Rajasthani Cuisine has always had a special place on my menus. Dishes from this region of India have always been a regular feature when I design menus. Keeping in mind that Rajasthan is a desert region of India, and the cuisine was constantly challenged by very limited water supply, fresh fruits and vegetables. The region serves predominantly vegetarian fare which is flavoured with red chillies and cooked in Ghee (clarified butter).
Rajput royalty were keen hunters and this is where meat became an integral part of the cuisine. Their chefs always carried sets of herbs and spices and after the Shikaar (hunting) the meat would be either marinated and roasted or cooked as a stew in a pot with vegetables and spices. As the wild meat was quiet tough and took a lot of time to cook, stewing was introduced. Meats like venison, rabbit and wild boar were cut up in dices and than cooked in a pot along with onions, ginger, garlic, spices and stewed for hours over wood fire to produce succulent and flavoursome curries. A few examples were the Junglee Maas (the meat bought from the hunt was simply cooked in pure ghee with only salt and red chillies), Laal Maas, Safed Maas, Maas ki kadhi, Handi Bootha and Murgh ka Shweta.
One of my favorite dishes out of them all is the rustic Laal Maas. “Laal” means red and “maas” refers to meat. The dish was introduced in the early 10th century. Laal maas was a cherished dish among the Rajput royalty. Post Hunting sessions the meat was cooked in a haandi (large cooking pot) with dried red chillies, whole spices and onions. Laal maas was traditionally made with venison or wild boar. Chillies were used to mask gamey odour. The dish is smoked with desi ghee and cloves. Made with first pressed mustard oil. The dish was refined further when it was introduced in the royal kitchens of the Rajputs. A key characteristic of this dish is imparted by the chillies used in this dish. Grown in the Mathaniya region close to Jodhpur. Mathaniya Red chillies are famous for its reddish color. Because it is identified with this district only, this variety of chilli whole has come to known simply as the Mathaniya lal Mirch. It is used only as dry spice. It lends pungency to a dish and also color and body.
I have penned down the recipe for Laal Maas with a bit of variation, keeping the essence of the dish intact.
Cooking time – 2 hrs 30 mins
Lamb Shanks – 4 (I asked my butcher to cut them in half)
Yoghurt – 225 gms
Salt to taste
Deghi Mirch Powder – 2 tbsp
Coriander Powder – 1 tbsp
Roasted Cumin Powder – 1/2 tbsp
Garlic Paste – 3 tbsp
15 dried mathaniya red chillies or kashmiri dried chillies.
6 green cardamom (crushed)
2 black cardamom (crushed)
4 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
5 medium sized onions (finely sliced)
6 tbsp mustard oil (you can use any other cooking oil if mustard oil cannot be sourced)
1 tbsp desi ghee (clarified butter)
1 piece of Charcoal
1 tbsp desi ghee
1. Marinate the lamb shanks with all ingredients for the marinade for atleast 2 hrs.
2. Add mustard oil and desi ghee to a cooking pot. Heat the oil, once heated add the whole spices except the red chillies. Cook for a minute so the flavour of the spices is released in the oil.
3. Add the sliced onions and fry until golden brown. Add the marinated lamb and stir for 10-12 mins on high heat. Lower the heat add the dried red chillies and 2 cups of warm water. Cover with lid and cook for an hour on low heat.
4. After an hour remove the lid and stir the lamb. If required add another cup of warm water and cook for further 30-45 mins on low heat. Post 30-45 mins the shanks should be absolutely tender. Check for seasoning.
5. Remove the cooking pot from the stove. Place a piece of charcoal directly on the cooking hob on direct flame and with the help of a pair of tongs keep turning until the charcoal turns white, this would take 5-7 mins. Place a small stainless steel bowl directly in the centre of the curry pot. Place the charcoal carefully inside the stainless steel bowl. Add cloves on the charcoal and desi ghee. As the smoke starts to appear, immediately cover the pot with aluminium foil or kitchen foil making sure the pot is completely sealed. Let it smoke for at least 20 mins.
6. Remove the foil after 20 mins, remove the stainless steel cup and discard the charcoal. Transfer the laal maas in a serving bowl and serve with fresh chapatis or rice.
Hope you enjoy cooking this dish.