The very sound of “Mangshor Jhol “ sends me right back to my ma’s kitchen. I impatiently walked around the dining room as the pressure cooker hissed and whistled, and with every hiss the aroma of the curry already wafting in the air intensified. I see my children doing the same; they rush down the stairs and keep asking every half a minute if “meal is ready”.
I do not know if it is strange or magical, but I seem to be reliving my childhood again; my gals have the same expression and reaction to some food that I grew up eating. A different place and a different time, but the steaming curry straight from the pot, trickling on the pile of hot rice – invokes the same kind of the stomach growling appetite. I would like to call this “weekend meat curry“. With both my parents working, we did not have many opportunities during the day time to sit down and have a meal together. They dinners were together, but not the long and relaxed kind. The weekend meal times were very different and we all looked forward to some really good family time – over food of course.
Jhol in Bengal refers to a mildly spiced thin stew kind of preparation with either just vegetables, or fish/egg/meat as the main ingredient. Different kind of vegetables along with the egg/meat/fish is usually used. With meat and egg, the vegetable that pairs best would be tomatoes or potatoes or both. This Manshor (Mutton/Lamb) Jhol, uses very few spices. Traditionally mustard oil is used to marinate the meat; the aroma is so special that it still tickles my senses. It was a routine for me to have to “sniff”, after ma marinated the meat. This recipe may be done with chicken (Murgir Jhol), lamb or goat. Goat meat is popularly used, but if it is not available, it may be substituted with lamb.
The recipe pairs best with hot rice or roti and a chuntey (I prefer a sweet Bengali Chutney, like the Anarosher Chutney) on the side.
Mangshor Jhol – Bengali Mutton Curry
- 1.25 lbs mutton with bones (lamb or goat), cut into 2 inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons strained or Greek yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 tablespoon mustard oil
- 2 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and made into a paste or grated
- 1.5 tablespoon garlic paste
- 2 green chili pepper, muddled into a coarse paste
For the sauce:
- 3 medium red onion, sliced in thin half moons (about 4 cups)
- 1/6 cup oil (prefer. mustard oil)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 red dry chili pepper
- 3 medium potatoes, peeled and each divided into 4 parts
- 1/2 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoons red chili powder/cayenne (Optional or adjust to taste)
- 2.5 teaspoons coriander powder
- 2 teaspoons roasted ground cumin
fresh lime – to drizzle on the curry after cooking
Wash the meat well and pat it dry. Whisk all ingredients for the marinade and in a big non reactive bowl, combine well with the meat; let it sit for at least 2 hours, overnight works better.
Peel the potatoes, cut them to size, and sprinkle salt and 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder on them. Rub the salt and the turmeric on the potatoes. Heat about 3/4 tablespoon oil in a deep pan or pressure cooker and fry the potatoes on high heat until they start browning on the edges – about 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
In the same pot/cooker, add the rest of the oil and add the red dry chili pepper and the bay leaves. When the pepper turns dark, add all the sliced onions and fry them at high heat for about 12-15 minutes, while tossing them frequently till they start to brown.
Add the marinated meat to the pan (save if there are any leftover marinades) and add the rest of the turmeric, salt, chili/cayenne powder, coriander powder and roasted cumin powder. Toss well and cook the meat. You will have to to toss it frequently to prevent it from sticking to pan. It will take about 15 minutes for the meat to be kind of browned and for the liquid to dry up. This is kind of braising the meat with the spices. The meat and the onions will be browned (but not burned) and the spice mix will coat meat pieces.
Add 4 cups of warm water, add the potatoes and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid (or pressure cooker). Cook till meat is almost done and tender, falling off the bone. If you are using a pressure cooker, add the potatoes and water to the cooker pan and pressure cook until done as per instructions.
Drizzle with fresh lime juice right before serving.
Serve with hot rice or Naan or any flat breads.