Technically, goat meat should be called chevon and not mutton. But here we are in India, where mutton often means goat meat instead of lamb, and in households around Kolkata, Sundays are synonymous with a goat meat jhol, also called "robibarer mangsho", made in either a pressure cooker, to save time, or in a heavy-bottomed vessel, simmered for hours till the meat and potatoes soften up to the cook's liking. It may be assumed that Sundays being a holiday and perhaps the only day when everyone in the household would be eating lunch together, and so, the menu would be considerably shorter, limited to maybe the bitters or greens at the start of the meal, to balance out the protein and fat coming afterwards.
Finding The Sunday Mutton Curry In Restaurants
In Bengali-themed hotels and restaurants across the city, despite the other items in the menu, the mutton curry holds a very important position, so much so that during the pandemic it became a major seller. Chef Madhumita Mohanta, Executive Chef at The Lalit Great Eastern, Kolkata, noted that the sales for mutton curry and is quite high, both with the guests and for home delivery. "We use a recipe for our Bengali mutton curry at Alfresco that comes straight from my kitchen, and the cooking procedure is kept really rustic and simple, basically what you can refer to as Bengali home cooking. We use spices that are freshly pounded before they are added to the recipe, just like our grandmothers and mothers did, and good quality mustard oil. We also customise the recipe for the mutton if the customer asks for more or less spice, as well as the quantity of gravy, and that's why the Bengali mutton dishes are a huge hit in our delivery menu."
Cooking The PERFECT Mangsher Jhol, Every Single Time
To make the perfect mutton, the first thing that needs to be done is to choose the right cut of meat as well as the goat that yields it. There are two kinds of goat meat available in Kolkata - the former being the pantha (locally raised, grass-fed goat), and the rewaji khasi (grain-fed, and often brought in from Uttar Pradesh or Haryana) being the latter. There is a good deal of controversy about which one is better, and it is a never-ending discussion, but one of the things that I have learned over the years is that more than the meat's origin, it is the cut that matters according to preferences, and the foreleg as well as the shoulder region fares better in dishes that need to be cooked for longer.
The simple logic behind that is the amount of exercise that body part generally is involved with. The foreleg and shoulder region does go through a good deal of exercise, which means, the meat doesn't soften too easily, giving the bones a chance to impart more flavour into the runny jhol or the thin, runny gravy, that is an essential part of the curry. Bones are a great source for not just collagen (that adds more body to your jhol), but also stores a great deal of umami that makes the final output much more flavourful. Many purists who believe that the perfect mutton curry needs to have pantha in it, no more than 8 kilos in weight, keeps in mind the fact that a young goat doesn't have a lot of fat, and are rather bony, which makes them a good option for braising, but choose the right cut from the rewaji khasi and the flavour profile changes completely.
The other factor that needs to be emphasized here upon is the freshness of the garam masala. Note, apart from turmeric and chillies, the rest of the spices are either whole or freshly ground. This is important, because it really helps to make the natural flavours of the meat shine, and that should be the aim. The result is phenomenal with hot rice, with lime juice squeezed in to cut through the fat.
How To Make Sunday Mutton Curry | Bengali Mangsher Jhol Recipe:
- 1 kilo good quality mutton, cut in about 10-12 pieces
- 50-60 gm. mutton fat, finely chopped, preferably from the stomach region (optional)
- 100 gm. plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
- 80-100 ml. mustard oil
- 3-4 dry red chillies
- 2 bay leaves
- 4-5 green cardamom
- 2-inch stick of cinnamon
- 5-6 clove
- 8-10 peppercorn
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 150 gm. finely sliced onion
- 2-3 medium-sized potatoes, skinned and halved
- 3-4 green chillies (optional)
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly powdered Bengali garam masala (equal amount of cardamom, cinnamon and clove)
- Coriander leaves to garnish (optional)
1. Apply yogurt, ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt to the mutton. Keep aside for at least 1 hour.
1. In a thick-bottomed vessel (like a kadhai), heat the mustard oil and fry the potatoes till they are golden. Remove.
3. Then, add the whole spices to the oil. Let the spices sizzle for a few seconds, then add the sugar. Let the sugar start caramelizing, about 10-15 seconds, then add the onion. Stir the onion well to ensure its mixed in with the oil, and over medium heat, stir it for 1-2 minutes, or till its translucent. Add the mutton fat, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, till the onion is light brown in colour.
4. Turn the heat to high, and add the mutton. This step is crucial because the mutton will need to sear on all sides first, before the addition of anything else. Stir the mutton every 30-40 seconds to ensure the mutton is seared in all sides.
5. Then, lower the heat to medium, and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes, stirring every 1-2 minutes. Ensure the water from the meat dries out a bit. Turn the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes more.
6. At this point, transfer the meat to a pressure cooker. Add 2 cups of boiling water, the green chillies, then put the pressure cooker over high heat and let the water come to a boil. Add salt to taste and the potatoes, cover the pressure cooker, and cook till the meat is soft. You can also continue cooking this in the kadhai by adding the hot water and then covering and cooking till the meat and potatoes are soft.
7. Finally, add the freshly powdered garam masala and cover and let the masala infuse for 5-10 minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves (optional). Serve with piping hot rice and a slice of lime.
About Poorna BanerjeePoorna Banerjee is a food writer, restaurant critic and social media strategist and runs a blog Presented by P for the last ten years where she writes about the food she eats and cooks, the places she visits, and the things she finds of interest. She is deeply interested in culinary anthropology, and food history and loves books, music, travelling, and a glass of wine, in that order.