Saturday, December 7, 2013

Kundan Qaliya - Avadhi mutton curry

In a previous post, I had written about very good South Indian style Chicken Curry. This was curry had a coconut base. This post is about another curry, but this one is totally different in all respects. It is North Indian, it is made with Mutton and is very refined.

Do try and make this at home, it is simple, it has normal ingredients available at home [except for the Gold garnish], and it is really delicious. Let me assure you that once you make this curry and eat it, or, if you do serve it at a dinner party, no one will believe it is home made. All will think you are fibbing and that the dish is bought from a fancy restaurant.

The dish in question is called Kundan Qaliya. This is Avadhi in origin. It is a mutton [well goat for us Indians] curry. It is very aromatic, very regal and very sophisticated. Now you may well ask what is a Qualiya? And while we are at it, what is the difference between a Qaliya, a Saalan and a Korma. Well, I did some research and have not really been able to find any definitive answer, but here are some sort of definitions. Please take this only as a rough guide because the more you cook Indian food, the more you will find fault with these distinctions.

A Saalan can be a meat dish, with thin gravy. Just to make things complicated Mirchi Ka Saalan does not have meat and neither does it have a thin gravy.

A Korma is typically a braise [a braise is where meat is browned, liquid added and cooked on low heat covered] obviously using meat cooked with the addition of yoghurt. Onions may be browned with the meat.

Qaliya is a meat dish that has vegetables added to it. Pureed or otherwise. This was in effect a way, for the aristocrats to consume vegetables when added to meat

Don’t worry, this Kundan Qaliya has no pureed vegetables. The gravy in the Kundan Qaliya is quite special as it is a smooth gravy. This is achieved by straining the gravy, much like the French sauces are. And the gravy should be slightly thickened and viscous something like a cough syrup. The mouth feel is lush and luxurious. No ghee is used so the dish is reasonably light. If you find that the dish gets oily, do not worry or despair, simply using a spoon collect the oil and throw it down the drain.

Now as far as the Gold `Vark’ or gold leaf garnish is concerned, let me give you a tip. You could of course use silver, but if you want to use gold leaf, this is available in most Jain Temples. The Jains use this to cover their images. Do not worry about cost. A gold leaf is so light that a single leaf should not cost you more than Rs 50/-

Credit for this recipe must go to the Chef’s at ITC. We have made this several times, and the recipe works.

Kundan Qaliya
Serves 2 generously


Boneless mutton cubed
500 grams
Cooking oil
½ cup. You need a generous amount
Green Cardamom – Ilaichi. Whole, slightly opened to prevent them exploding in the hot oil
8 pods
Cinnamon – Daalchini
3 inches
Cloves – Lavang
8 cloves
Raw Onion Paste – simply peel and puree onions in a blender
½ cup
Ginger paste
1 tablespoon
Garlic paste
2 tablespoons
Turmeric – Haldi powder
1 heaped teaspoon
Yellow Chilli Powder – red will do if you do not have yellow
1 teaspoon [adjust later is needed]
Coriander – Dhaniya powder
1 tablespoon
Yogurt whisked – if very liquid then hang the yogurt to make it thicker. Slightly sour yogurt is ideal.
1 cup
Brown Onion paste
1/2 cup
Peeled almonds made into a paste
¼ cup

Ingredients for garnish

White pepper powder
1 teaspoon
Green Cardamom powder
1 teaspoon
Saffron dissolved in a bit of warm milk

Gold leaf
Pistachio cut into slivers


First prepare the brown onions. Heat oil in a pan and add thinly sliced onions. Fry till golden. Remove and set on paper to drain the oil. Once cool you can blend the browned onions with the yogurt. Set aside.

In the same pan you browned the onions, heat some oil and add the whole spices [Green Cardamom, Cinnamon and Cloves] and sauté till the spices crackle. Now add the pureed raw onions and stirring often start to brown this puree. When halfway done add the Ginger and Garlic pastes and sauté till everything is golden.

Add the Yellow [or Red] Chilli powder, Coriander powder and Turmeric powders and sauté for a minute, Now add in the pureed brown onion and yogurt and the mutton. Add a cup or two of water and transfer the contents of the vessel to a pressure cooker. Rinse and retain the cooking vessel, you will need it again. Cook under pressure to get the meat cooked. Release pressure and open the cooker.

Remove the mutton pieces from the cooker and keep aside. Using a strainer [one you use for juice/soup] strain the contents of the cooker into the cooking vessel. See how much liquid you have. If there is a lot for the quantity of mutton bring the liquid to the boil and reduce to desired quantity.

Add the mutton back to the liquid, add the Almond paste and bring to a boil. Now at this stage, not before, add the salt. This dish is now ready except for the garnish. You can now keep it away or continue on. If there is too much oil, this is the time to skim it off.

When you are ready to eat, heat the dish, add the Cardamom and Pepper powders, be careful they are potent. Add the Saffron. Pour into serving bowl. Garnish with the Gold leaf and sprinkle the Pistachio on top.

Eat with steamed rice or Paratha.

Kundan Qaliya - made at home

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