Khubani Gosht Qorma (Mutton Qorma with Apricots)

I know my Bangali month is not over, in fact it is not even halfway through. But I need to take care of some other ingredients which, if left on their own, will die a sad death. After I'm done with all that, I promise I'll bring to you Chingri Maachher Malai Curry, Bhetki Maachher Paturi, Kosha Mangsho and all the Bangali fare that you'd been waiting for. Till then, just sit back and take a look at this Khubani Gosht Qorma, because you know what? It's bloody good!
As you already know, I had hoarded truckloads of apricots from my trip to Kashmir last month. And in the last few weeks I've made this and this with that. Also, popped them in my mouth time and again. But I still had some 15-20 left and this time I was looking to make something savoury. I was tossing between Chicken and Mutton, when, like a Godsend, I came across this recipe on one of the food groups on Facebook that I happen to be a member of. And there was no second-guessing it. I knew exactly what I wanted to make.
I asked my dad to get hold of some mutton while I was at office and once back, ignoring the nagging finger joint pain that had been plaguing me of late, I set about my task. Now the key to this Qorma is the marination. You basically put all your important ingredients in the marinade itself and let the mutton rest overnight. This helps in the penetration of flavours and gives the quintessential richness to the dish. I wanted to use some heat in the dish, but at the same time chose to adhere to the original recipe as much as I could. The sweet and sour taste of the apricot infusing the richness of the gravy gives it a sublime, almost royal, taste.
So before my fingers go numb again, let me quickly type for you the recipe that gave birth to this brilliant dish!
Recipe adapted from Farrukh Shadab Ansari's Cubes and Juliennes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Mutton, cut into pieces: 600 gm
Onion, finely sliced and fried till golden brown: 2
Fresh apricots, roughly chopped: 10-12
Fresh apricots , halved or quartered: 5-6
Yoghurt: ½ cup
Almonds, blanched and peeled: 8-10
Coriander powder: 1 tsp
Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
Pepper powder: 3/4 tsp
Sugar: 1 tsp
Bay leaf: 2
Black peppercorns: 5
Green cardamom: 5
Cloves: 5
Cinnamon: 1 inch stick
Star anise: 1
Kashmiri red chilli powder: 1 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
Cumin powder: 1 tsp
Saffron: a pinch soaked in 2 tbsp of milk
Kewra essence: 2 drops
Oil: 1 tbsp
Ghee: 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Salt, to taste
Water as required

Method:

1. In a blender, pulse together the chopped apricots, fried onions, ginger, garlic, almonds and coriander powder to a fine paste.

2. Marinate the mutton pieces with the apricot mixture, yoghurt, sugar, pepper powder and salt. Refrigerate for 4-5 hours or better still, overnight.

3. For cooking, heat oil and 1 tbsp ghee in heavy-bottomed pan/kadhai. Add to it bay leaves, cardamom, black peppercorns, cloves, star anise, cinnamon and allow them to release the aroma. But make sure your spices don't get burnt.

4. Add the mutton along with the marinade and cook on high heat for 5-6 minutes.

5. Add chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder, salt and give a few good stirs. Let it cook covered on low heat for 20-25 minutes till it starts releasing some oil. The mutton should be half-cooked by now.

6. Add a cup of warm water, cover and simmer until the meat is soft and cooked through. Stir from time to time. If the water dries up, add a little bit more. Make sure that the mutton pieces don't stick to the bottom of the kadhai.

7. When the meat is cooked (and this should take roughly 2 hours), add the saffron milk, kewra essence and quartered apricots. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add a dollop of ghee as the final touch and give it a last stir.

8. Take off heat, garnish with coriander and green chillies and serve with roti/parathas/naan/pulao or even boiled rice.  Feast on some royal qorma!



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