The last time I was a teenager was a while back. How back? Waaay Back.
See, I come from a generation that prized their skills at making mixed tapes, eating 12 Nutties in under a minute (true story) and quoting He-Man as gospel truth. You were a cool kid if you owned a cordless phone, knew the lyrics to Macarena and got Toblerone for Diwali cause you had fancy NRI relatives.
Needless to say, teenagers today are a brand of alien to me. And I have some core questions. Like, are they all Directioners? Is Hoodies still a thing? And seriously, what is this addiction to Snapchat?
So when I was presented with an opportunity to interact with a class of boys from the 9th grade, I was both curious and scared. Let’s say more scared.
The good part is that these 9th graders belong to one of India’s premier boarding schools – Mayo College in Ajmer
This majestic facade greets you at the entrance of the school
I was invited to speak as a part of their ongoing Lit Fest which featured eminent writers, lyricsts, directors and even lawyers. That probably explains why I felt more like a fanboy than a panelist.
Like a good student, I was up all night doing my homework. Compiling videos, collecting facts, writing slides under 140 characters and containing the urge to #everything. Tough task.
The biggest challenge? To devise a session that wouldn’t put the boys to sleep. See I believe in Karma. My entire academic life, I have been notorious for sleeping through my classes. My plan was a stroke of sheer genius – find a seat in the second last row, behind the tallest boy and as soon as the attendance was done, I’d put my head directly on the desk and pass out. I even had a running list of classes that made for the sweetest sleep. In school, it was physics and chemistry. In college, it was media law and business studies. By the time I got to Post Grad, I’d perfected the science of class sleeping. Aloo – Poori(s) for breakfast and covering depravation class for snooze time. Match made in heaven,
Needless to say, I was quite certain all of this karma would come back to bite me. So I made sure I threw in enough Game of Thrones & Frieda Pinto references. And Voila! Everyone was awake, and more importantly interested.
Clockwise: The stables at the school, end of session selfie with the class, the assembly hall, panelist info on the school grounds, tea and cookies during break time
I can’t speak for the boys, but I had a great time. I learnt a lot from these young minds, and while this age continues to be a mystery to me (and I suppose, to anyone who’s a ‘teenager’) one thing is for sure, I need to get on Snapchat!
But here’s the real takeaway from this trip – I’ve found culinary experiences through our academic years to be such an integral part of how we remember growing up. A flavour or an aroma can be etched in our senses for years, like a time capsule that is immune to our age or path in life.
Each institute has its own set of canteens, gastronomic lore and iconic eating experiences that have made us who we are. Welhams has kadi-chawal, NDA has Tipsy Pudding and my college has Triple Schezwan Rice.
Mayo too, has some iconic dishes on its list of legendary. At the Principal’s dinner, I was privy to an interesting conversation between the alumni about their favourite dish. While Kebabs and Fruit Trifle were most popular and Liver on Toast seemed to be creating a lot of nostalgia on the table, one dish literally took the cake – The Mayo College Mutton Curry.
The head chef and his prized creation
What makes it special? For starters, no one knows who invented it or how it came to be. What is known, is that it’s a twist on the iconic Laal Maas with a special smoky flavour that comes from powdered Kachri, a wild cucumber that’s found in desert areas.
The curry is full bodied and mildly spiced with succulent pieces of meat that have soaked in all the goodness of the spices, finished with just a hint of smokiness. Bliss.
Even though I had the curry a couple of times, I was not ready to let go of this gastronomical experience just yet. I managed to get the recipe from the school and unleashed it into my kitchen.
I decided to make the Mayo College Mutton Curry in its original avatar. I mean, why mess with a classic? But what I did crave was an easy-to-carry version of this dish, something that I could eat at work or at a picnic lunch or even as an evening snack – the point am trying to make, is that I wanted to eat it all the time. There I said it.
So I decided to marry this curry with another childhood classic – patties. You remember the ones you’d get at the dry canteen next to the samosas and sauce? The flaky layers of pastry that would fall out of your mouth with each bite, stuffed with potatoes, peas and even chicken. I used to love getting my hands greasy and wiping them on my jeans. You get the picture.
And that successful marriage spawned many many little pasties. Buttery crusts packed with an intensity only known to meat that was once curried. The secret – make the curry, dry it a little and then blitz it to pack in all the flavour. Boom.
Mayo College Mutton Curry Pasties
For the Curry
- Mutton or Goat Meat, from the leg – 500 gms cut into very small pieces
- Dried Red Chillies- 4-6
- Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
- Ginger garlic paste-2 tbsp
- Kachri powder- 1/4 cup
- Coriander Powder – 1 tbsp
- Fennel Powder (coarsely ground) – 1 tbsp
- Yogurt – 1/2 cup
- Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Whole spices like Cinnanmon, Cardamom, Peppercorns, Cloves, Bay leaf – 1-2 pieces each
- Fried onion paste- 200 gms
- Clarified Butter or Ghee – 4tbs
- Salt –to taste
- Soak the red chilies in a bowl of water in a way that they are fully covered. Soak for 10 mins
- In a food processor grind the chillies, turmeric powder, ginger garlic paste and a little water to make a smooth paste. I’d suggest grinding it with a little water at a time to control the consistency.
- Mix this paste into the yogurt. Add the kachri, coriander & fennel powder. Now mix this marinade into the meat pieces. Cover and leave to marinate for atleast 1 hour.
- In a deep skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds, whole spices and fry for about a minute.
- Add onion paste and fry for another 2 minutes.
- Add the meat with its marinade. Fry till the oil starts to separate from the masala. Sprinkle a little water if you find the masala sticking to the pan. Season with salt to taste.
- Once the gravy is thick, take it off the heat. When its cool enough to handle, remove the meat pieces and the bigger whole spices (you can leave in the pepper & cloves) Blitz the gravy in a food processor to get a thick consistency
- Return the gravy and the meat pieces to the pan and heat till just combined.
- Charcoal – 1 medium sized Piece
- Clarifies Butter or Ghee- 2 tsp
- Cloves 2-3
- Garam masala powder- 1tsp
- Fresh Coriander-a few sprigs
- Transfer the curry into a shallow pan and place a small bowl in the centre.
- Arrange the gravy around the bowl and sprinkle the garam masala over it.
- Heat the charcoal on a flame using tongs to heat it for about 1 minute
- Place the hot coal inside the bowl using the tongs. Place the cloves on the coal and add the clarified butter, the coal will start smoking. Cover the pan immediately for 2-3 minutes.
- The gravy is now ready, garnish it with fresh coriander.
For the Pastry – I used this very helpful recipe to make the pastry. Follow up to the refrigeration step.
- Pre-Heat the oven at 180ºC. Line a cookie sheet with butter paper.
- Take out the pastry from the fridge and let it stand for a few minutes. Take a dim-sum sized piece and roll it between two sheets of parchment paper. The quicker, the better – you dont want the butter in the pastry to melt.
- Use a cookie cutter or a round lid to cut a circle of about 4-5 inches. Place 1 tbsp of meat filling in the centre. Dab the pastry with cold water and fold one side over the other. Crimp the edges and place the pasties on the lined cookie sheet.
- Brush the pasty top with egg wash and cut three slits on top.
- Bake the pasties for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
- Serve with mint chutney and enjoy!
Special Thanks to Lt Gen S.H Kulkarni (Retd), and the staff of Mayo College for their hospitality.
And Puja Ganguli, my pastry ninja.
All Images by Ishita Thakur