When one mentions Rajasthani cuisine, Dal Bati Churma is a dish that almost instantly comes to mind for most people. But if you consider yourself to be a die-hard meat lover, then without any doubt Laal Maas is what's going to get you drooling. This fiery red mutton curry is an absolute treat for those who have a high threshold for spicy food. But underneath the heat and spices is a beautifully slow-cooked meat curry with layers of flavours that can get you hooked for life.
As the name suggests, the vibrant red hue of the meat curry is what lends to its appeal. If you thought this was because of using copious amounts of any ordinary red chilli, then you are mistaken. Executive Chef Abhishek Madaan of Sarovar Portico Jaipur says, "The trick to making authentic Laal Maas is always using Mathania red chillies as they give a beautiful red colour to the dish. Moreover, the longer you cook the chillies, it starts imparting a sweeter taste."
In the olden times of Rajput kings, when game meat was customary, Laal Maas was one among the signature dishes that was painstakingly made by the khansamas to present nothing but perfection on the royal dining table. That goes to say that there are many nuances to perfecting the recipe, making it a labour of love. The heady dose of chillies along with other spices like garlic, ginger, cinnamon, clove and cardamom, and even the use of a wild cucumber called kachari that is found in deserts as a meat tenderising agent in the marinade, were all tricks to mask the distinctive smell of game meat, impart bold flavours and make it more enjoyable on the palate. The slow cooking over wood fire further made the meat tender, almost falling off the bone, and gave it a smoky finish.
While mutton has become a modern meat substitute, the use of spices, particularly Mathania red chillies, is what truly distinguishes Laal Maas from a variety of namesakes. Chef Abhishek Madaan lists down a few tips to making Laal Maas:
Always use Mathania red chillies or the authentic flavour
Slow cook the meat to develop the flavours
Instead of refined oil or mustard oil, use clarified butter (ghee), which gives a special aroma and taste to the dish
For a smoky finish, use the charcoal method that is easy to do
Here's a Laal Maas recipe by Chef Abhishek Madaan:
1. Grind the soaked chillies to a fine paste in a blender.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the mutton, yogurt, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, add one tablespoon ginger garlic paste and the red chilli paste. Mix well and set aside to marinate in the refrigerator for an hour.
3. Heat ghee in a nonstick pressure cooker or copper handi, to that add black cardamom, green cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaf and sauté till it's fragrant.
4. Add the onions and sauté till they turn light brown in colour. Then add the remaining ginger garlic paste and sauté for a minute.
5. Add the marinated mutton to the onions and sauté on high heat for two to three minutes.
6. Add salt and sufficient water to cover all the mutton pieces. Cover with a lid and let it cook under pressure for seven to eight whistles in pressure cooker or 60-70 minutes in copper handi.
7. Once done, remove from heat and wait till the pressure is released.
8. Meanwhile light the piece of charcoal, place it in a small metal bowl and place the bowl in the centre of pressure cooker or copper handi.
9. Add two to three cloves to the coal, pour some ghee and quickly cover with a lid and set aside for two to three minutes.
10. Put the curry back on heat, add garam masala and give a quick stir before removing from heat.
11. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with coriander sprigs and a lemon wedge. Serve hot.