Mutton Curry With Apricots

My haul of dry fruits from our recent holiday is being used to the maximum in my kitchen. With the temperature dropping by a few degrees, evenings are pleasant and the tendency to cook and savour dishes that verge towards the festive grows by leaps and bounds! For my cakes, an old jam jar sits in my fridge filled to the brim with rum and raisins. Soaking up was never such fun! It isn’t that I can’t go and buy the best dry fruits here but the fun of getting locally produced food items there makes it all the more satisfying. And the state of Himachal Pradesh is known for apricots and almonds, apples and other temperate-clime’s delights.
For most meat-eating Indians, mutton curry is comfort food. There’s such a home-sweet-home feel about mutton and potato curry and steaming hot rice. Particularly as a Sunday lunch when most family members would be home and lunch would be more of a lazy laid-back affair with a siesta written somewhere at the bottom of the (mind’s) menu. And the menu didn’t call for more accompaniments apart from dal and some vegetables in bhaji form.
My version of this mutton curry is with the usual spices generally used for meat curries but I love the mild sweetness that comes from the apricots. I also use a bit of the spice mix that a dear friend brings/sends from Oman (pictured below). It makes the curry taste and smell like heaven!

Mutton 500 grams
Dried apricots…I used 24
Onions…4 large, sliced
Ginger…a thumb-size piece
Garlic…8 cloves
Indian bay leaves…3
Cumin powder..1 teaspoon
Coriander powder…one and a half teaspoon
Special mutton masala mix…1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder…half a teaspoon
Chilli powder…according to taste
1 tablespoon of freshly grated pepper
Garam masala made of two 3 inch cinnamon sticks, 6 cloves & 4 cardamoms ground to a paste
Tomato puree…half a cup
Coriander leaves for the garnish
Sunflower oil…about 5 tablespoons

Wash the mutton, drain in a colander. Transfer to a bowl and marinate with the ginger, garlic, salt, turmeric, cumin, and coriander powder and leave aside for at least an hour.
Wash and soak the apricots in hot water. They will swell up after an hour so so. Alternately you can soak them overnight.
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. When it comes to near-smoking point add the bay leaves and the onions. Fry till the onions change colour.
Then add the mutton along with the marinated spices. Stir in between and keep the pan covered. Add the pepper, chilli powder and the tomato puree.
Cook till the oil separates. In between add about a quarter cup of water to the pan to stop the mixture from sticking to the bottom.
Add a teaspoon of the special mutton masala, mix well. The apricots can go in now. 
Add about a cup of water and let it cook. Check the seasoning and adjust.
Add the garam masala, stir and remove from the flame.
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with chopped coriander.

Steamed rice and moong dal with palak (spinach)
completes the meal

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