• Memories of Meat – Mutton for Kali Puja

    Jahar Kanungo

    On Kali Puja ceremony, there would be plenty of meat

    As children, the days we had mutton on our menu, we knew that there would be a lot more rice cooked. The fine aroma of the mustard oil, turmeric, bay leaves all mixed together with the mutton would linger on our fingers all day long. How did she bring out that fine smell which we never wanted to fade away from our right hand. I asked my mother about it much later? She said, the trick was, mutton had to be marinated with ground turmeric and salt, and finally, a spoonful or two of raw mustard oil. And, she would not wash the raw mutton with water as many would  do before  cooking.

    There would hardly be two pieces on everyone’s plate, and of course a big piece of potato. Potato was a must for our mutton curry. Most would say it helped to thicken the gravy, but my mother confessed later, how else could she feed so many hungry mouths with barely half a kg of mutton.

    I tried this recipe but couldn’t bring out that same smell or taste. Perhaps the turmeric from a packet is not good enough a substitute for the freshly ground paste. Or maybe I didn’t get the timing and temperature right.

    On Mahaastami day of the Durga Puja festival (performed at our village by the elite Sen Family), goats would be offered to the goddess. We would get to eat to our heart’s content. But I am not sure the smell of this mutton curry stuck to our fingers like our mother's did.

    Manasa Puja – for the snake goddess – would be performed at our home (was it in the month of July?), and a goat would be sacrificed. I remember the black coated little goat brought home from the weekly market. How we brothers would care for him and play with him. On the final day, his head would just chopped off. The head part of that sacrificed animal belonged to the priest.
     

    Veg Mutton Curry. NO ONION – NO GARLIC

    There would be plenty of meat on Kali Puja ceremony as well. But we had to wait till midnight until the bhog was prepared with the meat of the sacrificial animal. Plenty of meat on our plate (actually a banana leaf), but with a different aroma. We relished it nevertheless.

    Much later we realized that the bhog meat preparation was not cooked with onion or garlic. This is because these were considered non – vegetarian items. Well, that explained why my grandmother would not touch onion and garlic. I asked my mother how she cooked the meat on Manasa puja day.

    Well, the recipe for bhog meat preparation (If you want to cook in pressure cooker) would be something like this.

    Method:

    1) Mix the mutton well with turmeric and salt and keep aside for some time.

    2) Take curd in a bowl, add ginger paste, red chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder. Marinate the mutton with this curd mixture, and keep it aside for an hour or so.

    3) Heat mustard oil and fry the whole potatoes (six potatoes for a kg of mutton) with a pinch of salt. When the potatoes turn golden brown, remove them.

    4) Add more oil if you need, and add bay leaves, cloves, green cardamom, cinnamon stick and a little sugar. Let it splutter.

    5) Add the marinated mutton. Fry the mutton for some time. The mutton will release its own juice. Add hot water and the fried potatoes. Bring it to a boil.

    6) Cover the lid with the weight, and then wait for 8/9 whistles.

    Squeeze a lemon and eat with steamed rice.
     

    Here is the recipe of Kalighat’er Niramish Manghsho which I gathered from the internet and which is offered to Ma Kali.

    Note: The Kalighat Temple is regarded as one of the 51 Shakti Peethas of India, where the right foot of Shakti or Sati fell. Though there are many stories, the early history of the shrine is not well known. It grew to its present form over a period of time, particularly under the patronage of Sabarna Roy Chowdhury of Barisa in 24 Parganas.

    Method:

    1) Marinate boiled mutton with ginger paste, black pepper, salt, curd, turmeric powder and 1 tsp of ghee for 30 minutes.

    2) Add ghee in a frying pan. Add the mutton and stir till colour starts to change.

    3) Add the kaju-charmagaj paste. Add water to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan.

    4) Stir the mutton till it turns dark brown; add a pinch of black pepper powder.

    5) Add garam masala and cook for another minute and remove from stove.
     

    I am a fairly good cook of mutton. My signature dish, which my friends and family love, is nothing but a slight variation of the Jungle Maas recipe, which I find is nothing but the Niramish Manghsho recipe followed in the bhog preparation. That is plenty of ghee, red whole chillies in abundance and salt cooked on a low flame with patience and care. In my recipe, I do not use a large quantity of ghee, I rather use half  the quantity of mustard oil.

    Add mustarold in a pan, let it smoke and then add equal quantity of ghee. Add cloves, green cardamoms, a cinnamon stick and let it splutter a little. Now add the ginger paste and a few whole chillies, add 7/8 cloves of garlic (a little deviation from the Niramish recipe, but it is not a must). Then add the mutton. Cook on a high flame till the mutton changes color to pale pink, and then simmer on the lowest flame for an hour or so. Keep covered with a lid. Pour little water on the lid, this helps condense the water from the meat on itself and prevents it from burning. Occasionally check if it is getting stuck to the bottom of the pan.

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