Ever wonder when and why you cook a dish you do not necessarily eat yourself? I know why I do, because I care to cook, I cook for those I care. Cooking mutton rezala is one of those moments when I cook for the love of those I care for and when they consume the culinary gift with delight, my efforts in la cucina arrive at a happy conclusion.
Mutton rezala makes me nostalgic. It was there during all over my growing years. Weekend meal was meat special as it was all part of a routine to cook mutton rezala once in a month or sometimes quarterly in my parents’ home. So we had this yearning for mutton rezala since we used to eat this dish very rarely. It also found its place in the party-menu, a must-have for lavish dinner arrangements for special occasions and enormously popular as festival food for Bengalis. Mutton rezala is cooked during festivals like Bijaya Dashami (served with Loochi), the day after Kali Puja and last but not the least, on Eid. This was also the only red meat I had ever eaten in my life till now. With time, I have lost interests in meat. During my growing up years, I would eat chicken at least once a week or once in a blue moon, there will be a fair-share of Mutton rezala or ‘Kosha Mangsho’ (as Bengalis call it) on the table but no other meat. At this point in life, I do not eat any red meat. It surprises me as much as it would to you that how can you cook something that you don’t eat yourself. Mutton rezala is one such dish that I don’t eat any longer but everytime I cook, I’m showered with compliments. The best ever compliment I have received on this particular dish was when I cooked it last time on Eid-ul-fitr, the beautographer announced (pun intended) that he is going to write to Chanel, Dior and a few other high-end designers to launch a new fragrance collection that he had in mind. Curious was I, asked in a murmured voice, what are they going to be like, he confirms that they are the aroma of my 1) mutton rezala, 2) chicken tikka masala and 3) Hilsa fish in mustard sauce. It was a ”rolling-on-the-floor-laughing” moment.
Mutton rezala is supremely fragrant mutton in youghurt based stew but richer and thicker than stew in its consistency.
This preparation below is my vague captivation of the vivid memories that I have on my part while growing up.
And I would say I have seen my mother making mutton rezala this way. Adding potatoes as some of you would say is not part of making this dish, but this is how I have seen my folks making mutton rezala and I too love a giant piece of perfectly boiled potato in my plate drowned in this heavenly gravy.
With the invention of pressure cookers and high-tech food processors, things become far easy for those of us living in an urban environment. This preparation is quicker and time saving as mutton is being cooked in pressure cooker after stirring heavily it in wok, but the originality of the taste still is maintained.
Note: I do not follow a structured recipe, so the ingredients used are of my own choice. I have honed this to near perfection by cooking again and again, quantity of the ingredients may vary as per your taste because I never measure them following a book, they are all estimations and judgements used that only come with experience of cooking over a period of time.
Ingredients I used:
Mutton 1 kg (from legside)
Youghurt (I never measure. Use according to your judgement. May be a full medium sized tea cup)
Onion Paste (take 3 large onions, use half to marinade)
Ginger-garlic paste 4 tablespoon (2 each)
Salt (According to taste)
Mustard oil 2 tablespoon
Turmeric powder 1/4 teaspoon
Red Chilli powder 1 tablespoon
Cumin Powder 1 tablespoon
Coriander Powder 1 tablespoon
Garam Masala Powder 1/4 tablespoon
For Tempering oil:
Bay leaves 2
Dry red chilli 3-4
Cinnamon stick 2 or 3 of 1’’ stick
Cloves 7-10 pieces
Green Cardamom 5-6 pieces
Ghee/oil 4 tablespoon
To make the gravy:
Onion paste of 3 large sized onions (use the other half at this stage)
Poppy seed paste 1 large tablespoon
Cashew nut paste 1 medium tablespoon
Nutmeg powder 1 teaspoon
Cinnamon powder 1/2 teaspoon
Crushed mace 1/2 teaspoon
Sugar 1/2 teaspoon
Salt (according to taste)
Ghee/oil 4 tablespoon
3 large potatoes, cut in halves or make four pieces if potatoes are bigger
Lets cook now
Cooking Time: 2.5 hours (1 hour marinade + 1.5 prep and cooking time)
Serves: 6 or more
Making mutton rezala, includes grinding onion, garlic and ginger into a smooth paste in a blender and then heavily stirring mutton in a large wok or saucepan till the oil separates out, stirring in between and cooking it in a pressure cooker(if you don’t have pressure cooker, cook it at low heat in slow cooker. Everything has to be slow and smooth, and the taste incomparable, probably there is no substitute for hard work and the end result smooth thick gravy and juicy mutton pieces cooked to perfect with spices. One bite and the taste burst into the mouth, whole lot of chemical reactions and salivations makes the dish so relish.
Step 1: Washed and cleaned the mutton pieces cut in medium sized. Pat them dry and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the ingredients under ‘To marinade’ and mix them well. Keep them covered with cling film and put them in the fridge for 1 hour. You can leave them overnight to get more soft and succulent taste of the meat (I left them overnight).
Step 2: Before you start cooking, bring the mutton to room temperature by keeping it outside for sometime. Take a large non-stick pan and put ghee in it. When the ghee is hot, add all the ingredients under ‘’To tamper the oil’’ and allow them to splutter. Ad the remaining onion paste now. Put all the mutton pieces in the ghee (you can use sunflower/vegetable/mustard oil too, I particularly like the taste of mustard oil with meat and fish) and keep stirring them for at least 10 minutes. At this stage, you can also adjust the spices according to taste. Add a little more of all the spices, if you think it is needed. It’s your call!
Bengalis would call this time period- ‘mangsho koshano’. I kept looking for the appropriate word in English. Asked around a few in-the-know but terms like sear or singe would be appropriate for grilling or BBQing. So I would stick to ‘stirring heavily’ because it needs constant stirring with an extra force of hand in order to avoid the mixture getting stuck to the pan (if you are not using non-stick pan) plus to ensure evenly blending the meat pieces with the mixture.
Step 3: How do you know your meat ‘koshano’ (heavily stirred) is done, when you see the ghee/oil comes on top of the gravy and form a dark maroon-yellow color. Mix 2 or 3 cups of warm water.
Top tip: Rinse the same bowl you used to marinade and store the mutton with warm water, use this water to cook the meat. This is the best way to make sure all the spices used to marinade the meat is gone into cooking the dish.
Step 4: In a separate pan, heat oil, add the potatoes, sprinkle a pinch of salt and shallow fry them turning it upside down from time to time. When the edges of the potatoes pieces are light brown, take them off the pan and add to the mutton gravy. Cook for 5 more minutes.
Step 5: Take a pressure cooker and put the meat gravy into it. Seperate the potatoes from the mutton gravy before putting them in the cooker. This will avoid the potatoes from breaking into pieces as a result of over-cooking.
Step 6: Wait for at least 10 whistles of the pressure cooker before turning the heat off. Keep it aside. Wait for it to open its lid on its own after the pressure is gone.
Step 7: When the lid of the pressure cooker will come off on its own, check the consistency of the gravy, take a little gravy in a spoon to taste and decide whether the salt and spice is upto your taste. If all is ok, it is ready to serve. At this stage, if you find the gravy is runny, you can again leave it on stove for another 5 minutes (without the lid) in low heat until it turns into a thick rich gravy.
Step 8: Serve it in a traditional serving dish- a brass-silver Karhai (wok), garnish it with julienned ginger and sliced green chillies. Eat with hot steamed basmati rice. Voila!