Monday, February 6, 2012

Bengali Mutton (or any red meat) Curry

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Bengali Mutton Curry - Pathar Mangsho Jhol

Mutton curry, or pathar mangsho jhol, is a popular Bengali dish that is often served on special occasions and to guests. Mutton technically means lamb, but in India “mutton” means goat meat. Although Bengalis traditionally use goat in this dish, I usually substitute beef, lamb, or buffalo since goat is difficult to find in the U.S. The hearty gravy, tender meat and potatoes may make an American think of this dish as a spicy beef stew. This dish (which is my mother-in-law's recipe) is really simple and quick – just combine all ingredients in a pressure cooker! (You can make this without a pressure cooker too, though!)

If you want to make the meat tender and juicy, you really need a pressure cooker. It cuts the cooking time down significantly; usually it would take a red meat curry hours to cook over the stove, and the meat inevitably dries out. The pressure cooker cooks the meat in only about 10 minutes, and it is moist and incredibly tender! I have been really pleased with my electric Presto pressure cooker and am so glad I made the investment (I found it on sale for $70). Pressure cookers are available at stores like JC Penney, Bed Bath & Beyond,, etc. If you do use a pressure cooker, read all instructions carefully, as pressure cookers can be dangerous if not used properly.

If you don't want to use a pressure cooker, see my note below the instructions to cook this in a slow cooker or regular pot.

Ingredients (This dish serves 4):
  • 1.5 lbs beef chuck (try to get a lean piece) OR lamb or buffalo, cubed into 1 inch squares (Note – do NOT get beef stew meat – it gets tough!)
  • 1.5 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1.5 tsp fresh chopped ginger (if you use ginger from a jar, you need to put more because it's not as strong - I'd say 2.5 tsp)
  • 1 Tbs chopped garlic (if you use pasted from a jar, use more - I'd say 1.5 Tbs)
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, chopped
  • 1 large tomato or 2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium-sized potato or 1/2 a large potato (such as a Russet), cubed
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder (a special red chili powder you can find at the Indian grocery store or order online - it is milder and has a different flavor - see photo below)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper/red pepper powder, also known as Indian red chili powder (NOT the chili powder used to make American chili - it CANNOT be substituted. You CAN substitute cayenne pepper.)
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • ¼ cup water

    Two brands of Kashmiri chili powder - "mirch" means spice. Kashmiri chili powder is a mild chili powder from the Indian state of Kashmir. You can order it online or find it at South Asian grocers.


1. We're going to fry the onions and spices in the pressure cooker with the lid off – like an electric skillet. Plug in the pressure cooker, with the lid off, and turn the heat to 200 degrees. Pour in the oil and let heat for one minute.
2. Toss in the chopped garlic and ginger. Stir for 30 to 60 seconds.
3. Add the onion. Stir for about two minutes, until beginning to soften. (Don't let it stick or brown).
4. Sprinkle in the salt, Kashmiri chili powder, red chili powder, turmeric, and cardamom. Stir well.
5. Add the tomatoes and stir. When they are starting to soften (after about one or two minutes), add the potatoes and stir well. Let them cook for about a minute, then add the meat. Stir well so that the meat is coated in the mixture. Pour in 1/4 cup water.

Ready to put the meat in!

6. Turn the heat off. Place the pressure cooker lid on top of the pot according to directions (every pressure cooker is different). Make sure the steam vent in the center is clear, and make sure the rubber ring inside the lid is in place. Close tightly.
7. Turn heat to 350 degrees. It will take some minutes to really heat up, and the pressure regulator on the steam vent in the center should begin to rock violently after it heats a few minutes. Allow it to rock for 3 minutes. Then turn the heat down to 250 degrees. Let cook for another 8 minutes. Turn the pot off. Do NOT open – the pressure is too high, and it will explode!
8. Let the pot cool according to directions. On mine, when the little button on the handle pops down, it is ready to open. This takes about 10 minutes.
9. When you take the lid off, a lot of oil may have cooked out (depending on the type of meat you use). If there is a lot of oil, carefully skim some of it with a spoon, being careful not to take any of the gravy underneath – if you take the gravy and spices out, the dish won’t have any flavor!

This is what it will look like when you remove the lid.

10. Now, mash the potatoes with the large spoon and stir well into the curry (gravy). The mashed potatoes give the curry a nice thick texture.

Once you stir it and mash the potatoes, it looks like this. It's ready to serve!

Enjoy with hot Basmati rice! (Bengalis always eat rice, not naan)...

**Cook's Notes - Directions for a slow cooker or regular pot**
- If you don't have a pressure cooker and still want to make this, you can follow instructions 1 through 5  - just sauté everything in a regular pot instead of a pressure cooker, and sauté it a bit longer since the pot won't be as hot as the pressure cooker.
- You'll then need to add more water than 1/4 cup - maybe start out with adding 1/2 cup to 1 cup. Turn the heat on low and simmer for several hours, checking every so often to see when you need to add some more water. Add the water slowly, in small batches.
-If you cook it too quickly on too high a temp, the meat will get very tough; this is why it is important to cook it slowly on a low temperature.


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