I said this jokingly one day to Madhushree while getting ready for office – please please do something special before I die, which will be my death wish.
Madhushree, knowingly started beating around the bush – play Hazaron Khwahisheh aisi by Jagjit Singh? Switch on the Bourne Series of Matt Damon? Read out from ‘Out of my comfort zone’ by Steve Waugh?
As I carefully moved the razor for a final master touch, I announced like a king ( as if I will have an entire nation and a kingdom who will leave no stone unturned to fulfill my last wish!!) – Please make me Kosha Mangsho and even if I am in my death bed, I would like Kosha Mangsho to be my last meal.
Such is the connect- till death do us apart. But why? I try to figure out.
1. I am a Moddhobitto Bangali Bhodrolok (middleclass bengali gentleman) who is a 70’s kid and have seen and imbibed the change of the open economy in 90’s. A bong and his Kosha Mangsho are almost inseparable. No matter how much I die for Italian food or Turkish lamb or can commit a murder for a bakhlava, my Kosha Mangsho is my Kosha Mangsho.
2. I have grown up with weekly review tests on Mondays and I still curse my school for spoiling almost 520 Sundays of my life in preparation for Monday. This meant that almost no social gathering/ invitation attendance on Sundays. My only respite, other than cricket/football matches was Kosha Mangsho in the afternoon by Ma. Of course it was cooked only once a month. The rest of the Sundays was mangsher jhol (mutton curry).
3. That particular Kosha Mangsho Sunday was special, very, very special. Complete your studies on time – check. Clean your school shoes – check. Clean your bicycle – check. Take a shower on time – check. In addition to this, I used to help Baba in small errands just to be in the good books of Ma during lunch, so that I could request for an additional piece. Additional mutton was a luxury not for money but for middle class discipline of optimization. A man is a prisoner of childhood – if this is the impact that I had on me during childhood, how could I let it go so easily?
4. This year, on the eve of Poila Boishakh (Bengali New years day ), we were once again thrilled to see a very familiar scene – there were huge queues outside sweet shops and also in front of meat shops. ‘Bengali’ is almost synonymous with the ‘Mishti and Mangsho’ (sweets and mutton). Most of the national holidays are celebrated with Kosha Mangsho. So when one grows up knowing that Kosha Mangsho is synonymous with festivals and celebrations, one knows that it is a part of the soul.
5. It is ‘the comfort food’ for me . Its for all seasons and every reason. When I am upset, to lift my spirits I need that additional piece of aloo (potato). When I am happy, I need that additional piece of mutton. But no matter what, I want to come back to this dish time and again. Okay the debate still continues whether Kosha Mangsho need to have Aloo or not.
6. This is the first dish which I ever learnt to cook. My mama (maternal uncle) has been an excellent cook and he has been my savior whenever I got stuck with this. There is this family joke that he can sleepwalk through making this dish. Very cautiously I learnt cooking this and everytime I cook this it gives me a different high altogether
7.I don’t know of any other dish which will leave my heart contemplated for the last time. My wife says that there is a beaming smile on my face whenever there is a mention of Kosha Mangsho and who would not want to breathe the last breath with a beaming smile.
Some word of caution here though, this dish is as much popular as much as abused. Its saddening to see so many restaurants making a mess of this dish. For most of the restaurants serving Bengali cuisine, this is perhaps the litmus test where it clearly distinguishes the wheat from the chaff. While the scene is little better in Kolkata and West Bengal in terms of serving Kosha Mangsho, outside Kolkata, its worse to an extent, I remember in some place in Pune, they had served a normal yellow red gravy, not even thick in any standards in the name of Kosha Mangsho.
This immensely popular dish had initiated a virtual war last year between Bengalis whether kosha Mansgo can be considered as a curry, semi dry dish or a thick gravy? (Read here)
Whats your reason today to have Kosha Mangsho ?
Kosha Mangsho (Slow cooked Mutton)
|Mutton cubed||1 ½ kg||Thick Yogurt||½ cup plus 1 tbsp|
|Onions finely sliced||500 gms||Ginger paste||2 tbsp|
|Garlic paste||4 tbsp||Black pepper powder||1 tsp|
|Turmeric powder||1/2 tsp||Mustard Oil||1 cup|
|Dried Bayleaf||2 nos||Whole cinnamon||1 inch|
|Whole green cardamom||4 nos||Whole cloves||4 nos|
|Sugar||2 tsp||Kashmiri Red Chilli powder||2 – 3 tsps|
|Red chilli powder||1 tsp||Tamarind (soaked in water)||½ inch|
|Garam Masala powder||½ tsp||Salt||As required|
|A few green chillies|
- Marinate the mutton with yogurt, ginger paste, garlic paste, black pepper powder, turmeric and a bit of salt. Keep it for atleast 3- 4 hours or more if you like.
- In a deep pan or a wok, pour mustard oil. When it is super hot, reduce the flame of the oven and add bayleaf (crushed with your hand), whole cinnamon, whole green cardamoms, whole cloves, a tea spoon full of sugar and half a tea spoon of salt.
- When the whole spices start to splutter, add the sliced onions. Fry on a medium heat till it is golden brown. While frying this, add a couple of heaped tea spoons of Kashmiri red chilli powder (or more) and one tea spoon of normal red chilli powder. You can make it with any kind of red chilli powder depending upon your tolerance of heat. Mine is too less, hence the Kashmiri red chilli powder.
- Once the onion is fried properly, add the marinated mutton.
- Mix it all very well in the wok and keep stirring and cooking till the mutton has sort of browned.
- At this point, to reduce the amount of effort, just transfer the entire content to a pressure cooker.
- Use a cup of water to clean the wok and put it in the pressure cooker.
- Pressure cook this for a few minutes (3 -4 whistles). This will only half cook the mutton.
- Now take it out and put in all back in the wok. Here starts the hard work (or as we call it…koshano).
- Continue cooking and stirring till the water evaporates. This process takes a lot of time since you have to ensure that the mutton cooks. For that you need to cover it with a lid and slow cook it.
- From time to time, uncover, increase the heat and stir while making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the wok.
- It completely depends on how much time you want to devote to getting the right colour and depth of flavour. This particular time, I took almost 3 and half hours to finish. I decided to slow cook it. I was almost adamant. Of course there have been occasions where I have pressure cooked for most of the time and finished cooking in an hour.
- When the mutton is almost cooked, add the water from soaked tamarind. Adjust the seasoning. Add some sugar to balance the sourness from the tamarind. Top with the ground garam masala.
- Finish off with a few sliced green chillies.
- Serve it with some steamed rice or parathas.