In the 1980’s, interest in cricket, in India, had just started to gain momentum since India had won the world cup in 1984. And so like all Indians we too became a cricket loving family and would be devoted to our tv sets on weekends whenever a match was on. My uncle (Tayaji- Fathers' older brother) loved sports and so my sisters and I were encouraged to watch all kinds of sports.
Dinner time ?... and if the match was still on, especially if it was an India vs Pakistan match we would be glued to the TV set and dinner had to be served that evening in front of it!
My Tayaji...who introduced us to the World of Sport
What a treat! (much to the agony of parenting gurus these days) My sister would be drooling over Imran Khan.
What could top that! It was something my Grandmother and Aunt (Taiji)would make on such occasions....a no messy , simple wholesome dinner- Mutton Shorba.
My Grandmothers Special Shorba
Shorba is a kind of thick soup that is Persian ,eastern European and central Asian in origin and it simply means gravy in South Asia and is one of the popular foods in North Indian cuisine . Its consistency is thick and can be made from tomatoes, lentil (daal), mutton, vegetables, chicken etc.
Buttered bread ...a simple accompaniment with Shorba
Coming back to our TV room(as we would refer to it), with our attention towards the match the whiffs from the kitchen would reveal our dinner. With smiles on our faces , we would wait patiently for the bowl of Shorba with soft buttered bread .
Each one of us would get the shorba in separate bowls, each portioned out equally with slices of buttered bread made into mini sandwiches.One of my sisters,MD, would wait to grab all the bone marrow peices while waiting for Imran Khan (a famous Pakistani cricketer in the 1980's-90's) to bowl his delivery while the other,RD, would be waiting for Ravi Shastri (a famous Indian cricketer in the 1980's) at the crease.
The must have in an Indian Kitchen...a Pressure Cooker
Making full use of our senses, eyes on the match and our noses taking in all the aromas of the delicious bowl of shorba which had all the goodness of meat, kidney beans, potatoes, beans and carrots. We would love the mix of the mutton with kidney beans... I must tell you that they accompany each other so well.
The bread dipped in the steaming hot soup which had to be then quickly eaten as it would get so soft ,was the highlight of the meal. We would manage to eat so many buttered slices (not to be counted) …since it would melt in our mouths.
We would be given second helpings more with the vegetables mixed in it …as we were told that it would give us lots of strength.
Quickly, we would polish off every drop in our bowls and with satisfied looks would return our full attention to the match.
Whole Garam Masla
My grandmother would make huge amounts of Shorba on these days since we lived in a joint family (Popular in India where brothers and their families would stay together). I would remember , huge pressure cookers being used and their whistles could be heard in every part of our house.
Red meat was prepared quite frequently at our home in Delhi since my Grandfather had a liking for it. In those days,the health aspect of red meat had not yet taken over people’s lives. Indian food, cooked at homes, by and large take into account a lot of healthy aspects and the incorporate the principles of Ayurveda .
Through the years , we reduced our intake of red meat due to health reasons, surprisingly, most of the delicacies of Indian food are prepared with mutton .
Here I share with you my grandmother’s simple version of her mutton shorba made for the "'no messy evenings'' in front of the tv.
Even today as I watch a cricket match in my home, I can hear the whistles of the pressure cooker and dream of the smells of shorba coming from the kitchen . It takes me back 30 years ,to my cozy TV room...with my sisters...and I thank my Uncle , Aunt and Grandmother for giving us these simple pleasures of life .
My Grandmothers Special Mutton Shorba
Serves 5-6 ; Preperation time : 15 minutes Cooking time: 45 -50 minutes
1 kg Indian Mutton (shoulder pieces)
5-7medium sized chopped red tomato/ 2 ½ cups tomato puree
5 medium sized chopped red onions
2 tsps ginger paste
2 tsps garlic paste
1 ½ tsp coriander powder(dhaniya)
1 ½ tsp cumin powder(jeera)
1 ½ tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1 tsp garam masala powder
Whole garam Masala:
½ tsp whole cumin
3-4 Black cardamom
3-4 Green cardamom
2 Bay leaves (Tej Patta)
½ inch Cinnamon stick(daal chini)
1 kg Red Kidney beans (Rajma)
3 medium sized potatoes
200 gms green beans
200 gms carrots
5 tblsps Oil , can use olive oil/ ghee
Salt to season
3 cups of water
1. Heat oil in a pressure cooker . Add the whole garam masala. When they begin to crackle add the ginger and garlic paste and sauté.
2. Add the finely chopped onions and tomatoes or tomato puree and add all the powdered spices. Sauté till the oil comes on top of the mixture.
3. Add the mutton pieces and cook very well till they become brown. This is called “Bhuno”
4. When the mutton gets brown, add 3 cups of water till the mutton is submerged in the water and add the kidney beans .Close the lid of the pressure cooker and put the whistle on.
5. Let it cook for at least 30 -40 minutes. Check if the mutton is fully cooked and tender.
6. The potatoes should be cut into halves and the green beans into ½ inch pieces. Put them into the pressure cooker and let it cook for 2 whistles.
7. Check if tender. The Shorba should have thick soup consistency.
8. Season, garnish with chopped fresh coriander and enjoy with buttered bread.
Even today as I watch a cricket match in my home, I can hear the whistles of the pressure cooker and dream of the smells of shorba coming from the kitchen . It takes me back 30 years ,to my cozy TV room...with my sisters...and I thank my Uncle(Tayaji) , Aunt(Tayiji) and Grandmother for giving us these simple pleasures of life.
A handful of restaurants have Mutton Shorba listed on their menu in the soups section but nothing to write home about...the closest i got is the Kashimiri Mutton Yakhni which is traditionally a winter soup made with mild spices and yoghurt and saffron ...a must try if you get the chance. I will, later, share the recipe with you in my Recipe section.
Since I did mention that some of the delicacies are usually made of mutton in India, I would like to share a recipe of Kabargah , a Kashmiri mutton dish, which is rarely served now. I had the oppurtunity to taste this very simple but flavourful dish this spring break at my in-laws home.This unique Kashmiri Pandit dish is a "must serve" in a Wazwan (Banquet) and I considered myself previlged to taste it in the confines of my in-laws home.
Makes 10-12 chops
1 kg full fat Indian Mutton chops ( chest pieces only)
750 ml full fat milk
2 cups water
1 tsp of salt
Masala Bouquet Garni
3 tblsps half crushed fennel (saunf)
4 Bay leaves(tejpatta)
2 nos. powdered Nutmeg (jaiphal)
4 nos. crushed Black cardamom
3 nos. Mace(javitri-optional)
2 crushed cinamom ½ inch sticks (daalchini)
1 ½ tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
For the Batter
4 tblsp Gramflour , enough to make a thin batter for the chops
1 tsp Turmeric(haldi)
1 tsp powdered fennel (saunf)
1 tsp powdered cumin (jeera)
¼ tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
Oil / ghee for frying
1. Cut the chops into 4 finger long and 2 finger wide pieces. They should be full of fat.
2. Place the chops with the mixture of milk and water.Add the Masala bouquet garni (place all the above mentioned masalas in a muslin cloth and tie it tightly)in the heavy bottomed closed vessel.
3. Cover and cook on a slow fire. When the milk is cooked completely add 1 tsp of salt. Do not add salt before this step, otherwise the milk would separate.Stir the mutton very gently.
4. Keep cooking till the chops are very tender. Add more water if needed.
5. When completely cooked, place them on a plate and squeeze the bouquet garni in it so that all the flavour gets into the dish.
6. For the batter , one can use gramflour mixture in water or mix the optional ingredients as listed above .The batter should be very smooth so that it coats the chops evenly.
7. Heat Ghee/oil in a kadai( a heavy bottomed wok type vessel). Dip the gram flour coated chops in the hot oil/ ghee and fry till it becomes nice and crisp.
Serve hot and Enjoy. Usually it is garnished with silver paper(vark)
Crisp and hot Kabargah...ready to be served
This dish is very easy to prepare. Don't get disheartened by the slow cooking process.
I have mentioned the Hindi names of the spices in brackets so that is it easy for you to pick them up from the supermarket. (Available at all major supermarkets in Dubai and Al Adil.)
After travelling from my grandmothers kitchen to my mother in laws' , I decided to get a taste of another very authentic Rajasthani dish from my recent Jaipur foodie trail. There are lots of wonderful and popular Rajashtani mutton dishes served in restaurants here that were prepared for Royalty, who were serious meat eaters . But on my visit to a very popular restaurant in Jaipur , Niro's ,which was established in 1949 and upon meeting its owner , Rajnish Pardal, I was treated to a fantastic recipe called Junglee Maas. It got its name since it was cooked in jungles, while hunting and was cooked with whatever ingredients were found at that time and place.
One can find this in quite a few restaurants, in Jaipur, but according to him , none were made the authentic way.The way he described it ...I could'nt but wait to get back to my kitchen to try it .
All that it takes.....Ghee and Red Chillies
1/2 kg Indian mutton pieces (can be a mix of all the parts)
10-15 nos. whole Red chillies ( go easy on this if you dont want it fiery)
4 tblspns ghee
Salt to taste
1. Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan.
2. Place the mutton pieces into the pan and brown them.
3. Add the whole red chillies and add equal amounts of water as the amount of ghee .
4. Cover and cook on a slow flame.
5. The key is to keep the ghee-water ratio equal at all points of time while cooking this dish.
6. Make sure the mutton is tender and well cooked when you take it off the fire.
Season and Enjoy with rice or roti.
Savour and do enjoy all the dishes with red meat...they are a part of traditions of India . I am glad I did rediscover the tastes of these authentic dishes as it brought me closer to the days when we would wait for the whistles of the cooker to die down in our kitchen...