Since 1913 Karim's has been the most famous and iconic Mughal restaurant of old Delhi. "Aloo" means potato and "ghosht" is Urdu for mutton. In classic Mughal style, mutton is simmered in a rich blend of caramelized onions, warm aromatic spices, and tangy yogurt until falling off the bone tender. This creates the savory and spicy red gravy so prized by the royals of the Mughal court which perfectly pairs with the creamy and delicate potatoes.
|Karim's original restaurant in Old Delhi.|
I first saw this recipe on an Indian television show a few years ago featuring Indian MasterChef winner Pankaj Bhadouria. With a bit of tinkering and some educated guesses as to what was actually implied by the rather vague recipe on her website I have to say this does indeed taste exactly like the original dish as served at Karim's. The key to this recipe is getting the caramelized onions right, brown them perfectly. Not a bit black or the onion's flavor will be bitter and burnt and ruin the entire dish. Err on the side of underdone with the onions if you must. The Mughals and Karim's would leave the cardamoms, cloves, and peppercorns whole, I have chosen to grind them with the yogurt for a boost of flavor. Whether you choose to leave the spices whole or ground this dish is a delicious incarnation of the nostalgic flavors of old Delhi's royal Mughal heritage.
1kg/2lbs mutton/goat, bone in, cut into 3 inch pieces
1 C onions, thinly sliced into half moons
1/2 C ghee
1 tsp salt
2 tsp garam masala
3 large potatoes, boiled until tender, peeled & cut into 2 inch pieces
Grind until smooth for masala:
1 C full fat yogurt/dahi
1 tsp flour/maida (this will keep your yogurt from splitting
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
2 TBS ground coriander/dhania seeds
1 TBS ground cumin/jeera
1 TBS Kashmiri mirch ( or 1&1/2 tsp cayenne plus 1&1/2 tsp paprika)
2 tsp black peppercorns/kali mirch
1 tsp turmeric/haldi
9 green cardamoms/elaichi
4 black cardamoms/kali elaichi
1 tsp salt
Here's what to do:
1) Grind all ingredients listed under masala to smooth paste, set aside.
2) Heat 1/4 C ghee with 1 tsp salt in kadhai or large heavy bottomed skillet. Fry sliced onions over medium heat until a deep golden brown. This will probably take about 12 to 15 minutes. Watch them carefully as you want them browned and caramelized but not black. If you overcook them to the blackened stage they'll be bitter and you'll just have to throw them out and start over.
3) Set browned onions aside and allow to cool. Be aware that thee onions will continue cooking for a few minutes after you take them off the heat so leave them a bit underdone. When cooled grind browned onions to a smooth paste.
4) Heat 1/4 C ghee in a pressure cooker or large stock pot. Add mutton pieces and ground masala paste. Stir well and allow to simmer for 7 minutes.
5) Add fried onion paste, 2 tsp garam masala, and 1&1/2 C water to meat mixture. Stir well.
6) If using pressure cooker, seal and steam until meat is tender. If using stock pot on stove simmer until meat is tender adding 1/2 C water as needed to prevent drying out, this will take about 3-4 hours. If using crock pot or slow cooker transfer meat mixture to cooker and allow to simmer on medium for 3-4 until meat is tender.
7) When meat is tender and oil separates from the gravy stir in potato pieces and allow to heat through. Salt to taste and serve.
If you are not fond of mutton/goat this recipe would work well with beef, lamb, water buffalo, venison, or elk shank or stew meat, simply shorten cooking times accordingly.
Do not burn or blacken the onions, you will ruin the entire dish. Brown is what we want, remember the onions will continue to cook for a few minutes after you've removed them from the heat. Fry the onions over medium heat.