Lamb/Mutton, main dish, spicy, Anglo-Indian
MY MUM'S COOKING
I was born and brought up in a well-known Anglo-Indian family in Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), Karnataka, which had a large and predominant British and Anglo-Indian population. Our lives were influenced to a great extent by British culture. There was no dearth of British goods in KGF during the 1940s and 50s. These goods were imported from England and sold through The English Ware House, Spencer’s Stores, the Clubs, etc.
As far as I can remember, there was always a good supply of Kraft Cheese, Tuna Fish, Polson's Butter, Colman's Mustard, Sardines, Baked Beans, Heinz Sauces, Jams, Jellies, Biscuits, cookies, Quaker Oats, Cornflakes, etc. in our home. Our parents gave us the best they could. There was always a stock of packets of Cream crackers and Glucose biscuits in our home to assuage our hunger anytime.
My mum was an exceptional cook, whose even ordinary dishes tasted delicious. She was versatile and imaginative when it came to cooking. She would improvise and turn out the most delicious curries and side dishes with whatever ingredients were on hand.
Mummy had a procedure for everything. The onions had to be thinly sliced and the green chillies and coriander leaves chopped finely. Even the tomatoes for the curry were scalded first and the skin removed, then chopped into bits and strained through a sieve, so that only the pulp was used and the seeds and skin thrown away!
Our Ayah would grind all the curry stuff (masalas) on the grinding stone that was required for the curry every day, as in those days everything was prepared fresh and from scratch. The readymade curry powders were avoided as much as possible. Moreover, since all the ingredients such as the meat, chicken, vegetables, etc., were bought fresh every day, the dishes cooked with them were extremely tasty. Since we had no gas or kerosene stoves at that time, every single dish was cooked over a fire wood oven, which just added to the wonderful taste!
Lunches on Saturdays and Sundays were special. Saturday lunch was invariably Mince Ball Curry, Coconut Rice and Devil Chutney. My mind still relishes the taste of the Mince ball curry and Coconut Rice that my mum prepared. On Saturdays we had only half-day school, so we were back home by 12.30 PM ravenously hungry. And we'd be assailed by the delicious aroma of the Coconut Rice and the Tasty Mince Ball curry even before we reached our gate.
The mince for the Ball Curry, had to be just right. So the meat (either beef or mutton) was brought home fresh from the Butcher Shop, cut into pieces, washed and then minced at home. (The mince for the famous Anglo-Indian Cutlets, Croquettes, Patties, etc was prepared in this way as well).
Like every Anglo-Indian family, we had our own meat-mincing machine, which was fixed to the kitchen table. We children loved helping my mum to mince the meat, whenever we had holidays, on the days we needed minced meat for various preparations.
We would fight to take turns to mince the meat especially for the Ball Curry. We found it quite thrilling and exciting to help my mum by putting in pieces of meat in the mincer and then see it come out like little worms through the cutters while turning the handle around! We were always amazed that the meat that we helped to mince would eventually transform into our beloved Mince Ball curry.
The Yellow Coconut Rice was always prepared with freshly squeezed coconut milk and butter. Like the meat mincer, the Coconut Scraper, fixed firmly on the other side of the Kitchen worktable was another important appendage of every Anglo-Indian Kitchen. Sometimes, two fresh coconuts would be broken and then scraped or grated. The scraped/grated coconut had to be soaked in hot water and the thick milk extracted. For every cup of rice double the quantity of coconut milk was the right proportion; a little more would make the rice ‘pish pash' or over cooked, and a little less would mean that the rice wouldn't be cooked well. So very accurate measurements were required. The raw rice and coconut milk would then be simmered with ghee or butter, saffron and a few whole spices of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves till the rice was cooked perfectly. This coconut rice formed the fragrant yet light base of our Saturday Special Anglo-Indian meal.
The Yellow Coconut Rice and Mince Ball Curry (also known as Bad Word Curry) was always accompanied with a typical Anglo-Indian Sauce or Relish known as Devil Chutney.
Devil Chutney is a fiery red chutney or sauce. Its bright red colour often misleads people to think that is a very pungent and spicy dish. It is actually a sweet and sour sauce, and only slightly pungent. The vinegar and sugar used in its preparation react with the onion and red chilli to produce the bright red colour. Devil Chutney is also known as "Hell fire or Hell's flame chutney or Fiery Mother-in-law's Tongue Chutney" due to its vivid colour.
I would now like to share my mum's recipes for these three special dishes. They are very easy to prepare. I have adapted her recipe to suit present day available ingredients and masala powders. The recipes are from my book ANGLO-INDIAN CUISINE - A LEGACY OF FLAVOURS FROM THE PAST.
YELLOW COCONUT RICE
Serves 6 Preparation Time 45 minutes
- 1 pack of coconut milk diluted with water to get 4 cups of milk or 1 fresh coconut grated and milk extracted to get 4 cups of diluted milk
- 2 cups of Raw Rice or Basmati Rice
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder or a few strands of saffron
- Salt to taste
- 4 tablespoons butter or ghee
- 3 cloves, 3 cardamoms, 3 small sticks of cinnamon
Heat ghee in a large vessel or Rice cooker and fry the spices for a few minutes. Add the washed rice, salt, turmeric and 4 cups of coconut milk and cook till the rice is done.
Coconut Rice is best served with Ball Curry or Chicken curry and Devil Chutney.
ANGLO-INDIAN MINCE BALL CURRY
(Mince Koftas in a coconut based gravy)
Serves 6 Preparation time 45 minutes
Ingredients for the Curry
- 3 large onions chopped
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 3 teaspoons chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 3 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
- 3 big tomatoes pureed or chopped finely
- ½ cup ground coconut paste
- 1 teaspoon spice powder or garam masala
- Salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon coriander leaves chopped finely for garnishing
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
Ingredients for the Mince Balls (Koftas)
- ½ kg minced meat beef or mutton (fine mince)
- ½ teaspoon spice powder or garam masala powder
- 3 green chilies chopped
- A small bunch of coriander leaves chopped finely
- Salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
Heat oil in a large pan and fry the onions till golden brown.
Add the ginger garlic paste and the curry leaves and fry for some time.
Now add the chili powder, coriander powder, spice powder or garam masala powder, turmeric powder and coconut, and fry for a few minutes till the oil separates from the mixture.
Now add the tomato puree and salt and simmer for some time. Add sufficient water and bring to boil.
Meanwhile mix the spice powder, salt, chopped green chilies, turmeric powder and coriander leaves with the mince and form into small balls.
When the curry is boiling slowly, drop in the mince balls carefully one by one.
Simmer on slow heat for 20 minutes till the balls are cooked and the gravy is not too thick.
Serve hot with Coconut Rice and Devil Chutney.
DEVIL CHUTNEY (HELL'S FLAME CHUTNEY)
- 2 medium size onions chopped roughly
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon raisins (optional)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
Grind all the above ingredients together till smooth. If chutney is too thick, add a little more vinegar.
Serve with Coconut Rice.