With only 6 sleeps to Christmas left, the festive cheer is finally starting to take on the city as restaurants put their best foot forward in the form of special menus, homes in Bandra start hanging up their decorations, and the Christmas shops selling tinsel on Hill Road light up the street like a Christmas tree. It’s always so heartwarming to take a leisurely walk down these streets at night, soaking in all that holiday cheer. Once I’m home though, and quite peckish—the nip in the air will do that to you—the thing I look forward to the most is a good, hearty stew for dinner. Something much like this dal that’s a cross between a mutton stew and a hearty lentil soup, only made infinitely more festive with the addition of stunning dry fruits like sultanas, raisins and ruby red dried cranberries.
Slow-cooking is possibly the best way to get fall-off-the-bone tender bits of mutton to marry with creamy dal and so forgetting all about it once it’s on the stove and merrily heating away is the only thing required of me. I could go for a walk or run the day’s errands and come home to something quite sensational. For accompaniments, rice is great with this, but hot pav here would do wonders too.
Mutton and Lentil Stew With Dried Fruits
You could also make this stew in ghee and add less of the dried fruits, though personally I love their almost candy sweetness popping up between bits of creamy dal and coriander’s bitter flavour. Plus, fried onions just make everything so much better.
Red Onions 2 large, cut into dices
Olive oil 1/4 cup
Garlic 5-6 cloves, bashed in and chopped roughly
Mutton 500g, meat from shoulder and leg, bone-in, rubbed with salt, turmeric and a teaspoon of ginger garlic paste and left overnight
Soaked chickpeas 1/4 cup, soaked overnight
Soaked Red kidney beans 1/4 cup, soaked overnight
Turmeric 1 tsp
Red chilli powder 1 tsp
Salt 1 tsp, plus more to adjust later
Ground coriander 1 tsp
Ground dried mint 1 tsp
Fresh coriander 1/4 cup, chopped, plus more to finish with
Chana dal 1/2 cup, soaked for an hour at least, if not more
Fresh mint 1/4 cup, chopped, plus more to finish with
Mixed dry fruits (a mix of dried cranberries, sultanas, golden raisins, apricots and prunes) 1/4 cup, plus some more to finish
Spinach greens 1 cup, chopped, plus more to finish
Garam masala 1/2 tsp
Vinegar or Lime juice 2-3 tbsp
Fried onions 1/2 cup, to finish with
Heat a dutch oven or a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the olive oil followed by the onions. Keeping the flame on medium-high, toss the onions periodically until the onions turn a dark golden brown. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Now you want the onions pretty dark because this is the flavour base for your stew.
Add the garlic in once the onions are sufficiently brown and toss to activate the garlic, but not brown it.
The mutton which should have been sufficiently marinated in the salt, turmeric and ginger garlic paste goes in next. Fry the mutton over medium-high heat tossing the mutton with the onions constantly working the meat and the onions until the meat starts to slightly stick to the bottom of the pan. This should take about 4-5 minutes. Turn the heat down and add the drained, soaked chickpeas and the soaked red kidney beans, followed by the turmeric, red chilli powder, the salt, ground coriander and ground dried mint. Toss everything together very well to combine and activate the spices. Use a wooden spoon to stir well.
Add the soaked chana dal to the pot, followed by the fresh coriander and the fresh mint. Give everything a good too before adding some water to cover the contents of the pot and bring everything up to a boil. When everything is boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and put the lid on and leave it be for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes are up, check on the stew, give everything a good stir, add more water if necessary. Now is when you need to add the spinach greens, garam masala and mixed dried fruits and once again cover and cook for yet another 30 minutes, by which time the beans and the mutton should be cooked through perfectly.
Add 2 tablespoons of the vinegar/lime juice and adjust the consistency of the stew, I personally like it a bit thick, ladled over rice. To finish, taste the salt, add a bit more vinegar/lime juice if necessary and add the fresh chopped coriander and mint, followed by some more dried fruits. Top with all of the fried onions and serve.