The Mangalorean Catholic community of India is famed for some delicious meat preparations. Being half Manglorean myself, some of the popular dishes find their way to my dinner table every other week.
The usual suspects—coconut, fiery red chillies, tamarind and curry leaves—are synonymous with coastal food and found in varying proportions and combinations in this cuisine.
In earlier days, the spices were ground on thick, flat, raw granite slabs with a heavy rolling pin made of the same stone. As a child, it seemed like an endless, tiring process to me. But the taste of the masalas (spice pastes) that were slopped off the stone and into a waiting vessel was unmistakable. Every family had a grinding stone and it occupied its own space in the kitchen. They were incredibly heavy and a lot of hard work to use. In some homes, ones that still refuse to give in to blenders, there are women employed specifically to grind masalas that will last the household a week.
This Mangalorean mutton gravy and its aromatic masala brought back memories of the old stone and the how wonderful the air would smell as each spice was pounded on it.
Eat this dish with a slice of bread or plain white rice to soak up the gravy.
- 2 bone-in lamb shanks (about 1 pound total)
- 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste (or 1 tablespoon each minced ginger and garlic)
- Kosher salt
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 6 dry Kashmiri chillis
- 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 3 cloves
- 1 medium onion roughly chopped
- 3 cups water, divided
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large potato, quartered
- 1 lime wedge
- 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
Rub the lamb on all surfaces with the ginger/garlic paste and salt. Allow to rest while you make the masala paste, or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
To Make the Masala: Preheat cast iron pan over high heat until smoking. Reduce heat to medium. add cinnamon, poppy seeds, chilis, coconut, coriander, cumin, and cloves. Cook, stirring and tossing constantly until fragrant, about two minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl and allow to cool completely. Transfer to a blender, add onion and pulse, adding 1 cup of water in small increments until a smooth paste is formed.
Heat oil in the heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Reduce heat to medium-low and add masala paste. Cook, stirring constantly until oil separates, about 10 minutes. The oil should take on the red color of the masala at this stage. (Take care to stand out of the way, masala pastes splutter.)
Add the lamb pieces and potato and stir until coated with masala paste. Add 2 cups water, stir to combine, and season lightly with salt (broth will reduce, so do not overseason). Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook, covered, until the lamb is completely tender, about an hour and a half. Season to taste with salt.
Garnish with a sprinkle of lime and the coriander leaves. Serve hot with a loaf of bread or white rice.