This is a very simple but satisfying dish where the flavour of the mutton is able to sing. It’s from Romy Gill’s ‘On The Himalayan Trail’ cookbook and reflects the simple, wholesome and delicious cooking of the region. The mutton and other meatball ingredients are pounded together into a smooth paste before being shaped into balls and cooked in spiced broth with yoghurt. A food processor can be used to make the meatball mix, making the recipe even simpler.
Ghushtaba (Pounded Mutton Meatballs in a Yoghurt Gravy)
For the meatballs
- 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) goat, mutton or lamb leg (buy it on the bone and keep the bones for the stock)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lard, ghee or rapeseed (canola) oil
For the stock
- stock bones (see above)
- 1 litre (34 fl oz / 4 cups) water
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 4 black cardamom pods
- 4 whole cloves
- 5 cm 2 in cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the gravy
- 2 tablespoons ghee or rapeseed (canola oil)
- 600 g (1 lb 5 oz / 2½cups) greek yoghurt whisked with 300 ml (10 fl oz / 1¼ cups) water
- 6 garlic cloves (crushed to a paste)
- 2 teaspoons shallot paste
- 2 heaped teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 heaped teaspoons ground fennel
- 500 ml (17 fl oz / 2 cups) stock (see above)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
- steamed rice to serve
For the meatballs, remove any fat from the meat and reserve the bones for the stock. Cut the meat into pieces and rub with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Place the meat on a wooden board (or smooth stone) and pound with a wooden mallet. Remove any pieces of sinew and keep pounding until the texture and colour of the meat resembles pâté. Add the lard, ghee or oil and continue to pound. Finally, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pound until everything is well combined and the meat has a paste-like texture. Alternatively, use a food processor to blitz it all to a fine paste.
Divide the mixture and shape into 4 large balls with wet hands.
For the stock, place the bones in a large pan and add the water, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon and salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, until the stock is reduced by half to 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups). Remove and discard any scum that comes to the top. Once reduced, set aside.
To make the gravy, heat the ghee or oil in a separate large pan over a low heat. Add the whisked yoghurt and cook for 5 minutes, whisking continuously so that the mixture doesn’t curdle. Add the crushed garlic and shallot paste, along with the ground ginger and fennel. Now, add the meatballs, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring. Add the stock and cook for a further 15 minutes until the gravy thickens. Mix in the dried mint and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Resting helps the broth to seep in the meat balls.
Serve hot, with steamed rice.
We used the food processor rather than pound the meatball mix, which worked very well and made the process quick and easy.
We really enjoyed the simplicity of the dish, which allowed the flavours of mutton, yoghurt and subtle spicing to shine.
Made the recipe? Let us know how you got on in the comments.
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of this book from publishers Hardie Grant. This recipe is published with permission. Book photography by Matt Russell and Poras Chaudhary.