The Bengali festive season has finally come to a close. What started off with Durga Pujo (which inspired my Eat Like a Bong series), meandered into Lakkhi Pujo and culminated in Kaali Pujo/Diwali was brought to a grand closure with Bhai Phnota. Not for long though, because Christmas is round the corner and probably no city in India (apart from the south) celebrates Christmas the way Calcutta does. Anyway, that is going to be my fodder for future posts. As of now let me concentrate on Bhai Phnota.
Now Bhai Phnota is an occasion where sisters pray for their brothers’ long and fulfilled life, feed them truckloads of food and give them gifts (and get some in return as well). Now I personally find the concept of Bhai Phnota a bit sexist. I mean, why would all “pray for long life” type ceremonies be performed for the menfolk? I don’t have a brother and my male cousins are 8 and 16 years younger to me. So what we did throughout our childhood was perform Bon Phnota. Didi and I would give each other gifts, ask our moms to cook up a feast and devour all that. Our mothers’ brothers too would be a part of the event. Basically it all led to a good lunch and that is what we were more bothered with.
Over the years, the Bhai Phnota culture has petered out in the family. The elder of my two cousins has been studying in Mumbai/Chennai for the last 4 years, I had been out of town till last year, one of my mom’s cousins is settled in Mumbai for over 10 years now and my Didi is in Delhi since 2003. What remain of the big fat party are my maternal uncle, a cousin uncle and my 12-year-old cousin. So this time around, since there was a very small team to feed, I decided to relieve my Mom of a few of the dishes, foremost of which was the mutton.
Now I like cooking mutton in exotic ways. Pressure cooking is just not my thing. The night before I marinated the stuff with what I usually use for marinade but I had still not thought of a dish. My Mum wanted me to make this Kosha Maangsho that was huge hit with a group of my friends. But I was determined to not traverse the same route. I assured my Mother that whatever I make will turn out well and saying that, started blog-searching for an easy yet delectable recipe. Now it is often that in these situations my blogger friend Priyadarshini (of Let’s Talk Food) comes to my rescue. P loves her proteins and has a brilliant array of meat recipes in her blog. For that day I chose her Maangsher Korma. I added and eliminated a couple of ingredients here and there but largely stuck to her instructions because that never go wrong! The end product was a juicy, sweet and spicy but not overtly hot, rich delight and if I may say so, tasted a bit like Gol Barir Maangsho (only Bongs would understand in what prestige we hold Gol Barir Mangsho, I presume)!
Recipe mostly adapted from Priyadarshini’s Let’s Talk Food
Cumin seeds: 1.5 tsp
Potatoes, halved and lightly fried with turmeric and salt: 2 (optional)
Dry red chilli: 3
Garam Masala: 3/4 tsp
Nutmeg: a fat pinch
Onion, finely sliced: 2
Bay leaf: 1
Mustard oil: 3 tbsp
Salt to taste
Sugar 2 tbsp
Ghee: 2 tbsp
Onion paste: 4 tbsp
Tomato puree: 2 tomatoes
Ginger paste: 1.5 tbsp
Garlic: 2 tbsp
Red chilli powder: 1 tsp
Garam masala powder: 1 tsp
Salt: 1 tsp
1. Smear the mutton pieces with all the ingredients listed under marination for 4-5 hours or overnight.
2. Dry roast the cumin seeds, red chillies, cardamoms and cloves and grind them into a fine powder. Set aside.
3. In a deep-bottomed kadhai, heat mustard oil and bring it to smoking point. Now lower the heat add a tbsp of sugar.
4. After about 30 seconds once the sugar has melted, add the onions and sauté them on medium high heat till golden brown.
5. Add the mutton along with the marinade and fry on medium high heat until the meat is halfway cooked and starts releasing oil.
6. Now add salt (if required), 2.5-3 tsp of the cumin-chilli powder and continue to cook till the mutton almost dries up and further oil separates. Halfway through, add the potatoes (if using).
7. Add the garam masala, mix well, and continue cooking. All this while keep adding warm water bit by bit (say half cup at a time) when the moisture dries up. warm water, enough to cook the meat through. Let the meat cook for a total of 1.5-2 hours or till tender.
8. Add the remaining sugar, reduce heat, cover and cook for another 10 minutes.
9. Remove cover and cook on low heat until the gravy reaches your desired consistency. Add the ghee, give a final stir and turn off heat.
10. Serve hot with rice, pulao, roti, paratha or naan.
Check out the other dishes Ma and I made for Bhai Phnota
Mishti Holud Pulao
Narkel Kishmish Chholar Dal
Calcutta-style Chicken Cutlet
Marble Cake with Chocolate Glaze and White Chocolate Chips