Friday, May 05, 2006

Camouflaged Curry - Vegetarian Mutton Kurma

vegetarian mutton kurma

Vegetarian Mutton Kurma

My very first meal in the United States was an unforgettable experience. The office building in which I worked, had a cafeteria, a deli and a pizzeria. For lunch, my colleagues took me to the pizzeria where the individual pizzas were made to order. The aromas wafting throughout the room were incredible and I was salivating at the thought of biting into one of those luscious looking pizzas.

I ordered a pizza with pepper and onions and when I got it, I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into it. I couldn't see any peppers in the pizza and the onions seemed very crispy. I didn't really like the onions too much and picked them out of the pizza. Conversation around the lunch table turned to eating habits and I mentioned that I was vegetarian. A sudden hush fell around the table. Then someone piped up - "if you are vegetarian, why are you eating a Pepperoni Pizza?? "

Yikes!!! what I thought were strange looking, crispy onions were pepperoni slices.

I could not take a single bite of the pizza after that and I can tell you that to this day, many many years later, I am always very careful to order my pizza with "Onions" and "Pepper" - in that order - lest it be confused with "Pepper'n'onion" or Pepperoni!!!

Now, whenever I mention that I am vegetarian, my kids always yell "No, you aren't..remember the time when you ate pepperoni??" and then I always have to launch into my little story.

Have you had any such embarrassing food incidents? I'd love to hear them!!

Here's a recipe for a "vegetarian" mutton kurma that I got from a little recipe booklet that came with my pressure cooker. Not having had real mutton, I cannot vouch for the muttonness of the dish, but I can tell you that the gravy is lip-smackingly good. The fake mutton pieces are delicious and a perfect foil for the spicy gravy.

Don't be daunted by the long list of ingredients. You just have to throw most of it in the blender and grind 'em up. The results are well worth it :)

2 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of green peas (fresh or frozen)
2-3 big ripe tomatoes
3 tsps chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
a pinch of baking soda
2 big red onions
4 green chillies
4 cloves of garlic
1 cm piece of ginger
1 tsp poppy seeds (khuskhus)
1 tsp anise seeds (ajwain)
2 tsps coriander seeds (dhania)
2 tbsp grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
1 stick cinnamon
3 cardamom pods
1 spring curry leaves
a handful of cilantro leaves for garnish
1 tsp ghee
oil for frying
salt to taste

  1. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp ghee and a big pinch of soda to the flour
  2. Knead into a chappati-like dough with water.
  3. Cover and let it rest for 3-4 hours (I only let it rest for 1/2 hour and it turns out fine)
  4. Make 1/2 inch thick rolls and steam the rolls for 15 minutes. I steamed it in a pressure cooker without the "weight" on top.
  5. When the rolls are cool enough to handle, cut them into 1/2 inch slices
  6. Deep fry the pieces till they are a lovely golden color.
  7. Half the rolls are eaten at this stage in our house!!!
  8. Grind the coconut, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, anise seeds, onions, garlic, ginger, green chillies, chilli powder and turmeric to a smooth paste with very little water.
  9. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a heavy bottom saucepan.
  10. Add the cinammon stick, cardamom pods(whole) and curry leaves
  11. Add the ground paste and fry till this a wonderful aroma emanates from it and you start getting really impatient
  12. Add the tomato pieces and fry till the tomatoes get cooked well.
  13. Add salt, peas and the fried mutton pieces and 1/2 a cup of water.
  14. Let simmer slowly till the dough pieces are as tender as you would like them.
  15. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve hot with chappatis, rotis or rice.

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At Fri May 05, 09:02:00 AM 2006, Anonymous shomas said...

I know vegeterianism is so difficult here when we think about it. there are so many hidden stuffs in products which you dont know when you are a vegeterian. like the yogurt which has gelatin and retin( used to make cheese) is a animal product as well. If we are not careful with the soups which they use a lot of beef or chicken stock. these are just examples....

At Fri May 05, 09:36:00 AM 2006, Blogger Krithika said...

Can totally identify with what you are saying. I once saw Mexican "Chilli" on the menu and thought it was something to do with "Green Chillies/Mirchi". After probing the waitress for a good 5 minutes, I realized it is not something I should go for. I once went to an upscale Japanese restaurant from work (oh! those dreaded group lunches ). I ended up eating only their desserts from their dessert bar.

At Fri May 05, 10:01:00 AM 2006, Blogger Anthony said...

hahaha, you did liked that "pepperonion" lol...

One naughty Pilgrim guide fed some staungh manipuri vaishnavs with ommeletes telling that it was parathas

At Fri May 05, 10:33:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a similar story about Cheeese Burgers. Who knew that Cheese burgers came with beef in them? Thankfully, I am a very suspicious type and never eat stuff that I cannot recognize.
Anyway, I enjoy your recipes a lot and your photography. Good luck with your blog.

At Fri May 05, 10:55:00 AM 2006, Blogger மதி கந்தசாமி (Mathy) said...

have you tried soy nuggets?

As a non-vegetarian, soy nuggets are the best psuedo meat.

if you dont have any problem with the masala being used in non-veg curries. do try soy nuggets.


my first meal in US, was about 30 minutes after i landed. imagine the jet lag. put my luggage in the local ymca and was directed towards mcdonalds. for me burgers are what i got from 'cake shop of taj', a fantastic place in Anna Nagar, Madras. the spot catered mainly for youngsters (dans l'amour, u know what i mean). so they took their time, and fresh burgers were churned out. imagine my surprise when i bit into one of those mcdonalds cheese burgers. YUCK!
havent had one till this day. can only tolerate KFC's fried chickens (yeah yeah. i know unhealthy as hell) and subway. :)

At Fri May 05, 11:06:00 AM 2006, Anonymous SS said...

I can understand. I went to a company party and the salsa was looking too good to resist. Brought some in a plate and was telling my american friend that tomatoes are somehow light pink instead of red and she said that its salmon( i guess some kind of fish) and not tomatoes(and i thot salsa has only veggies in it). Thank God i didnt have a bite. My husband who usually stop me from eating any desserts brought me some(actually a lot) in that party as I didnt have anything else to eat.
Luckily I live in bay area and all the restaurants including Mcdonalds, bk, subway have veggie versions of burgers and sandwiches. In Florida, when I used to order a burger in McD's all i used to get was a bun with lettuce and tomato. here i actually get a veggie or soy patty.

At Fri May 05, 11:17:00 AM 2006, Blogger Vineela said...

Hai SF,
Looks yummy.My mom will do this by using Besan flour as usual by steaming it.Even i also got confused in that "pepperoni" issue but never tasted it.

At Fri May 05, 11:26:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Meena said...

This looks like a great recipe SH!! I'll try it out with Soya Chunks!! :o)

At Fri May 05, 11:30:00 AM 2006, Blogger Luv2cook said...

Hi SH:

I am not a vegetarian (I don't eat cow or pig products) (even though my cooking habits may seem otherwise) but I have been around friends who have had the same experience. One incident that comes to my mind is that one vegetarian guy at our university went to Taco Bell and ate one particular item for a really long time and then one fine day his friends told him that it had beef in it. Imagine the horror on his face. :)

I discovered about the gelatin thing recently and I was so sad because I ate yoghurt everyday (one of those yoplait small ones). From them on I stopped eating the yoplait and go to the health food store to get some organic yoghurt. Little expensive but worth it :).

At Fri May 05, 12:05:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talking of experiences, I ate 'Sushi' out of the salad bar from workplace everyday thinking it had only rice and seaweed in it. One fine day, we all went to a restaurant and were discussing 'vegetarianism' and imagine my horror when I found out that the Sushi I had been 'lunching on' had imitation pig meat in it. What else can I say except 'Oink oink'.

At Fri May 05, 12:29:00 PM 2006, Blogger Tanuja said...

Hi Sh,

The curry looks great yummy one, I will give a try and let u know, Its really amazing.

At Fri May 05, 12:45:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Priya said...

HI Saffron...
Wonderful recipe...and like others have mentioned I guess soy nuggets cud be a good substitute when in a hurry.
And coming to the 'making u feel good' part :-D ..I guess every vegetarian coming from India has a real food-culture shock when stepping into US.
Who wud guess:
The cheese burgers here come with meat by default...!!
Chilli means something very different from what we are used to and
Chinese/Japanese places are a big No NO..!! There are very few Chinese restautrants that have Stir fry on their menu, where they let u choose ur vegies.
Twice I was given a Beef patty in my Veggie Burger at Wendy's ...and so I am so apprehensive each time I buy something from them. And what I hate the most is the discrimination shown by a few ppl cos I am a Veggie. There is this guy in our food court who laughed at me when I asked him the serve just the Corn and nothe Pot Roast. I initially thought I had spelt the word rong...but after the 3rd time I knew he was laughing cos I dint eat meat,..!! Similar incidents have happened in other places too...and it is soo irritating to deal with ppl of such kind..!!!

At Fri May 05, 01:33:00 PM 2006, Blogger BDSN said...

Hey SH...
Nice title for your recipe and deep frying the steamed chappathi rolls is indeed clever..good substitution for meat...well i should try to trick my hubby with this recipe...

At Fri May 05, 01:34:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Nabeela said...

I totally understand your consternation SH with the pepperoni pizza. I once had a similar incident...we were at the salad bar in Ikea store..and I sprinkled(very freely)on my salad what I thought were some brown nuts...turned out they were bacon bits!!(At least thank God, I asked before eating it...but my salad went into the waste-basket..what a waste)....and I totally agree with everybody else on the animal products in everything issue...from the yogurt(animal gelatin) to cheese(animal rennet) to the breads(mono and di glycerides...and almost 90% of the breads have this)...its very hard to get animal-free products here...but *sigh* that's the price you pay when you live here..

At Fri May 05, 01:39:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Kavitha said...

You can also use Seitan which is mock meat

At Fri May 05, 02:19:00 PM 2006, Blogger Santhi said...

I totally am with you abt the eating disaster....
I am a non-veggie but dont eat beef or pork, and when eating out i prefer eating all veggie food.:)

Yummy recipe. And I have to tell you this, I have the same exact pan!!!!!!!!
SAME PINCH :)))))))

At Fri May 05, 02:41:00 PM 2006, Blogger Revathi said...

Exact thing happend to my veggie friend. He mistook the pepperoni for tomato and ordered em...Ha ha haaa.. Very funny story

At Fri May 05, 05:49:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once ordered a bean burrito at Tacobell and was given a beef burrito instead. Sunk my teeth into it and was all praises for its freshness and chewiness instead of the regular mushy-bean-paste taste. Aarghhhhh
I gagged myself like crazy for half-hour after that.
My 1000 apologies to the holy cow!

At Sat May 06, 08:58:00 AM 2006, Blogger viju said...

visiting ur blog for the first time...its too cool..
blown away by ur pictures and creativity. great job!!!!

At Sun May 07, 01:22:00 PM 2006, Blogger Sumitha said...

Hi Saffron Hut,
I am completely new to the field of blogging and inspired by some of you who do such a wonderful work in your blog,I have posted the first recipe in my own blog,I shall give u the link...please do give me your suggestions and comments!

At Mon May 08, 01:53:00 AM 2006, Blogger Puspha said...

In Malaysia, we have mock meat of all kind made of soy & mushrooms. Just name it, chicken, mutton, beef, pork, fish, squid, prawns, or even achovies. They all come in their appropriate shapes as well eg: veg prawns come in the shape of prawns. hehehehe Sounds funny but itz true & the taste is superb. I even prefer veg mutton varuval to real mutton varuval.

At Mon May 08, 05:22:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a brahmin friend who had pepperoni for one year until he someone told him. I cant imagine his horror when he knew about it. Poor thing!

I am a complete non-veg person. But even though I can live without non-veg dishes for a long time; I can’t live without veg dishes.

But I have never never understood why you want to fake meat in a vegetarian dish? What’s the real purpose behind that? Could someone please explain?

At Mon May 08, 01:49:00 PM 2006, Blogger Saffron said...

Wow! lots of interesting stories from everyone about the hidden dangers in foods. Looks like a lot of unsuspecting people have found meat in their so-called vegetarian dishes!! My episode happened 15 years ago and I've learned to ask a lot of questions when I order food outside now!! :-)

At Mon May 08, 02:39:00 PM 2006, Blogger Ashwini said...

I think one has to be careful about food in another country in general. For instance soups/ beans are very often flavored with beef/ chicken broth here. So you may think you are ordering a veggie soup but its not technically all veggie. While traveling in China I lived on bread and egg fried rice for one whole month :-)

At Tue May 09, 10:30:00 AM 2006, Anonymous shilpa said...

Ohh thats a veg dish!!. You know...I read "muttn kurma" and thought of skipping the post. Then I read it thinking, I will replace the mutton with something else!!!. Wow..u had the aweful experience and an awesome recipe there :).

I had a similar exp once. We were taken to an american restaurant by our clinets. There was this ice cream section. our manager told me to add the nuts to icecream which were kept in seperate bowls. I went on adding everything without reading. then he noticed that I had added 'ham' pieces thinking it was some kind of nut. I had to throw the icecream and take a new one :(.

At Tue May 09, 11:26:00 AM 2006, Blogger Garam Masala said...

Saffron - That is a neat recipe. I am putting it on my 'stack' of must trys. It was great reading all the stories in the comments! Interesting tales to tell your kids one day :-)

LG: Yes, that is an excellent question! In the US, the mock meats are for the non-vegs who are aspiring to be vegs.
For the other vegs I guess, such recipes are handy when serving meat-eaters at a dinner party. Also, in the US, when other vegetable ingredients are hard to reach, such 'mock' ingredients are a welcome change.

Also, soy/tofu etc are excellent protien sources. So an opportunity for the veggies to take a break from dal and beans.

At Tue May 09, 01:06:00 PM 2006, Blogger Shankari said...

Have you tried the mock meat you get in Asian stores ,made with soy, they are awesome!
Sorry forgot to introduce myself, I am shankari, love cooking and eating ofcourse. Take a look at the mock fish recipe in my blog

At Tue May 09, 02:42:00 PM 2006, Blogger Saffron said...

LG, as Garam masala pointed out there are a lot of reasons to use fake meat. This particular dish, I believe has a Rajasthani/Kutch origins where fresh veggies are hard to come by in the desert. For me, it is a matter of convenience..when the crisper in the fridge needs restocking, it is easy to pull out stuff from the dry pantry :) Makes a nice change from the usual cabbage/cauliflower/carrot rut. Believe me, there are times when I don't want to look at another bland vegetable!!!

At Tue May 09, 08:30:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saffronhut, has ridge gourd seeds.

Okay. So vegetarian mutton kurma is like "imaginary wine" when actually it is grape juice? :-)

I don’t think any true blue meat eater will ever like the fake meat stuff. :-)
But what I think is -- if vegans don’t want to eat meat, do you feel comfy when it is fake meat?

My friends used to hate even seeing meat in dishes or even spell the word meat. I always thought it is that psychological feeling, that’s why, asked that question. Thank you GM and SH.

At Wed May 10, 09:06:00 AM 2006, Blogger Fiber said...

Wow! This is gorgeous!

At Wed May 10, 06:45:00 PM 2006, Anonymous lera said...

This looks Yum, I do make this with soya chunks for mock meat .

At Tue May 16, 07:08:00 AM 2006, Blogger CyberRowdy(Q8TechDrive) said...

another good one to tease me...

At Wed Sep 20, 10:55:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Saffron!
I am still amused with blogging -not very familiar with it....
I came across your blog and couldn't help but reply.
Reply no 1 - There is this place in Tirumala hills where they have placed a board that reads thus: SHOE KEEPING CENTRE. It amused me no end. Whenever I come across 'tamizh thathuvams' I shall keep you guys posted. I have a huge collection of them.
Reply no 2 - I have written 2 cookbooks and am in the process of writing a 3rd one.
Now, I would like you guys to go to google and type Viji Varadarajan. Amongst other things you will come across a Boston paper review. Click onto that and you will see a photograph of a lady garnishing a tomato rasam. It looks authentic and good
Do give me a feedback on both

At Tue Oct 03, 12:36:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ciao , bell post! bell blog, io sono paul e se ti va visita il mio sito:pescheriasono sicuro che ti piacer�.pescheria

At Wed Oct 04, 11:46:00 PM 2006, Anonymous kal said...

First time I visited your site and I'm very much impressed by your cooking ideas and the pictures..!!.Keep doing the good work!!.

At Wed Oct 11, 05:30:00 AM 2006, Blogger Saffron said...

Viji! I'm honored to have a real, live, bonafide cookbook author perusing my blog :)

I missed your comment because it was hidden in an old post, hence the late response!

Yes, do post your 'tamizh thathuvams' when you get a chance.

I looked at the picture of rasam and it does look very good. Is that you?


At Wed Nov 01, 05:53:00 PM 2006, Anonymous ARuna said...

Hi, Thanks for sharing your recipe, I have a Question abt the say "Make 1/2 inch thick rolls and steam the rolls for 15 minutes."...when you say...make rolls does it mean spread it into a chapathi and then roll it ??? this is confusing to me so please explain how do you make the rolls. Thanks Aruna

At Thu Nov 02, 07:46:00 AM 2006, Blogger Saffron said...


By rolls I just mean shaped into long ropes. No chappatis, just roll the dough between your hands like a rope. Sorry about the confusion!

At Sun Nov 19, 03:38:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello thanks for the lovely recipe, anise seeds is saunf or ajwain?
Omum is ajwain isnt it?
dunno just to clarify..

At Tue Jan 16, 08:10:00 PM 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello SH,

Sorry about raking up an old topic but I am really enjoying reading your blog and looking at some recipes. Some are definitely worth a try. Reading others' responses was hilarious. I am a hard-core meatarian and eat pork and a bit of beef too(have started recently) but when I first came here 11 years ago I had 2 very similar experiences. I had pepperoni pizza and thought that the slices were fried tomatoes mixed with peppers (like tomato chips). My cousin enlightened me but no big deal...I had decided that I would have to start eating pork one day anyway. Another thing is ... for almost an year I wouldn't eat buffalo wings thinking they were made from actual beef (this was when I wouldn't want to eat beef). Lol - I want to kick myself for passing up so many opportunities for eating those wings...
Anyway keep blogging , please.

P.S. Can you not remove the idiots' posts who shamelessly have spammed here?

At Thu Mar 01, 02:49:00 PM 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I have a different story altogether...Iam a non-veg, and I just look for the Halal restaurants to eat any chicken/mutton. I have never tasted beef, as my Ammi usually warns us if any dish, consumed at relatives' house, or parties has beef in it. After coming to US, once me and my hubby went to an uncle's home frm mysore...and I was starving to death. Uncle asked me to help myself, and I headed over to kitchen. Near the fridge counter, there was a pickle jar and uncle had only plain Khichdi left in the fridge. I took some khichdi along with plenty of the pickle. I guessed it was a fresh (home made) pack from India. As I had never tasted any non-veg pickle,I took it to be chicken pickle, and served myself generously...and when I told my hubby that I had plenty of pickles and rice...only then he said it was made from beef chunks....Yuck!!! From then on, I never try anything, without asking what is in it.

And yeah, SH, I too confused pepperoni with pepper...but never had I was sceptic about the red slices in t topping..thank God!!

At Thu Jul 12, 06:32:00 PM 2007, Blogger Laxmi said...

Hey SH
lovely recipe. will surely try it.
well about the peperoni incident iam not the only one who got confused hehehe... nice to see people keeping me company.

another place that always confuses ur order is Burger king (specially in a drive thru. This once happened to my hubby and his elder bro. they had been driving to pittsburgh and reached very late in night and the only eat out open at that hour was burger king so they decided to have a vegetarian burger there. Being in states for nearly 5-6 yrs they had an idea that while placing the order they have to say " veg pattie burger "WITH NO MEAT" and they did say that 2 pattie burger each drove to the hotel... after reaching hotel when they open there burger.... what they see a a ham burger instead of the veggie burger.... they had no choice other that throwing the patty and just having the buns.....

from then on my hubby makes it a point to check park his vehicle for a minute open the pack and check the burger and patty before we leave from the drive thru.....

:) funny isnt it?
anyways thanx for the veggie mutton will try it,... and maybe scare my hubby.. and impress his non-veg friends :) hehhehhe

At Fri Nov 16, 08:15:00 PM 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! My name is Project 71. Weird name I know, but my masters are weird too. My masters apologize for such an out-of-context comment and they know how painful such spamlike comments are. But, say masters, how else are we to present something good to the world. By that they mean me :D. Kindly see what I am about. Won't take you more than 22s to read... Enjoyy!

At Mon Apr 07, 10:37:00 AM 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

its tough in this country, i love mexican food and would go with my hubby to 'on the border' and they have a veggie fajita, which i love
i have a habit of clearly telling the waitress that 'no meat, no beef, no chicken, no egg'and most of them nod their heads
only after a couple of visits did one waitress tell me that the beans contain chilli pieces and rice is cooked in chicken stock
after that i am very careful when i go out but thankfully there is another mexican joint where they do serve vegetarian

At Tue Jun 30, 07:43:00 AM 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey saffron!! ur blog is too good
but if u don't mind i want to say u 1 thing.
u have mentioned anise seeds as ajwain in this kurma recipe.but anise seeds are very different from ajwain.ajwain is carom or caraway seeds in english.
pl...let me know what u have used .
carom seeds or anise seeds?

At Thu Sep 24, 04:26:00 AM 2009, Blogger chithra said...

Hi Saffron ,
I started reading all your post off late .The pictures are mind blowing and I can't resist my temptation .

Yes I had one such experience . My parents came to live with me for a while . I'm in Uk BTW .. They went to M&S and my father noticed some honey roasted crisps on the shelf and he was too tempted to buy it .. but thank god i came in the last minute to warn him that it had ham + honey roasted flavour ..
cant forge't the expression that he gave .. :)

anyways keep up ur good work .. expecting more delicious and mouth watering recipes from you :)

At Sat May 05, 03:27:00 AM 2018, Blogger catchy court said...

i Love mock meat, it is healthy as well as tasty that give us taste like chicken.

At Sat May 05, 05:15:00 AM 2018, Blogger catchy court said...

i Love mock meat, it is healthy as well as tasty that give us taste like chicken.


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