This pan-roasted mutton fry is made by cooking tender goat meat in caramelized onions, ginger, garlic and other spices. The meat is done when it is dark, spicy and falls off the bone. Pairs great with rice dishes and flat-breads alike or as a side with cocktails.
It is probably not the best thing for a food blogger to confess, but I used to be extremely picky about food as a child. Extremely as in, make my mom want to tear her hair out in frustration, gnash her teeth and promise dire consequences if dinner was not finished. My way to cope was to literally push food around my plate…for hours, until I was excused. This tug of war continued till my early teens. Everything finally changed when I went to college and had to eat at the hostel or dorm canteen. Those four years made me truly appreciate the remarkableness of a proper home-cooked meal and gave me this newfound love and appreciation for mom’s food. Everything I said no to when I was a kid, I now lapped up like a hungry puppy.
My son was born a fussy eater. I have spent countless days agonizing over what to feed him until mom reminded me that what goes around comes around. He will improve in his own time she said. And I think it is true. I now call him my little food connoisseur.
There used to be a long period in my childhood when I stayed away from red meat of any kind. That was very unfortunate as mutton was the protein of choice at our household. Mom prepares it in several different ways, sometimes a traditional South Indian coconut gravy, spicy red curry, Indian pot roast, mutton biryani (find recipe here) to our all-time favorite – this mutton chukka varuval or mutton fry.
The recipe is quite similar to mom’s spicy chicken roast, made with onions, ginger, garlic and host of spices, pan-roasted till the gravy is dark and well-melded with all the meat and the meat itself is tender, perfectly seared and falls off the bone.
There are no tomatoes or yogurt involved. A generous squeeze of lemon juice at the end seals the deal. The only thing you need to do differently from the chicken roast recipe is to par-cook the mutton separately so that it is nice and tender. This cooked meat is then tossed with fried, browned onions and other spices to make this mutton fry. It is absolutely essential that you follow this method. Cooking the mutton together with the onions and masala will work in a pinch, but you will not have the slightly caramelized taste that you will get with our method. So, if you are going to do it, you may as well do it the correct way.
This mutton fry is best when tossed generously with curry leaves and cooked in coconut oil. That said, any neutral oil will do as well and I use canola oil most of the time. Invest in a thick, curved kadai or cheenachatti to cook this recipe. It distributes heat better and is great for tossing the meat and gravy about.
I love this mutton fry with some plain rice and sambar or dal with a side of stir fried vegetables. It goes equally well with flatbreads of any kind. It can also be served on its own like an appetizer, along with some cocktails, perhaps.
- Mutton - 1 lb, bone-in and cut into small pieces
- Onion - ¼ cup, chopped
- Ginger - 2 tsp, chopped
- Garlic - 1 clove, crushed and roughly minced
- Turmeric powder - ¼ tsp
- Red chili powder - ½ tsp
- Coriander powder - ½ tsp
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Water - 2-3 tbsp
- Oil - 3-4 tbsp, divided
- Cumin seeds - 1 tsp, lightly crushed
- Curry leaves - 2 sprigs, divided
- Onion - 1 large, finely chopped
- Ginger - 1 tbsp, thinly sliced
- Garlic - 5-6 cloves, minced
- Green chilies - 3-4, cut into rounds, divided
- Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
- Red chili powder - 1 tsp
- Coriander powder - 1½ tsp
- Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
- Par-cooked mutton - 1 lb (see above for ingredients)
- Salt - to taste
- Black pepper powder - ½ tsp (or more as per taste)
- Lemon juice - 2 tsp (freshly squeezed)
- Wash the mutton well and cut into small pieces. Mix well with the other ingredients listed under "to par-cook the mutton" and add to a small pressure cooker. Cook on medium-high for 2-3 whistles, turn off the stove and allow pressure to be released naturally before opening the cooker. Alternately, you can cook the meat in a deep covered pot till tender, this will take anywhere between 30-40 minutes on medium heat.
- Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large kadai, wok or saute pan. Add cumin seeds and the leaves from 1 sprig of curry leaves.
- When they crackle, add onions, ginger, garlic and 2 chopped green chilies. Fry till onions are nicely browned.
- Then add the turmeric, red chili, coriander and garam masala powders and saute for a few seconds.
- Now add the par-cooked mutton along with all the gravy formed while cooking the meat. Season with salt.
- Cook on medium-high heat to reduce any liquid. Keep stirring and tossing the meat to coat with all the spices.
- When the mixture is fairly dry, add the rest of the green chilies, curry leaves and the remaining tablespoon of oil. Increase the heat slightly and roast the mutton in the oil. You are looking to get a nice sear on the pieces and reduce the masala so that no liquid is left at all. Check and adjust seasoning.
- Sprinkle black pepper powder and stir to combine. Sprinkle lemon juice and remove from heat. Serve mutton fry hot with rice or rotis, raita and more lemon wedges.
Mutton varuval or mutton fry is the best way to enjoy this flavorful meat. My mom sometimes adds baby potatoes and fresh green peas to it. Maybe she did it to make me eat my vegetables, moms are kinds sneaky after all!
The leftovers of this mutton fry are amazing as well. A gentle reheating the next day and you are good to go.
For a simple but complete Tamil style meal, your plate should have:
- Cooked white rice.
- Sambar, a favorite soupy lentil “curry” usually eaten with rice.
- Poriyal, stir-fried vegetables with coconut like green beans poriyal, and
- Mutton chukka varuval or mutton fry (this recipe!)
- Pappads and achar (fried lentil crackers and Indian pickle).
What are your childhood food tales? Were you ever picky about food?
Have you tried mutton fry? Do share any recipes you have.
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