Today I’m sharing an Odia mutton curry with you. My mother, 72, is a gynaecologist who also works with HIV positive people and tuberculosis patients, besides dishing up a mean Odia style mutton curry. A pure vegetarian (who didn’t even eat eggs) when she joined med school, she discovered the pleasure of eating meat when she started seeing Dad, a fish and meat eating Odia classmate. From then to now she has honed and perfected her non-vegetarian cooking – mutton biryani, fish besara and keema pulao (a favorite on this blog) are a few of her specialties.
This mutton curry can be cooked with lamb or goat, whatever is your preference. Bone-in cuts from the shoulder or thigh are ideal for curries. Ask your butcher to toss in a couple of marrow bones for extra flavour (as a kid I loved sucking on them for creamy marrow). The fresh produce and spices can be found in most pantries except maybe for fenugreek (methi) and nigella (kalonji) seeds. They go into the paanch phoron – a tempering consisting of black mustard, cummin, aniseed, nigella and fenugreek seeds, used mainly in Bengali and Odia cooking. Only a very small quantity of each is used but without them, the Odia mutton curry would be missing a crucial flavour component. It’s the combination of ingredients rather than their uniqueness that makes this curry worth your time and effort.
I’ve listed some pointers for this recipe that are simple but must-dos.
- Most recipes for Odia mutton curry use sliced onions but Mom prefers a combination of ground/grated and finely chopped onions. The onions must be caramelised patiently before tipping in the meat and leaving it to cook low and slow.
- Also, the garam masala needed for this curry should be freshly pounded or ground. You only need a couple of teaspoons of the garam masala so popping a few green and black cardamoms, cinnamon sticks and cloves into a coffee grinder for a couple of minutes should not break a sweat.
- Potatoes are a must in any mutton curry from the eastern parts of Indian. They serve to thicken the gravy and they absorb all the yummy, meaty juices beautifully (I know people who look forward to the potatoes more than the meat). Big chunks of the spuds are lightly fried for a few minutes to give them a golden crust, set aside and added to the gently simmering curry.
- Traditionally, the curry is cooked in mustard oil and I highly recommend it. But I also get that mustard oil with its typical aroma (which mostly disappears on heating) may not appeal to everyone. Any other vegetable oil will also work but not coconut, olive oil or any other oil with a strong taste or aroma.
This is a thick curry, and by that I mean that the gravy/sauce should not be runny. The onions should have melted and melded with the dry spices, ginger and garlic pastes to become a homogeneously luxurious, deep brown, velvety gravy.To achieve this concentration of meaty richness, I add water to the simmering curry only as needed. I know this means you’ll have to check up on it every 15-minutes or so but I promise it will be worth your while. The mutton should be fork-tender and falling off the bone when done and the potatoes must be cooked through but not disintegrating. Add them to the curry halfway through the cooking to get them to be just perfect. Try it and do let me know how it turns out.
Mom’s Odia Mutton Curry
- 1 kg lamb/goat shoulder or thigh pieces, cut into medium-sized, bone-in pieces for (curry or stew-cut)
- 6-7 medium potatoes peeled and halved
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 2 medium onions, ground
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 1½ tsp chilli powder (cayenne)
- 1½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1½ tsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp cinnamon, ground
- 2½ tbsp mustard oil
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 4 tbsp natural, plain yoghurt
- 1 tsp sugar
- Water, as needed
For the tempering
- ½ tsp black mustard seeds
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ¼ tsp aniseed (saunf)
- ¼ tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds
- ¼ tsp nigella (kalonji) seeds
- 2 dried red chillies broken in half
For the garam masala
- 3 green cardamom seeds
- 1 black cardamom (badi elaichi), seeds only
- 4-5 cloves
- 4×1-inch pieces of cinnamon
- To make the garam masala, blitz all the ingredients in a coffee grinder/mixer till finely powdered.
- Marinade the mutton for at least 6-8 hours or overnight in yoghurt, ½ tbsp mustard oil, salt, ½tsp each of chilli powder, turmeric and coriander.
- Heat 1 tbsp mustard oil in a heavy-bottomed, deep pan or Dutch oven and fry the potatoes (sprinkling salt lightly) till golden.
- Add the remaining mustard oil to the hot pan and add all the ingredients for the paanch phoron (tempering). Allow them to pop and crackle but see that they don't burn.
- Add the ground onions and sugar and saute on medium heat for 15 minutes or till lightly golden. Tip in the chopped onions and cook for a further 10 minutes till you have a golden brown mixture.
- Now add the turmeric, garlic and ginger pastes and cook on a low flame ensuring that they don't burn.
- Next add the chilli powder and 1 tsp garam masala, stir for 20 seconds and put in the marinated meat. Raise the flame to medium-high and lightly sear the meat for 1-2 minutes.
- Now pour in about 250 ml water, bring the curry to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer the curry for 20 minutes, checking every 10 minutes and adding a little water (only if needed). The meat will release its juices too.
- After 20 minutes, the meat should be almost done. Now toss in the fried potatoes, check the seasoning, cover and cook for a further 20 minutes.
- When the meat is falling off the bone and the potatoes are cooked through, add 1 tsp garam masala and correct the seasoning one final time before turning off the heat.
- Heat the ghee in a small pan, turning off the heat before it smokes. Add the cinnamon powder and pour it over the mutton curry. Mix it in and serve.