I have been neglectful of mutton. Most people have.
Here in England, it’s the sad overlooked meat in the butcher’s shop that no one’s talked about since the 1950’s when it was a by-product of our clothing industry and people use to eat it all the time. Since the advent of factory fabricated fashion, we’ve all been eating more lamb.
In India, mutton is used all the time in curries although with one key difference: the meat comes from a goat, rather than a sheep. But the small matter of species aside, what they both have in common is that mutton makes for an excellent curry. The meat, being from an older animal is more flavourful than lamb, so better able to stand up to the strong spices and slow-cooking that a lot of Indian meat dishes require. It’s also practically half the price of lamb, making it worthy of a re-visit.
The main spice i’ve used in this curry is black cardamom, an epic beast, so black, gnarled and brash it should have been in Dante’s Inferno. It has all the floral eucalptyus notes of green cardamom but is dried over a wood fire, to smoke it – giving any dish it touches a sweet, charred and smoky flavour.
Slow-cooking the pair together, giving them time to get intimate, creates something heavenly: soft and unctuous meat in a rich, deep and smoky sauce. Perfect to mop up with some fluffy-pillow naan.
I bought my mutton here at Turner and George (they deliver, so you could too) and my black cardamom here
Slow-cooked mutton and black cardamom curry
- 4 tablespoons rapeseed oil
- 2 x 4cm cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 5 cloves
- 5 black cardamom
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 white onions, diced
- 5cm ginger, grated (plus extra to serve)
- 400g tomato passata
- 1 ½ teaspoons red chilli powder
- 11/2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 kg mutton shoulder, diced into 4cm x 4cm
- 4 tablespoons whole milk yoghurt
- 1 ¼ – 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- A big handful of coriander
Heat the oil in a lidded pan or casserole dish and when hot add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and cumin. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes, then add the onions.
Fry the onions for around 10 minutes, making sure to brown them but not burn them by stirring them infrequently, then add the ginger and garlic and carry on cooking for another 5 minutes.
Add the passata and cover the pan with the lid and cook for around 10 minutes, until the passata is darker and has reduced a little. Now, add the chilli powder (less if you’d prefer) coriander and salt. Stir then add the yoghurt and the meat.
Make sure the meat is covered by the liquid in the dish, if not, you may need to add just enough water to submerge it then bring the mixture up to a boil, put the lid on and turn down to a simmer.
Slow cook for around two hours, until the meat is soft and comes apart easily. Taste for salt and chilli, adjusting as you wish.
To serve, throw in a handful of chopped coriander and scatter with a few batons of ginger.