Niramish mangsho is a mutton dish that used to be cooked with sacrificial goat meat. Because this dish is offered to the Goddess Kali, it is cooked without any onion and garlic. This omission of onion and garlic is apparently enough to earn this dish the 'niramish', that is, vegetarian, tag in the eyes of Bengalis.
Niramish mangsho is in spirit similar to the Kashmiri rogan josh, which too uses only ground spices and no onion or garlic. Since this was traditionally cooked with the meat of goats that were sacrificed to Kali, it is best to use the meat of a small goat for this recipe. The larger, grain-fed, fattier 'rewaji' mutton is best reserved for dishes with onion and garlic.
Since this is a special dish for Kali Pujo, we have chosen to grind the spices from scratch. It can, however, be also made using readymade powdered spices.
The Bengali word 'niramish' is interesting because, unlike the English coinage 'non-vegetarian', niramish literally means 'non-meat'—ni (not) + amish (flesh). This makes 'amish' (or flesh) the default word, with the term for 'vegetarian' derived by pre-fixing 'not' to it.
- 1 kg mutton
- 10 g salt
For the spice pastes
- 40 g ginger
- 15 g green chillies
- 5 g dried red chillies (whole)
- 3 g kashmiri red chillies (whole)
- 3 g cumin seeds
- 3 g coriander seeds
- 4 pcs cardamom
- 2 pcs cinnamon
- 6 pcs cloves
- 40 g mustard oil (plus extra for finishing)
- 20 g ghee (plus extra for finishing)
- 4 pcs dried red chillies
- 4 pcs bay leaves
- 4 pcs cardamom
- 1 pc cinnamon
- 2 pcs cloves
- ½ tsp hing (asafeotida)
- 16 g sugar
- 5 g turmeric
- 10 g salt
- 200 g yoghurt
- 575 ml hot water
- 3 pcs green chillies
Prep the mutton and spices
- Coat the mutton with salt, massaging it in well, and set aside.
- Since this recipe has no onions, the base of the gravy will be formed of ginger and other spices. For flavour, we are grinding them all fresh. For this, in three separate bowls, soak the following groups of spices: (i) dried red chillies and whole kashmiri red chilli; (ii) cumin and coriander seeds; and (iii) cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.
- Roughly chop the ginger and green chillies, and grind them to a smooth paste. Set aside.
- In the same grinder jar, add the soaked chillies, and grind them with a little water until smooth. Set aside.
- Using a stone sheel nora or grinder, or mortar pestle, grind the soaked cumin and coriander seeds until smooth. Set aside.
- Similarly, grind the soaked gorom moshla (cinnamon, cardamom and cloves), and set aside.
Cook the mutton
- Heat mustard oil in a kadai. Fry the mutton pieces in batches until they are well browned on both sides. Set aside.
- Add ghee to the mustard oil left behind in the pan. Temper with dried red chillies, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves.
- Mix hing in a little water and add it to the pan along with sugar. Fry on low heat for about 30 secs.
- Add the ground chilli paste and cook on low heat for about 3 mins.
- Add the ginger and green chilli paste. Continue cooking until the raw smell of ginger goes away (about 10 mins).
- Add the cumin and coriander paste, and once again, cook until the raw smell of the spices dissipates (10 mins or so).
- Once all the spices have braised properly, beat yoghurt until lump free. Whisk it in, stirring constantly to prevent the yoghurt from splitting.
- When the oil separates and floats to the top, add half of the gorom moshla paste.
- Add the fried mutton pieces, and braise them in the spices for about 15 mins, scraping the bottom of the pan frequently to ensure that the spices don't stick.
- Add hot water for the gravy, and salt, and cover and let it simmer for about an hour until the sauce has thickened and the mutton is tender.
- To finish, add some slit green chillies, the remaining gorom moshla paste, ghee and mustard oil. Cover and let it rest for 10 mins before serving.