I find Rajasthan one of the most intriguing states of our country. With its beautiful palaces, Maharajas and Maharanis, it is one place where history comes alive. A trip through Rajasthan makes you feel as though you are turning the pages of folklore. It’s absolutely amazing to say the least!
Years ago, in Vir Sanghvi’s show – ‘A Matter of Taste’ I had seen a rasowara (cook) of a royal family recreate the very traditional ‘Laal Maas’. Literally translating to Red Meat. I was amazed to see lamb being cooked only with red chillies and whole spices- no tomatoes, no coconut. During the episode the Maharani (I forget her name) said that ‘Laal Maas’ was a favourite of the gallant Rajput clan. The meat that was caught during hunts was cooked in dry red chillies and whole spices and was simmered in huge handis for hours together. Tomatoes and other vegetables were not native to the land, so chillies and spices were all they had to create the dynamite called ‘Laal Maas’. The meat was then served to the kings in beautiful brassware. That was one hell of an episode. I have wanted to try my hand at ‘Laal Maas’ since then, but for some reason it just didn’t happen.
This weekend when K10 went about his ritual of buying fresh meat, I thought of trying a curry that was different. The incessant rain since the break of dawn made me think of making some fiery meat curry, but was bored with the usual tomato and onion concoction. That’s when I thought of ‘Laal Maas’. A nice spicy curry would be good in this weather too. So Laal Maas it was.
- Mutton on the bone 1 kg
- Onions 4 large, finely chopped
- Red Chilli Paste 4 tbsps
- Garlic paste 2 ½ tbsps.
- Yogurt 1 cup
- Desi Ghee 3-4 tbsps
- Bay Leaves 4
- Green Cardamoms 6
- Black Cardamoms 3
- Cinnamon ½ inch stick
- Cumin seeds 1 tsp
- Broken dry chillies 5
- Garlic cloves ,sliced 6
- Red Chillies crushed 6-7
- Coriander Powder 2 tbps
- Salt to taste
- The red chilli paste – Pick some nice big whole dry red chillies. If you are wary of the spice quotient use Kashmiri chillies. I used the fiery ones. Grind the chillies with some water and oil to make a nice chunky coarse red chilli mix.
- In a bowl, add the lamb, red chilli paste, garlic, yogurt and some salt to taste. Make sure all the mutton is well coated with the marinade. If you have the time, you could leave it overnight. I marinated the meat for a little over 2 hours.
- Heat ghee in a heavy bottomed handi or kadhai. The ghee is key to giving your Laal Maas that very majestic texture, so don’t skip it . Desi ghee is what I used and it worked wonders.
- Once the ghee is hot enough, add bay leaves, black cardamom, green cardamom, broken red chillies, cinnamon, cumin seeds and the slices of garlic. Fry these spices well for a minute or so. Don’t let them burn though.
- Add onions in next and sauté them very well till they turn golden brown.
- Tip the lamb in next and let the meat fry with the marinade and the onion spice concoction.
- While the lamb is frying, you can swirl a few dry red chillies with no water in your mixie.
- Add the coriander powder and the crushed red chillies in next and sauté the meat very well for another 15 minutes or so.
- Next, add around two cups of water, salt to taste and cover the handi. Let the meat simmer in the spices for a good two hours or till the meat is done. The simmering on low heat ensures that you have meat that absolutely melts in the mouth.
- If you are pressed for time, use a pressure cooker instead of a kadhai. Use the same procedure as above. Once you have added water, cover the lid of the pressure cooker till around six to seven whistles are out or till the meat is well cooked. I always use the pressure cooker method for my lamb whenever I’m in a hurry and it works brilliantly, always!
- Traditionally this dish is not garnished at all. The beautiful red colour of the chillies gives the dish a mysterious aura, so don’t let any garnish camouflage the drama!
The Rajputs used to have this with makkai ki roti. We had ours with some roomali rotis and a pulao that had some cumin and fresh green peas. What a royal lunch, this!