Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Posted at: Jun 23, 2019, 1:13 AM; last updated: Jun 23, 2019, 1:13 AM (IST)FOOD TALK

A potful of taste

A potful of taste

Pushpesh Pant

There is an old saying in Hindi that roughly translates as “You can’t put a wooden pot on fire more than once!” This suggests that it’s wise to rely on a handi wrought in clay. A fired /glazed clay pot can not only be used repeatedly, it also imparts a special aroma to the food cooked in it enhancing its allure. In Pakistan, chippa gosht is cooked in a clay pot and in Awadh handi kebab used to be relished a lot. In rural India, daal is routinely boiled in a handi, dahi is set in a clay kunda, and kheer and mishti doi acquire a distinct seductive flavour thanks to the earthenware. 

It’s not only in India but in China and Central Asia too, that clay pot cooking is popular. Chinese and Mongolian kitchens boast many a slow-cooked, one-dish meals that come out of this magic ware. In Western cuisine, the casseroles and heavy cast-iron pots with the lid serve the same purpose. In this style of cooking, many ingredients are combined and stewed in their own juices. Nutritionists agree that this form of cooking is healthier than pressure cooking or nuking the food in a microwave. 

When summer is at its peak, our mind strays to a wonderful baoli handi we were treated to by good friend recently departed Jiggs Kalra many years ago in Lucknow. The dish traces its lineage to picnics in the vicinity of cool stepwells or baolis. Many, however, labour under the illusion that the word baoli indicates a touch of madness (the word also means ‘tinged with a touch of lunacy’ in colloquial Hindi) that makes the cook bung in everything in the same pot. But mind you, there is method in this madness. Generous incorporation of seasonal vegetables considerably lightens the meat intake. Perfect for summers! 

You may dispense with the mitti ki handi but must stay on the course cooking slow and using spices with a light hand. 

Mutton handi


  • Mutton (mixed pieces from shoulder, chops) 250 g
  • Carrots 100 g
  • Potatoes  100 g
  • Cauliflower 100 g
  • Gourd/Marrow 100 g
  • Onions 100 g
  • Garlic ginger paste 1 tbsp
  • Coriander powder 2 tsp
  • Cumin powder 1 tsp
  • Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
  • Lemon juice 1 tsp
  • Mint (dried) 1 tsp
  • Fresh coriander leaves 1 sprig
  • Oil 2 tbsp
  • Salt to taste


Trim and wash mutton. Peel potatoes and cut in large, bite-sized cubes. Scrape carrots and peel marrow/gourd. Cut into thick, round slices. Break cauliflower into small florets. Wash the vegetables. Peel and slice onions finely. Heat oil in a pan. Add meat and fry on medium heat for about 15 minutes or till well browned, stirring regularly. Sprinkle a spoon of water if meat sticks to bottom and scrape the residue. Add onions and ginger-garlic paste. Stir briskly for 30 seconds then add powdered spices and salt. Add potatoes. Cook for two minutes, add carrots and gourd/marrow. Stir fry for a minute and add cauliflower. Mix well. Add a cup of water, bring to boil, cover with a tight lid and reduce the flame to medium low. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Uncover and check if more water is required. Add the water very slowly and not all at once. The gravy is thin but not watery. Sprinkle lemon juice and dried mint when meat is done to taste. Garnish with coriander leaves. 


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