Recipe of ‘Railway Mutton Curry’ and its origin!

Kosha Mangsho (pot-roasted mutton) with luchi or steamed rice is a delicacy for Bengalis! But when British ruled India, they found the Kosha Mangsho is too hot to handle, but they actually liked the soul of this dish which gave birth to another dish called ‘Railway Mutton Curry’. This was one such dish which was originated during the golden era of railway travels. And it was served with rice or bread in the first class dining cars on long-distance trains or in the refreshment rooms during British Raj, and that’s why it’s called Railway Mutton Curry.

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It is said that this dish was cooked in the railway canteens by chefs of Indian Railways and was first introduced on the Frontier Mail which was run by Western Railway during British rule. Back then, Railway was the way of life and the only mode of transportation if you are traveling long distance. As we know, British Raj invested heavily in Indian Railways, it is said our Railways had better facilities (prior to 1930s) which were not even there in England at that time. And back then, Frontier Mail was one of the most important trains. Having only 1st and 2nd class, it was said to be one of the most elite and prestigious trains in India.

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Frontier Mail (on Dara Pass) – Pic Courtesy trainweb.org

So, it can be well understood how carefully the recipe of Railway Mutton Curry was developed when it was first served in Frontier Mail. This dish is basically a mellowed down version of Kosha Mangsho or the spicy Mutton curry that is subtle and back then suited the tastebuds and delicate palates of gora sahibs living in India. Now if we delve deeper, we will find that this dish is actually a lovely fusion of English spices like bay leaves, cloves, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom and Indian elements such as cumin, turmeric, ginger, garlic, red chilies, etc. So now let’s quickly check out the recipe of this age-old dish. This preparation (described below) will serve 4 persons and it will take almost 1.5 hours to prepare this. Let’s start by listing the ingredients.

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Some of the ingredients – spices!

List of Ingredients:

  • Mutton – 1 kg
  • Mutton bones – 250 gm (approx)
  • Potatoes (peeled) – 5 to 6 medium sized
  • Onion – 40 gm (sliced)
  • Onion paste – 300 gm
  • Garlic paste – 20 gm
  • Ginger paste – 40 gm
  • Garam Masala (powder) – 3/4th tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tsp
  • Cumin (roasted) powder – ½ tsp
  • Red Chili (powder) – ¼ tsp
  • Turmeric Powder – ¼ tsp
  • Cloves – 5 nos.
  • Bay Leaves – 5 nos.
  • Garam Masala Powder – ½ tsp
  • Coconut milk – 1/3rd cup
  • Curd (very well whisked) – 1/3rd cup
  • Black Pepper – 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon – 1 no.
  • Cardamom (small) – 6 nos.
  • Black Cardamom – 4 nos.
  • Refined oil (for cooking) – 100 ml
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Water (when required)
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Mutton, all ready to be cooked!

I have added this coconut milk and whisked curd to mellow down the flavors a bit further, which was often used during yesteryears, but you can modify the recipe and do without it as well as per your preferences. For Coconut milk, I generally use Maggi Coconut Milk powder, it’s readily available. Add warm water to it and mix thoroughly. Now, let’s check out the cooking procedure.

Cooking Procedure:

  • Firstly clean the mutton and wash the mutton bones properly. We will be dealing with the mutton bones separately, so keep them aside.
  • Now in a large container, we will take almost 2-3 liters of water and add a bit of ginger and garlic, couple of bay leaves, some sliced onions and the mutton bones. On low flame, let it boil slowly.
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Preparation of mutton stock (using the mutton bones)
  • When the quantity of water is almost reduced to half we will remove it from the flame. Drain the mutton stock and keep it aside for later use to cook the mutton. This stock gives the typical rich aroma of mutton in the curry and the taste gets doubly better than what it would if cooked in plain water.
  • Now we will heat oil in a pan and on medium heat fry the potatoes. Once they turn light brown, we will drain and remove them.
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Fried Potatoes
  • Now in this same oil, we will temper it with small and big cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves.
  • Once these spices start to splutter, we will add the onion paste and cook it till it turns brown.
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Saute all the spices and condiments
  • Then we will add ginger and garlic paste, turmeric, red chili, and cumin powder and sauté all the spices for a couple of minutes.
  • Now, add the mutton and mix well till all the spices form a thick mixture.
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Added mutton to the mixture
  • Now, add the mutton stock and heat in medium heat in a covered container till the mutton is half done.
  • Now add the potatoes and cook till the mutton is tender and the potatoes are just done. Don’t let the potatoes overcook as that makes the curry thick, and the true flavor and texture of Railway mutton curry are lost.
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Add the mutton stock and let it cook
  • Now add the coconut milk and whisked curd, mix it well and let it simmer
  • Finally, add the garam masala powder and turn off the heat. You are now ready to enjoy a perfect railway mutton curry with some steamed rice!
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Railway Mutton Curry is ready to be savored with steamed rice!

I hope you will love cooking this at your home. Please let me know in the comments section below how you liked it. I will keep bringing more such recipes and if possible, recipes with some historical significance like this one!

Cheers!

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