Mutton Curry with Ridge Gourd
When it comes to cooking, one tradition in my family is of cooking meat curries with vegetables. Typically, that’s one type of vegetable at a time, and that too never potatoes. Both my mother and my father respectively recall their mothers (and in my Mum’s case, her grandmother too) making mutton curry with pumpkin, okra, aubergine, taro corms (arvi) – even, as Mum remembers, with beetroot (“Too sweet for my taste. None of us children wanted to eat it.”)
My father says (and this has been ratified by my sister, who’s very clued into such things) that the tradition of meat-and-vegetable curries is a hallmark of Muslim home cookery. How that became a popular item on a Christian family’s daily menus, I’m not sure, but this I do agree: these curries taste fantastic, are easy to cook, and – because you have both meat and vegetables in the same dish – are more or less a one dish meal. Just add a salad or raita, some rice or rotis, and you’re ready to feast.
The recipe, now:
- 300 gm mutton, with bone
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- 1 tsp coriander seed powder
- 1 tsp cumin seed powder
- ½ tsp red chilli powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- ½ kg ridge gourd (turai/tori; I use the variety which has dark green skin and no ridges)
You can cook this curry in a normal heavy-bottomed pan (like a kadhai) or in a pressure cooker. I prefer to cook mutton in a pressure cooker, since it’s so much quicker.
- Heat the oil in the pan or cooker and add the chopped onions. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions turn golden brown.
- Add the ginger-garlic paste and stir a couple of times so that it mixes with the onions.
- Add the powdered spices and stir well. The masala now has to ‘bhuno’ – i.e, it must cook well before the meat is added. Allow the spice mixture to cook for at least 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t start sticking to the pan. Add a couple of teaspoons of water now and then if you see the masala beginning to dry out or starting to stick.
- In about 10 minutes’ time, the oil in the masala should start separating; you’ll see droplets of oil on the edges of the masala. The spices should also start smelling different: more cooked. This is when you add the meat.
- Put the meat – well-washed – into the pan and stir well to coat the pieces with the masala. Allow the meat to fry in the masala for 7-8 minutes. Stir frequently and add a few splashes of water if need be.
- When the meat has fried a bit, pour in enough water into the pan to cover the meat sufficiently. If you’re using a pressure cooker, put the lid on. After you’ve put the vent weight on and the pressure builds, turn the flame to low and allow the meat to cook for about 20 or 25 minutes. If you’re cooking in a normal, non-pressure pan, allow the curry to simmer until the meat is tender, probably about an hour and a quarter.
- Meanwhile, peel the ridge gourd and cut it into thin slices.
- When the meat is cooked, open the pan or pressure cooker and add the ridge gourd. Mix the vegetable into the mutton and cook, covered loosely, till the gourd is done. If you’re using a pressure cooker, you don’t need to seal the lid for this – the ridge gourd cooks very fast; it should be done in 5-7 minutes of normal non-pressure cooking.
That’s it. Serve hot, with either rotis or plain boiled rice. My favourite salad with this is thinly sliced onions tossed with chopped green chillies, thin strips of fresh ginger, salt and limejuice.