With this blog I have always attempted to bring recipes to the table with the idea that meat can be part of a sustainable diet and not a source of exponential environmental degradation or animal suffering. Be they less commonly eaten cuts or animals altogether, I still believe – perhaps in vein – that this approach with the right consumer attitude can secure meat as a viable menu option for the future.
One masters in Corporate Social Responsibility and a couple of sustainability research positions later, and my belief in business as an agent for sustainable development and not just blinkered economic growth remains. My research over the past two years has opened my eyes to the difficulty of operating sustainably in global markets where influence and accountability are often lost in complex supply chains that serve price first, ethics second consumers.
Perhaps India is a good place to return to to ease myself back into this blog and approach to food. While as a country it faces many of its own food security challenges, if there were to be a vegetable haven in the world then India must surely be it. But away from the billion preparations for daal, bhindi, and aloo, there is an approach to meat-eating that reflects many of my own values. Although maybe not out of choice, meat is a rare luxury for many of India’s non-vegetarians – something for feasts and celebrations not just mindless consumption.
During a trip there a couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to stay with a family who, as Indian hosts tend to do, go the extra mile for their guests. After an impromptu cooking class in their idyllic space on the edge of the Corbett National Park, we would feast on the most vivid flavours imaginable.
This is an involved dish, but the resulting flavour complexity and the satisfaction from having transformed a tough old goat into something wonderfully rich, moreishly spicy but equally fresh are worth it. Pungent spices permeate the once tough but now meltingly tender goat, marrow waits to be slurped out of bones and everything is punctuated by the freshness of lime, coconut and coriander.
If you can’t get hold of goat, then mutton or lamb can be substituted
Spice proportions are very open to interpretation
25g each fennel seeds, coriander seeds, poppy seeds,
5-10 dried red chillies
10 black peppercorns
1 coconut, white flesh only, liquid reserved
Toast the spices in a small frying pan over a low heat. Crush in a pestle and mortar until fine.
Blitz the coconut flesh in a processor or blender until a thick paste forms. Loosen with the reserved coconut water. Add the ground spices, combine and set aside.
2kg goat, mutton or lamb (neck, shoulder or any tough cut) in 5cm chunks, bone-in
1 cinnamon stick
3 red onions, thinly sliced into rounds
1 bay leaf
3 black cardamom pods (or green if unavailable)
2 teaspoons garam masala and coriander powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste)
3-4 tablespoons ginger and garlic paste
4 medium tomatoes, grated
To serve: 1 lime, coriander, small green chillies (optional)
Lightly salt the chunks and brown the mutton in batches in a large saucepan or pressure cooker on a high heat. Return all mutton to the pan with the cinnamon stick, add water to a 1cm level, cover and leave to cook on a low heat. 1 1/2 hours for a pan or 30 minutes for a pressure cooker. Remove from the heat and leave meat in cooking juices.
30 minutes before the meat is finished cooking, heat 1cm of preferred cooking oil in a large, heavy pan. Fry the onions until golden-brown (around 15-20 minutes). Add the dry spices and stir for 1-2 minutes. Then add the ginger and garlic paste, the coconut paste above and the grated tomatoes. Combine all the ingredients over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes.
Switch to a low heat and add the cooked mutton pieces, leaving the remaining liquid in the other pan. It should be falling off the bone as you stir it in but don’t worry about this. Leave to combine on a very low heat for as long as you like or until needed. Add a ladle of the mutton cooking juices and the reserved coconut water every 20 minutes or if the curry needs loosening. These juices combine with the other ingredients to slowly form a thick gravy.
When ready to serve, squeeze the lime juice into the curry. Sprinkle with coriander and green chillies (if using). Serve with some good raita, chapatis and plenty of cold beer.