The most versatile mutton recipe is an Ishtoo as it is called in Hindi speaking regions of India. It is actually a stew which was probably inspired by the brown stew of the British raj. Every region of India has it's own stew and can be spiked with yogurt, milk, different spices and even tamarind and coconut or nut paste.
In my home any kind of vegetarian or non vegetarian stew was a way to consume less time in the summer months when the bhunoing method of cooking curries in the kitchen would cause a lot of sweating and there will be no fun eating after soaking yourself up in all that sweat. The stews are light on the stomach too, as is required in Indian summers.
Just making a paste or two and them stewing all the ingredients together in either a pressure cooker or an old fashioned thick base round bottom kadai was a way to beat the heat too.
But the finished dish had no respite from the heat. Folks love spicy food even in summers. The yogurt and some cooling spices used in the stew make it easy on the system though.
This ishtoo is actually a result of an extensive experimentation to match the taste of the famous Ishtoo of Al Jawahar at Matia mahal , Old Delhi.
After many experiments, starting from this one posted here, many ingredient combinations tried, I reached to this recipe which is the perfect. Almost 99 % the actual taste. Just the red chillies are used as a paste and not as broken pieces as I used in the first recipe, Just because I like it a little hot.
Actually, the first recipe was also very close to the original, but something was missing. That something came around in the form of some anaardaana, some cashew and poppy paste and a few grains of fenugreek. That made the difference.
So here it goes. The famous Mutton Ishtoo of Al Jawahar...The slightly darker shade of the gravy is due to my love of chilly heat, add lesser or just broken chillies if you want it milder...
(2-4 servings depending on what is served on the side, large quantities always result in a better taste and texture of the meat)
mutton, curry cut preferably ribs and some meaty pieces 400 gm
2 black cardamoms
2 green cardamoms
3 one inch pieces of cinnamon
20 black peppercorns
10 grains of fenugreek
one small sliver of mace
1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
2 tsp of fennel seeds
To make a paste
1 cup of chopped onions
10 garlic cloves
1.5 tbsp of chopped ginger
5 dry whole red chillies
2 tsp of anaardaana (dried pomegranate seeds, or use powder if you have)
To make a white paste
fresh yogurt (full fat) 1 cup
cashew 25 gm (one heaped tbsp and some more of broken cashew)
Indian white poppy seeds ( khuskhus) 20 gm or1 heaped tbsp
Salt to taste
ghee 1/3 cup
Make a paste of the ingredients listed in the first list first and mix with the mutton pieces in a large bowl. Add salt to taste and mix well.
Now make the second paste too in the same grinder jar and mix it with the mutton.
This second paste will be tricky to make. Soak the poppy seeds first with 2 tbsp yogurt and then grind it with the broken cashew and a tbsp more of the yogurt. Grind till a smooth paste is formed. Add the rest of the yogurt and whiz once again to homogenise.
Now add all the whole spices to the mutton mix and keep this bowl in the fridge for about 2 hours. You can go on to cook it instantly too.
Pour the ingredients in a pressure cooker pan , add 1/2 cup of water and the ghee and cover with the lid. Cook on high flame till the whistle blows and then lower the flame to cook the meat for 25-30 minutes.
let the pressure release by itself. Serve hot.
This dish tastes better the next day so you can always make it beforehand if you have to serve it for a formal dinner.
Slow cooking always results in better texture of the meat, so cook the stew in a thick base pan for about 2 hours on the lowest possible flame, if you have time to enjoy cooking. The gravy tastes great any which way and you would like to make more gravy every time you make it. One of those gravies you want to have with a naan bread or as it is.
The ishtoo tastes best with yeasted flat breads. I make my own kulcha style breads, thinner than pita to masquerade as the tandoori rotis of Al Jawahar. You can always use pita breads or yeasted dinner rolls with them. Even roomali rotis or plain homemade chapatis will be great.