Gosht Aloo being a staple Sylheti dish and a favourite in my family, it’s only just that it be the first recipe I share with you. Also, as we embrace the chilly winter days here in London, it just seems seasonally fitting too!
Well, Gosht Aloo, translating to “Meat & Potato” could literally be any meat and potato I guess, but in my family and amongst most other Sylheti families I know, it means Mutton and potato. If we use another type of meat, then it is normally specified in the title of the dish. Every family I know, has their own version and most I’ve seen cooked are prepared in a similar matter. The ratio of ingredients might vary from house to house and other small details but the usual process of cooking is the same. Initially, there is the Bhuna process, where the Gosht is left to cook mostly in its own juices with onion, garlic, ginger, any whole spices and the oil. This lets the flavour of the meat and its juices intensify and incorporate with the other ingredients, meanwhile creating a natural gravy. Next, the ground spices are added, the meat is fried for a few minutes in the spices which makes sure the meat pieces are infused with the spices and this can give the dish a browned flavour depending on how long you fry the pieces in the spices. Then, enough water is added to let the meat gently simmer to reach desired tenderness and finally just prior to end of cooking the potatoes are added so they cook through in time with the meat. Once, it’s fully cooked and soon as the heat is turned off, fresh Coriander garnish is added and then the salon is left to rest covered for a short period which allows the flavours to marry and settle.
Now, that I’ve given you some details about Gosht Aloo, let me tell you something about me. It wasn’t until a few years ago I actually started eating and enjoying this dish. As a child, for some odd reason I just never took a liking to Chicken, Sheep or most other meats. And I wouldn’t even touch anything that looked oily. I ate small fish and simple vegetable dishes that are either dry or cooked in a water based broth. And this was troublesome for me. Why? Well, because eating meat and chicken was a sign of status and wealth. It just wasn’t normal for someone that came from a reasonably content family to not sustain on such food but instead I ate food that is known to be the food of the poor. So, it was quite embarrassing for my parents when we went back to Sylhet for holidays or family gatherings here because people would openly ask “why does she eat like that?” or “did your parents not feed you properly at home that you’ve gained such eating habits?”. All in good humour but still very uncomfortable.
Anyway, so how did I go from not touching dishes such as Gosht Aloo to cooking nearly once a week now? Well, due to my Mr of course. From when I first met him over ten years ago now, it was very obvious he liked his meat and especially his meat curries. So, it was only natural that it started with me learning to cook meat for him and eventually acquiring a liking for it myself. However, it has taken me some time to create my own version of the classic Gosht Aloo as most of the time I taste it when cooked by others it still doesn’t appeal to me. Sometimes I find it very watery and bland, sometimes the meats not tender enough etc. So here it is, my version, My Gosht Aloo.
- 1kg Mutton leg, on the bone and cut into bite-size pieces
- 200g White Potato, cut into bite-size pieces
- 4 tbsp. Sunflower oil
- 300g Onion, finely sliced
- 30g Ginger & Garlic Paste
- 30g Fresh Coriander, coarsely chopped
- 15g Green Chillies, pierced
- 2 tbsp. Coriander powder
- 1 ½ tbsp. Cumin powder
- 1 ½ tsp. Turmeric powder
- 2 tsp. Chilli powder
- 1 tsp. Yellow Mustard powder
- 10 Peppercorns
- 6 Green Cardamoms
- 6 Cloves
- 4 Black cardamom
- 2 Large Indian Bay leaves
- 5g Cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp. Fenugreek seeds
- 2 litres of freshly boiled water
- First, heat up a five litre or larger pot over the lowest heat setting. When the pot is heated through add all the whole spices except for Fenugreek seeds and stir for a minute or so. Then, turn the heat up to low-medium and add all the oil, fry the spices for a minute before adding the Fenugreek seeds and fry for a further thirty seconds.
- Now is the time to add the grated ginger and garlic, fry for a minute, add the onions and sauté for another minute before adding the Meat, five grams of chopped Coriander and Salt.
- Stir thoroughly to incorporate everything together, then fry for a few minutes over high heat and then add sixty ml of boiling water. Turn the heat down to medium and cover with a tight fitting lid and let the meat cook in it's own juices for forty-five minutes.
- When the forty-five minutes have passed, the mixture should be quite dry out with little or no liquid. Stir and cook until its all dry, then add all the powder spices and stir for a further few minutes before adding one and half litre of boiling water. Then, simmer covered over a very low heat for one and half hours or until the meat is tender to your liking.
- Once the meat is two-thirds of it's way cooked or approximately twenty minutes prior to end of the cooking, check for salt and make any adjustments if needed. Then, add the potatoes and green chillies. Cover again, and cook for the remaining time or until potatoes and meat is cooked to desired tenderness.
- Lastly, when the the meat and potato are cooked, garnish with ten grams of the chopped Coriander, turn of the heat off and leave to settle for half an hour before serving with plain white rice.