As I sit here reminiscing about my father, I’m recalling how he was a very loyal, simple, caring man, who had the traits of an ambitious chef in the making. His culinary adventures began back in India, when he had to drop out of school to help support his mother after his father passed away. This woman was my grandma Rukhi, and she showed him the way around a kitchen. Living in a poor town, during a poor time, nothing was wasted in Rukhi’s kitchen; every vegetable and morsel of meat was used.
My father was born in Uganda in 1957, where some of my cooking influences have come from. Like me, my dad used to put his spin on a dish that he had learnt. There was a dish that reminds me of him called Matoke (Plantain Stew) spoken as ‘Ma-tu-ghee’. It was a side dish that would go with his favourite mutton curry, and we would eat it with an Indian salad called ‘kachumber.’ The plantain banana stew is very similar to a tarka dhal, in the way it’s cooked.
However, lots of things have changed, everyone has moved on. My dad has gone to be with his mum and dad, and time has made us evolve, but one thing never changed and that’s our Sunday curry day! Everyone else would have a Sunday roast, but in our family, we had mutton or lamb curry on Sundays. We would drench the plantain stew with lots of lemon and the meat was always cooked on the bone for depth of flavour and it had a hint of smoky spice, with stewed tomatoes and onion running through to give it a rich, robust taste.
I never really thought my dad and I were much alike until I left home to live a life of my own and I could see that I carried his traits; ambition, the passion for food, and the love for life to be simple and stress free. Now, after his passing I truly believe I am my father’s daughter and I love every trait of his that I find in myself. He is always with me and will always stay with me! His ambition to cook new dishes and experiment will be carried forward with me on my culinary adventures. I spoke to him on his birthday in March, nine days before he died and I could hear the pride in his voice when I told about the way I’m sharing my food of love with you!
So, in honour of my father, I would like to share a recipe that’s close to my heart, my dad’s mutton curry.
Gujarti Mutton Curry Recipe
- 3-4 tbsp sunflower / olive oil
- 2 x cinnamon bark
- 3 x bay leaves
- 5 x cloves
- 4-5 x green cardamom pods
- 1 tbs black pepper corn
- 2 heaped tsp crushed garlic
- 2 heaped tsp crushed ginger
- 1-2 heaped tsp green birds eye chilli
- 1 tin of chopped tomato
- 1 kg of lamb/mutton (2 packets of shop brought lamb chunks)
- 2 big potatoes cut in medium chunks
- 2 big white onions, blended or very finely chopped
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1-2 tsp ground red chilli
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp of salt
- Hand full of fresh coriander for garnishing
- Sprinkle of Garam-masala
- In a pan, heat the oil and add the cardamom pods, cinnamon barks, black pepper corn, bay leaves and cloves frying until they pop and become aromatic.
- Add in the chopped onions, saute until very brown and caramelised (this is essential for depth of flavour).
- Add in the ginger, garlic and green chilli and saute for a few minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and stir in.
- Add in the dried spices, turmeric powder, salt, coriander powder, cumin powder and the juice of half a lemon.
- Stir and let the sauce simmer until the mixture becomes a thick paste.
- Add in the lamb/mutton, and sear until the meat is sealed.
- Add enough water to achieve a soupy consistency.
- After 1 1/2 hours add in the potatoes and let the meat and potatoes cook on a low heat until everything is cooked thoroughly. This usually takes up to 2 1/2hour on a low-medium heat.
- You may need to add more water as the potato and meat will drink up the water.
- Just before you serve, sprinkle in the coriander and garam masala and stir.
TIP: You will find the right cuts of meat and mutton at an Indian butcher, like Gordon Stores on Gordon Rd Maidenhead, and sometimes ASDA. Because mutton is taken from an older sheep, it takes longer to cook and become tender, but tastes much better than lamb. Meat on the bone will also add a lot more flavour.