How to make Indian-style mutton curry

Flavours of home is a series of recipes from around the world cooked by people at home in Otago. This week Jeyn Ganesan, from Malaysia, shows us how to make her family's favourite Indian-style mutton curry.

Jeyn Ganesan's grandparents moved from Sri Lanka to Malaysia in the late 19th century, and she grew up in Kuala Lumpur.

She and her partner came to New Zealand on holiday 20 years ago, found work in Queenstown and decided to stay. Later she married a New Zealander, lived in Cromwell and moved to Dunedin in 1999.

This is a family recipe with origins in Sri Lanka, passed down by word of mouth for generations. Recently she and her cousins decided to record the family recipes, and questioned their aunts and mothers to get the details, she says.

Jeyn Ganesan with her Indian-style curry. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Jeyn Ganesan with her Indian-style curry. Photo by Gregor Richardson.

Mutton curry - Indian-style

500g hogget shoulder chops

4-5 potatoes tin diced tomatoes (about 120g)

large onion peeled and finely chopped

2 cinnamon sticks

5 pieces star anise

3 cloves garlic

5 cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped or 2 tsp crushed ginger

2-3 curry leaves or bay leaves

2-3 Tbsp curry powder

1 Tbsp plain chilli powder (optional)

1-2 tsp roasted and ground fennel seeds

for garnish:

fresh tomato and chopped coriander or other herbs

2 cups basmati rice

Raita (yoghurt salad):

1 cup natural, unsweetened yoghurt
large carrot
cucumber, about 12cm
fresh tomato
salt and sugar to taste
chopped parsley, coriander, mint or basil

(This is traditionally made with mutton, but that is hard to buy.)

Peel potatoes and cut into large cubes. Cut meat into pieces. Don't discard bones, which give a nice flavour to the curry.

Peel and pound, crush or finely chop the garlic cloves and add to the meat and potatoes with the ginger. Mix well and leave to marinate for 5-10 minutes. Heat a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil in a large pot.

Add the star anise, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves. Once they become fragrant, add the chopped onion and stir. Then add the meat and potatoes along with the garlic and ginger.

Stir to sear until the meat changes colour to pale. Season with salt and add tin chopped tomatoes, then 2-3 tablespoons of curry powder and extra chilli powder if you like it hot.

Stir and cook until fragrant. Add enough water to cover the meat.

Bring to the boil, then cover, turn the heat down and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Mix in 2 teaspoons crushed roasted fennel seeds.

Jeyn likes to garnish the curry with fresh tomato pieces to contrast with the spiciness. She doesn't remove the whole spices before serving as she says it's nice to suck on them.

Serve with rice, raita and a chutney.

To cook the rice
Rinse and drain the raw rice, add water, then level the rice in the pot. The water should cover the rice by the depth of the first joint on the middle finger (about 2cm-2.5cm) - it's an old trick and saves measuring the water, she says.
Bring to the boil, then turn the heat very low, cover with the lid and leave to steam. Stir with a fork (not a spoon) to see if it's cooked. It will be fluffy and the grains squash between your fingers.

To make the raita
Peel and grate the carrot. Cut the cucumber into slices and each slice into quarters. Chop the tomato. Mix all the vegetables with yoghurt. Season with salt, and a little sugar if you like.

Sprinkle over chopped herbs. Store in fridge until ready to serve. 


• Hogget and mutton have more flavour than lamb. They also have a little more fat which adds to the flavour.

• You can use beef or chicken thighs instead of hogget.

• Jeyn uses Baba's meat curry powder which is blended in Malaysia, available from Sew Hoy Oriental Foods in Dunedin. Her grandparents would have mixed their curry powder from scratch, she says.

• To roast fennel seeds, place in a dry pan over heat and toss briefly until fragrant and slightly darkened. Grind to a coarse powder in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. This sweet spice adds a wonderful aroma.

• You can cook the rice in a rice cooker or microwave instead of on the stove top. Jeyn's mother makes numerous variations of this recipe. She may use only curry powder, which she cooks in oil first, and leave out the extra spices. She may add yoghurt to the marinade for the meat and leave it in the fridge overnight before cooking. Coconut milk is often used instead of water to cook the curry.

• Curries are not expensive to cook, which is important if you are feeding a family.

Thanks to Afife Harris. 





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