Mutton, although not as common in the United States, is a shining star in Southeast Asian nations as well as Africa and Caribbean Islands. Mutton curry was/is at least a weekly occurrence in most households in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan mutton, as in India and other southeast Asian countries, is predominantly derived from goats rather than sheep. Personally mutton from goats tastes leaner than that from sheep. Sheep meat tends to taste a bit gamey – not my first preference by any means. Another note about mutton that you might already know is that it is a red meat. Darn it!
I don’t cook mutton often – few times a year tops! This way we can really relish a good mutton curry every once in a while without risking our lipid panels too much! 🙂 Mutton is one of those things we love but can go for months without missing it! It works out well!
So, when I came across some mutton at the local grocery store, I bought it on impulse. I think this was the 3rd purchase of mutton in almost 9 months – not bad eh! Then my recent interest in African and Caribbean cuisines took the better of me and I grabbed a cellophane wrapped package of habaneros in different hues. Oh, what potent fiery bombs are those little guys! I wonder what those lovely Jamaican and African ladies do with the multiple packages of peppers they pile in their shopping carts! Perhaps I will ask one of them during my next shopping trip!
So, this recipe is a deviation from how I would normally prepare mutton. This uses a good amount of curry powder, dash of cayenne and as many habaneros as you can handle while consuming the curry and afterwards! In my case, I tried two peppers for about slight over a pound of meat and ended up scooping out one in the middle of cooking. The other one that was left still made the curry super spicy – and I know spicy, so please be warned! Just an FYI, I used the seeds and all!
The resulting curry, simmered in wonderfully spiced, fiery, coconut-based gravy was rich and saucy – just the right dish to go with a small serving of white or brown rice or a piece of flat bread. Enjoy!
Jamaican Style Meat Curry
1 1/4 lbs of mutton or chicken pices cut into 2 to 2 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons oil plus extra tablespoon of oil
1 1/2 tablespoon Jamaican* curry powder plus 1 tablespoon
1 – 2 habanero peppers halved (be very careful handling these. Remove seeds if you don’t want your curry very spicy)
A spring of curry leaves or 2 bay leaves
1/2 cup of diced onions
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light coconut milk
3/4 cup canned tomato sauce or crushed tomato2 large Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2″ chunks (optional)
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or heavy bottomed pan and add 2 tablespoons of curry powder.
2. Brown the mutton pieces in the curry powder spiced oil. Remove to a plate and keep aside.
3. Heat the additional tablespoon of oil in the same pan. Add onion, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, cayenne, additional tablespoon of curry powder, salt, turmeric and habanero. Stir fry for 3-5 minutes under medium heat till onion starts to brown.
4. Add the browned meat pieces, tomato sauce and coconut milk and simmer under low medium heat for about an hour. Check after 3o minutes and adjust salt.
5. If using potatoes, add them in the last 20 minutes of cooking.6. At the end of the cooking time, skim and remove any fat that collects on the top of the gravy.
7. Serve with brown or white rice or roti and sliced cucumbers, tomato and plain yogurt.
* If you don’t have Jamaican curry powder on hand (I didn’t either), use equal amount of Madras curry powder with a 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice.