Having lived in Srinagar for several years , crossing the bund in a shikara ( a type of gondola) to school every day, eating cherries sitting in a cherry tree in the garden, making giant snowmen from ankle high snow in the winter, I have several fond memories of the place, people and cuisine.
Decades later we had the chance to relive many happy moments when we returned to stay in Brene Village ,which is across the Dal Lake, in a quiet corner of the road that leads into Srinagar.
Here Moiuddin , a cheerful man with a wonderful smile , who was the cook for our stay, would produce some great meals, all accompanied by a yogurt, made from goats milk, set in an earthenware pot. One of his best productions, besides the 'mouldy apple' dish he made, was this...mutton curry with dried plums.
Mutton is the leanest meat to eat here. Not an ounce of fat can be seen. In any case most Indian recipes for meat or chicken call for the fat, skin and and muscle to be trimmed. Chicken for Indian recipes is best when it weighs about 650 gm to 900 gms a bird.
Few people eat meat floating in the saturated fat that you see in Indian restaurant curry, in India or abroad.
The major flavour of plummy Lamb is one of cinnamon, as it calls for a fair amount, but it tastes very different with the combination of garlic and tamarind. Many of the constituents of this recipe are soaked in water, so that the the tastes are subtle and the gravy is left without traces of the original ingredient.
- 1 full hind leg of mutton approximately 1 and1/2 kg.( 3 lbs) cut into fairly large pieces. i.e. 1 1/2 " cubes.
- 1/2 cup dried plums.
- 2 tsps salt.
- 12 elaichi / cardomoms
- 6 lavang / cloves
- 8" of dalchini /cinnamon in 1"-2" bits
- 1 tsp haldi /turmeric
- 1/3 cup tamarind in 2 cups of hot water. Boil for ten minutes till all tamarind is soft. Let stand.Then strain through a fine mesh sieve.
- 1/3 cup garlic minced in a blender with 1/2 cup water till frothy. Let stand.Then strain through a fine mesh sieve.
- 2 large teaspoons of kashmiri chilli powder in 1/4 cup water.( Kashmiri chilli is a bit like paprika, it gives the dish a good colour without being too hot.)
Boil 2 kettles of water, pour into a big pan and dunk all the mutton into it. Bring to the boil again over stove , and cook for a couple of minutes. Pour off the hot water and any scum that may have collected on top and wash the mutton again in cold water.
In a heavy bottomed pan put 2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil. Add the elaichi, lavang and dalchini, /cardamom, cloves and cinnamon, / as well as the chilli water, garlic water and salt. Cook for 12 minutes on high heat stirring all the time till water dries up.
Add 750 ml water to the meat and let it come to the boil. Lower heat and cook covered on medium for 1 hour. About a cupful of gravy should be be left in the curry.
Now add the tamarind water, the haldi /turmeric and cook for another 20 minutes. Add the plums and cook for 7 mintes till the plums are soft and just a bit of curry remains.
By the way the monsoon is in full force now and it has been raining non stop for over 15 hours. Being so grey and dreary, this curry was perfect to warm us up a bit. I would imagine it is perfect for winter days (of which we have few here) instead of the same old stew.
Cooking this dish, with its lingering scent of cinnamon, reminded me of brilliant days spent in Kashmir, . Looking out the window I could almost see the majestic and swaying chinars.