I often rail about the nut paste-laden, heavy dishes that have come to define Indian food for those who know it largely/only from Indian restaurants in the West; and so I am happy to present a recipe of my own that relies heavily on nut paste. Well, it’s not my recipe, really; it’s another recipe from the aunt I keep talking about, she who is one of the great cooks of the extended family (though perhaps in second place overall in my unofficial rankings). This is a recipe for mutton korma (mutton=goat for Indians) but there’s no reason you can’t make it with lamb or beef if that’s easier for you; or any reason why you couldn’t try to adapt it for chicken as well.
Before I get to the recipe (which, as you will see, is a bit of a cheat), a quick, unreliable note about “korma”.
Korma, as with many iconic dishes associated with South Asian Muslim kitchens, is thought to have come to India from Central Asia with the Mughals 500 odd years ago (though it may just as easily be of Persian derivation). While I am not sure what ingredients defined a korma then, it has come to mean meat (and sometimes vegetables as well) cooked in a rich sauce. In some places that richness derives from yoghurt, in some places from cashew paste, in some places from almond paste, and in some places from coconut milk. It’s best not to get too narrowly prescriptive about food, which is always on the move—which is not to say that we shouldn’t try to distinguish between things that are organically evolving and random crap that someone on the make is trying to pass off under a recognizable name. And it’s also important that no one reading this recipe think that this is some sort of a definitive recipe for korma: this is my aunt’s recipe for goat meat cooked with nut paste and raisins that she calls korma as a nod to convention and not because it’s some family recipe handed down through the generations from some ancestor who toiled in the kitchens of some minor nawab.
With all that out of the way, here is the recipe. And I referred to it earlier as a cheat because it’s basically a modification of this simple mutton curry that I posted a recipe for some time ago. I’ll post the entire recipe in full here, however, to spare you the clicking around.
- Mutton/goat: 2 lbs (hind leg), cut up and washed thoroughly.
- Whole garam masala: 1 inch piece cinnamon/cassia bark, 3-4 green cardamom pods, 2 cassia leaves/tej patta, 3 cloves.
- Red onion: 3/4 cup, chopped.
- Ginger: 1 tspn grated or made into a paste.
- Hot red chilli powder: 1 tspn.
- Turmeric powder: 1/2 tspn.
- Tomato: 1 cup, chopped.
- Almond paste/butter: 3/4 cup
- Golden raisins: 3/4 cup, pureed
- Water: 2 cups.
- Salt to taste.
- Heat the oil and add the whole spices.
- Once they’re fragrant add the chopped onion and saute over medium-high heat till beginning to brown around the edges.
- Add the ginger and saute for another minute.
- Add the chilli powder and turmeric and saute for another 30 seconds or so.
- Add the meat and salt and saute till the meat gives up its water and oil begins to separate.
- Add the tomatoes and cook down till oil begins to separate again.
- Add the the water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook till the meat is almost done, adding water along the way, as necessary, to keep the meat from sticking. At the end of this step you should have a thick but easily pourable sauce/gravy.
- Add the almond paste/butter and pureed raisins and mix in completely.
- Cook, uncovered at a high simmer till the meat is perfectly tender. The sauce/gravy at the end should be thick but still pourable.
- Serve with steamed rice or parathas.
- My aunt uses cashew paste, but as our older boy is allergic to cashews I use almond butter (which is very convenient).
- There’s a general belief that kormas should be mild but that’s not really true. If you want to counterbalance the sweetness from the raisins and cut through the heaviness of the nut paste a little more, you should feel free to up the chilli powder. You could also add powdered cumin and/or coriander along with the chilli powder and turmeric.
- I make this in an old school Indian pressure cooker myself. If that’s what you have as well, add the cashew paste after the tomatoes have cooked down, add a bit more water than indicated here (to avoid the risk of it sticking unseen in the pressure cooker) and then cook it down a bit more after you’ve taken it off pressure (3-4 whistles in about 30 minutes). If you have a modern pressure cooker you’re on your own.
- If you want to be fancy you can garnish the finished dish with very thinly sliced onions and a bit of cilantro.