This mutton curry is unique to the Chettiyars of Karaikudi in Chettinad, Tamilnadu, South India because it not only includes the flavours of goondu milagai chilies but also fennel and coconut.

Karrupiah really could cook this dish with his eyes closed. To test if the meat is as tender as he would like it to be he twists a piece between his thumb and forefinger to see how easily it gives. If it’s not fall apart tender, back in the pot it goes until his sense of touch is appeased. The flavours of this dish are distinctly South Indian and Chettiyar. The fennel, coconut and shallots singing in unison with the heat of the chilies makes a deep taste imprint.


Mutton Curry – Mutton Kozhambu Recipe

Yields
4 - 6

Ingredients

For the curry:
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3-inch piece of Sri Lankan “true” cinnamon bark
4 green cardamom pods
24 medium shallots, peeled, each sliced into 3 pieces
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
12 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced in thirds, lengthwise
20 curry leaves
2 Tablespoons red chili powder, mild  (Kashmiri or made from goondu milagai or cascabel chilies)
8 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
3/4 heaping cup of Curry Wet Paste*
1 cup fresh tomato puree
1 lb (450 grams) boneless mutton (goat or lamb), cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups water
2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste

*For the Curry Wet Paste:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup fennel seeds
1/4 cup cumin seeds
2 Tablespoons khus khus (white poppy seeds)
27 large (65 grams) cloves garlic, peeled
4 1/2 teaspoons roasted bengal gram, hulled, split
1 cup grated coconut


Method

For the Mutton Curry:

  1. Pour oil into a saucepan or pressure cooker over medium-high heat. When hot but not smoking, toss in the cinnamon and cardamom and give it a stir. Once the cardamoms plump up, add the shallots, onion and garlic. Stir till onion turns translucent.
  2. Add the curry leaves, chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder, and follow with the Curry Wet Paste, stirring well to break them up.
  3. Add the tomato puree and mutton, continuing to stir well to combine, breaking up the paste and scraping the bottom of the pan. Saute the meat for 1 to 2 minutes to seal in juices and then add 4 cups of water and sea salt if cooking in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered with a tight fitting lid, for 40 to 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. Alternatively, if cooking in a pressure cooker, add 3 1/2 cups of water and the sea salt. Seal the lid of the pressure cooker and after three whistles on high heat, turn the heat to low to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let the vessel rest for 8 to 10 minutes for the pressure to subside and enable the opening of the lid.
  4. If the consistency of the curry is too thin, return the uncovered saucepan or cooker to the stove and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. The curry should have the consistency of a medium-thick gravy.
  5. Remove from the heat and serve.

For the Curry Wet Paste:

  1. Pour oil into a large kadhai (wok) over medium-high heat. When hot but not smoking, add the fennel seeds, cumin, poppy seeds and garlic. Stir well. After 30 seconds, add the bengal gram and coconut. Stir once and remove from the heat to let cool.
  2. Grind with a mortar and pestle or in a wet grinder/blender, adding a little bit of water as needed. This should yield 1 2/3 of paste.

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