Sunday, March 30, 2014

Laal Maas

Laal Maas 

(A regal recipe from Rajasthan) 

 The truth is , for me virtual forums are a boon in life and here is why. You see you may have tried a recipe a hundred times but then somewhere these old favourites take a back-seat with new recipes to be explored,  healthy diets to be followed etc. Currently Kolkata Food Bloggers is hosting this amazing East or West Food is the best event, which explores regional cuisines from across western India to the far eastern states. Located in the extreme West,  Rajasthan is the state I picked for this event. There is something mysteriously attractive about this state which has always drawn me to this magnetic land of princes and princesses. Popularly known as the 'Land of kings' my earliest memory of this state with its rich cultural past is Abanindranath's 'Rajkahini' (A member of the Tagore family who wrote these mesmerizing short stories about regal Rajasthan) which captured my fancies when I was a child and continues to do so even today.

What one needs to know is Rajasthan unlike other states of India is a very dry state. After all , the Thar desert is located in Rajasthan and its culture and cuisine has developed accordingly . So most dishes use a lot of clarified butter to keep one's skin from drying out. It also uses a lot of spices and the fiery Rajasthi lal mirch.

Legend has it that the Regal families from Rajasthan would go hunting and the royal chefs would develop these amazing meat based dishes and Laal maas is one of them. Even with the unusual number of dried red chilies used , it is fiery yet not so fiery that one feels choked because all that fiery red chili remains whole and the flavours come from assorted spices. I was lucky enough to stumble upon this article when I was searching for information about regal Rajasthani cuisine. You may have a look at this article if it interests you.

What I gathered from the article was that the important part of the recipe is the browning of onions and the meat and the long hours of cooking to achieve that melt in the mouth texture of the meat.

As usual the website is filled with numerous recipes of laal maas. I have personally followed one I had gathered from 'The telegraph' Calcutta, years ago and have loved the taste. Even though it might sound rich and the process very tedious I suggest you follow it to indulge in that regal experience once in a while.

What you need is :-

1kg goat meat (the lean part)
400gm onions sliced thinly
4 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp cumin seeds
16 whole Rajasthani dried red chilies
Salt as per taste
4 tsp heaped Rajasthani dried red chili powder (lal mirch powder)
4 tsp ground coriander seeds
350gm ghee to 400gm ghee
10 black cardamom
10 green cardamom
350gm thick curd whipped

Start by marinating the meat with salt and 1 tbsp ghee. Marinate for 2 hours and then heat the ghee and add the cumin , when it splutters add the garlic and when the beautiful aroma hits your nostril add the whole red chilies and the onions and then brown the onions on low heat, when browned add the meat and seal the juices on high heat for 4 minutes or so and then lower the heat and brown it completely. This process of browning takes about 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Add the coriander powder, salt , red chili powder and then keep stirring till the spices are mixed well with the meat, add the whipped curd and bring to a boil and then lower heat and cook for the next 30 minutes to 45  hour. Now there was a time when I would waste a lot of  fuel and cook it on low flame for 3 hours or so. I have learnt a trick for domestic cooks which saves fuel and yields the exact soft meat and retains all the flavour. Use a heavy bottomed pressure cooker and simply transfer everything from the big wok in the pressure cooker and then seal it and put it on low flame allowing the steam to develop very very slowly. It takes about 20 minutes to 30 minutes and then wait for 2 whistles and let the steam come out on its own. Here you must be patient. Once the pressure is lowered to the point where you can open the lid open it and transfer it back to the wok and now you need to be careful because your meat is already soft enough and for that melt in the mouth experience you need to bring it to a boil and simmer for not more than 5 minutes to 7 minutes because if simmered for a longer period the meat melts in the pan instead of your mouth and no one wants melted meat in a mass of gravy. Once you have simmered the meat put it through the fork test to understand the softness . What you do is  take a piece of meat and try and take out a bit with a fork and it comes off you know the meat is done. Now turn off the gas stove and use a lid to cover the pan and let it stand for sometime and serve with some hot Chapati.

This is part of the event,

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