Railway Mutton Curry | An Anglo Indian Express Recipe
The year is 1947.
Nine children bouncing along on a train bound for Coimbatore, peering intently out the windows and reciting with full gusto R.L. Stevenson's poem, 'From a Railway Carriage'.
"Faster than fairies, faster than witches,Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches......And here is a mill and there is a river;Each a glimpse and gone for ever!"
"I think I can, I think I can" and"I thought I could, I thought I could",
|The bearers have been known to pass trays to each other from the outside of moving trains. Photography by Steve McCurry.|
|My grand uncle Frank Lafrenais as a boy, with his mother (my great grand mother) Mary Lafrenais. Circa 1925.|
There are just so many regional variations of this dish, depending on which part of India it is prepared in, that it is impossible to agree on what a 'traditional' Railway Mutton Curry should taste like.
Some recipes from South India (Kerala) use a profusion of their local ingredients like pepper, star anise, ground cashew nuts and coconut milk for a more aromatic, richer gravy. Whereas recipes from the East of India (Bengal) are quite different using ingredients like mustard oil, fennel seeds and yogurt.
I would say that this recipe is influenced by the cooks of the Madras Presidency of British India, which now forms the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Once the hub of a large Anglo Indian population who were for generations employed in the Indian Railways, this dish was popularly prepared not just for First Class train dining cars and at train station dining halls, but also in Anglo Indian kitchens to be enjoyed by the family for dinner.
This very simple Railway Mutton Curry is flavored with curry leaves and aromatic whole spices of cinnamon, clove, cardamom and nutmeg. Tamarind gives this curry a dark color and helps in thickening the gravy. It also helps preserve the curry, preventing it from spoiling and thereby making it most suitable for taking on long train journeys.
The Express Recipe
There are two ways that you could prepare this Railway Mutton Curry. Either by taking 'The Mail' or by taking 'The Express'. It really is a matter of how much time you want to spend getting to the final destination.
The journey on 'The Mail' is going to take much longer. It requires marinating the meat overnight and then slow cooking the mutton on low flame for 2-3 hours until it is tender.
However, given that I don't always have (or want) to spend that much time preparing a dish, I prefer to jump on 'The Express' bandwagon. I pull out my secret weapon, my handy pressure cooker, that helps take hours off the preparation of this curry. Twenty minutes in the pressure cooker and the mutton is fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Though, I will say that the curry tastes better the next day, after it has had time to absorb all the flavors. So, if you have time, prepare it a day in advance.
The best cuts to use for this recipe are goat/ mutton pieces with bones, preferably shoulder or hind leg cuts.
RAILWAY MUTTON CURRY
The Anglo Indian Express Recipe
☐ 1 large boiled potato cut into pieces or slices
☐ 10 peppercorns
☐ 2 onions sliced
☐ 2 pieces of cinnamon
☐ 2 cloves
☐ 2 cardamoms
☐ Pinch of nutmeg
☐ 10 curry leaves
☐ 4 round chilies broken into bits
☐ 1 teaspoon chili powder
☐ 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
☐ 1/2 cup tamarind juice made from a marble size piece of tamarind
☐ 3-4 tablespoons ketchup
☐ Salt to taste
☐ Vegetable oil
1. Marinate the meat
Rub the mutton pieces with chili powder, salt and ginger garlic paste and leave it to marinate for 30 minutes or longer while you fry the masala.
2. Fry the masala
In a deep, thick bottomed pan, add 3-4 tablespoons of oil.
When the oil is hot, add the sliced onions, curry leaves, cinnamon, clove and broken red chili pieces. Fry until the onions are golden brown.
3. Cook the meat
Add the mutton pieces to the fried masala and fry the meat on high to brown the mutton.
Transfer everything into a pressure cooker. Add 2 cups of water and the tamarind juice.
Once the steam comes through, put the stopped on the pressure cooker and wait for one whistle on high heat.
After one whistle, simmer on low heat and pressure cook for 20 minutes. Allow the pressure to release on it's own before opening the lid. The mutton will be soft and tender.
4. Thicken the curry
Open up the pressure cooker. Below is what the cooked meat curry will look like. It needs to be thickened up a bit.
Add the nutmeg and the ketchup to the curry.
Continue to cook it on medium heat for a few minutes to thicken the gravy.
Then, add the boiled potatoes.
Serve hot with bread, buns or rice.
The Spencer Saga by Maddy on "Maddy's Ramblings".
Photograph of train bearers- Steve McCurry- https://www.stevemccurry.com/
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