still great tasting as the dish is quite mildly spiced.
The meatballs take about 15 minutes to cook in the stock, they get enlarged a bit and the shape gets distorted a bit, but they wouldn't break if you don't thrash them with the ladle. Just be gentle with them.
After the meatballs get boiling, start working on the other burner with another pan. I told you , you have to work on two burners.
Heat the ghee in a pan and fry the sliced onion till pinkish brown, adding salt to minimise the time and effort as there is less ghee. Use more ghee if in a hurry.
Transfer the fried onion slices to the jar of a mixie and make a paste along with a tsp of fennel seeds and a clove of garlic. This paste has to be sieved into the cooking gravy. I do it directly into the pan when required, do it ahead of time if you can't handle it above the pan.
Whisk the yogurt well and sieve it if you have doubts about curdling the yogurt while heating. Mine anyways gets curdles a little so I just whisk it using a hand blender. Add 2 cups of water to the yogurt and whisk again.
Pour the whisked yogurt in a pan and start heating the pan on gentle flame, whisking all the while to prevent or minimise curdling , whatever the case. I work for minimising.
Now add the dry powders and the sieved fried onion paste into the boiling yogurt. Keep whisking while it boils. Add the heavy cream and mix well.
Fish out the cooked meatballs from the boiling stock and tip them gently into the boiling yogurt mix. Cook covered on lowest flame for another 10 minutes , or till he fat droplets are seen on the surface.
Cooking with the yogurt gravy, the meatballs take about 5-7 minutes more. Some people add a little ghee at this stage. You can choose to add that too. I like some more heavy cream added in the last minutes of cooking sometimes. But that is optional.
Add the mint, fresh or dried, and serve hot. It goes really well with soft chapatis or plain boiled rice. A side of fresh garden salad will be a delight to have with it.
Do you like your meatballs in a more robust spicy gravy?
A keema kofta curry is to come shortly too. My personal favorite is this Gushtaba from Kashmir as the taste of the mutton is not overpowered by the spices added.
The spicier keema kofta curry is a Awadhi version of meatballs, liked by all who love the earthy spicy gravy with a stronger flavor of mutton. More about the Awadhi keema koftas some other time. Very soon though.
Enjoy Kashmiri Gushtaba till then.....