I close my eyes as I travel back in time to the shelter of my parent’s home.
Life is beautiful.
It is the eve of Holi. I have been waiting for this day and so have my other little friends. Ma is busy preparing sweets and savories – ‘gujiya’ and ‘maalpua’ are a tradition. Papa has bought abeer (colors for Holi) and a pichkari (water gun) to be shared by the four kids in the house. The evening is spent in making the crucial decision: which clothes have we outgrown and are ready to discard this Holi?
As night falls, a bright day of color, food and pure bliss beckons.
Sunrise brings along with it great cheer. We’ve never been happier to wake up early and probably the only time in the year before Ma wants us to wake up. She has to finish cooking before the festivities begin. Ma is a little nervous. She needs to make sure that there is enough food for all visitors.
It is mandatory that the first thing to do before stepping out of the house is to give ourselves a good rub with generous amounts of oil to prevent our skin from getting stained with the colors of Holi. Though secretly I always wished the color stains remained, at least for the next day or two. It was the mark of a Holi, well played.
A knock on the door… and a world of color, water, fun, friends, food and madness begins!
A swarm of people knocking on every door, their faces daubed with bright colors. Red. Blue. Green. Yellow. Pink. Buckets of water splashed all over… and today, that only brings smiles to people’s faces. The crowd echoing in one voice “Holi Hai”!! (It is Holi). The gujiyas, maal puas and dahi vadas do the rounds as do namkeen and mithais (savories and sweets) from every home. Uncles and Aunties from around the neighborhood gather, all in festive spirits. They are an extended family. We smear their faces with color and they do the same along with countless blessings and much love. It is one day where happiness knows no bounds.
At some point in the day, the children and adults part ways for their own celebrations. We loved that part just as much as the adults did.
This day knew no squabbles. Only mended friendships, love and laughter..
As if customary, we almost always ended this colorful, hot day with a dip, a jump, a splash in the big reservoir in our neighborhood. We spend hours there. Basking in the glory of the day gone by. Almost in oblivion. Probably creating a memory which will last us a lifetime…
Ma always prepares mutton on this special day. It’s a tradition that has been followed in our family for as long as I can remember. I’ve tried to keep the tradition, though this is not the traditional family recipe. In due course, that shall be shared too.
Junglee Mutton, as the name suggests, is a recipe from the wild! A recipe predominantly in the kitchens of the royal families of India. As the name suggests, this dish was prepared in the wild by shikaris (hunters) when out in the wild, hunting. Originally, made with wild boar, these days it is prepared with mutton.
I thank Raja Shailendra Singh of Chandapur for introducing me to this wonderful preparation of mutton during my first trip to Lucknow. This is my humble attempt to recreate a dish that I absolutely fell in love with from the very first bite.
Do not go by the simplicity of this recipe and the lack of exotic ingredients. If you love mutton and like it hot & spicy, this dish is all yours!
To print this Recipe, click here.
Mutton: 600 gms
Dried hot red chillies: 15 – 20 pcs (yes, you got that right!)
Salt: as per taste
Mustard oil: 2 1/2 tbsp
A heavy bottomed pot / or a kadhai
How I did it:
Wash the mutton. Make sure there are some bones as they add to the flavor of the dish. Add salt and a tbsp of mustard oil and leave it for an hour or so in room temperature.
Add the marinated mutton into the pot. Cover and cook. Stirring in between every 5 mins on medium-high heat. After 15 minutes, add the dried red chillies.
Add water throughout the cooking process, a ladle at a time, making sure that the mutton remains moist – neither boiling nor dry. Adjust the heat, if necessary to achieve this. This is important to make sure the final dish is moist and well cooked.
Cover and continue cooking following the method above until mutton is soft. It took me almost 2 hours to cook this dish. Serve hot with Roti.
I used about 750 ml of water, adding a ladle at a time and cooking with the pot covered most of the time. You may need more or less, depending on the heat used.