I’ve been stuck in a rut with mutton curries of late. It’s a delicious rut to be sure, variations on this basic Bengali-style approach, but it’s good to change things up. And so I did. This is an improvized recipe not trying to follow any particular regional style. In fact, what I had in mind here is more Malay and Indonesian braised meat dishes with star anise playing a big role. It’s not that star anise is not used in Indian cooking (it’s a common component of garam masala) but it’s not quite as ubiquitous as cinnamon, clove or cardamom—at least not in the meat dishes I’m used to eating or cooking. It’s the presiding whole spice here, along with cardamom, especially aromatically, but the sweetness it imparts is cut by vinegar on the palate. No tomatoes are used, which results in a “darker” flavour profile. Anyway, I think it’s quite good: give it a go.
- 2 lbs goat meat, cubed, preferably from the hind leg with shank/marrow bones
- Whole spices: 5 whole star anise, 5-7 small pods of green cardamom
- 1 medium red onion, sliced
- 1 tblspn grated ginger
- 1.5 tblspns grated garlic
- Powdered spices: 1 tblspn coriander seeds, 1 tspn cumin seeds, 1 tspn black peppercorns, a few small pieces of cinnamon/cassia bark, 3/4 tspn chilli powder, 3/4 tspn turmeric powder (all ground up together)
- 3 tblspns apple cider vinegar
- Small pinch light brown sugar
- 2 tblspns oil
- Cilantro for garnish
- Water, 1 cup plus more as needed.
- Heat the oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat and add the whole spices. Wait for them to release their aroma, taking care not to let them scorch.
- Add the onions and stir-fry for a few minutes till they’ve softened and begun to brown.
- Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for another minute or two.
- Add the powdered spices, mix thoroughly and fry for another minute or so, keeping everything moving.
- Add the meat and the salt, mix thoroughly and cook over medium heat till the meat has given up its water and oil begins to separate.
- Add the vinegar and sugar and stir for a minute or so.
- Add a cup of water, mix in thoroughly, bring to a high simmer, cover the pot and cook with the lid slightly ajar over medium heat. Check every 20 minutes or so and replenish the water if needed, 1/2 cup at a time. You don’t want to cover the meat thoroughly—the gravy at the end should be thick. Cook till done (probably 1.5 to 2 hrs).
- Garnish with cilantro and serve.
- This should be very good with beef or lamb as well.
- You could make this hotter I suppose but I’m trying to emphasize other notes here.
- This is very good with steamed rice but even better with parathas.
- Though I’ve given instructions for regular stove-top cooking I made it in an old-school Indian pressure cooker myself. If you have one of those, go the usual 30 minutes over medium heat that you’d do for any mutton curry (with 2 cups of water). I suppose you could also adapt it for the slow cooker, but if so you’d have to figure out the amount of water. Too much and it’s too runny, too little and the meat will dry out and/or scorch.