Laal Maas


Update for week ended 7 January 2011

The January winter chill had set in. Chowkidaar was finding it difficult to stay at his post outside the erstwhile palace residence of the Rajput Prince. The creaky door that had been tightly shut was not keeping the icy breeze out. Chowkidaar tightened the shaggy woolen blanket around himself, knotted the muffler around his ears and his neck, over the monkey-cap and steeled himself to walk out of the post and into the palace main entrance. He would continue his duty from there. As he walked through the quickly gathering fog, he felt his bones freeze, and ambled on very difficultly into the palace main building. Once inside, his nose immediately picked up the scent of that valiant Rajput mutton curry, the laal maas, translated into red meat. The chef was preparing dinner for the night and the sharp, tingling smell of cooking red chillies has filled the air. And in winter, with the air getting more still and heavy, the smell lingered on. Chowkidaar hoped that he would get to taste the mutton. He had gone that morning to the butcher to select the goat shanks. The chef always trusted Chowkidaar’s choice of meats. He knew how to select the most succulent cuts, whether they were goat, sheep or even chicken. Chowkidaar also knew how to procure the not very easily available khargosh, rabbit or bater, partridge or even game venison, but no blackbucks – that was taboo in Rajput land. The chef had learnt the art of making the delicately cooked but fiercely hot mutton curry, laal maas – which got its name from the fiery red hot red chillies, that almost went in by the kilo-ful. In fact for one shank, the chef used at least 25-30 large red chilies, enough to fire a rocket into outer-space. But the hotter and spicier it was, the more it would be appreciated by diners. Chowkidaar only hoped that the diners would not eat much of it tonight given their inexperience in eating so much solid fire; and that he would get to eat the laal maas so that it could keep him warm for his night duty at this hill station for the Rajput royalty. And tonight was turning out to be colder than one he had encountered in a long time.

The D Boyz also felt the chills on D Street as winter truly set into the Indian subcontinent. In fact, the non-mountainous regions recorded colder weather than the mountains, so Delhi was colder than Shimla and Mt Abu was the coldest place in the plains (though technically, it is perched on a hill in the desert region of South Rajasthan). And someone was cooking Laal Maas of a different variety on this street, as loads and load so of red chillies were soaked and used to cook everything on the street, that the SENSEX looked redder than ever, dropping 900 points down since the past week to end close to 19600. The pricey onions, and other food items did not stop the cooking of the SENSEX into a red curry. And D Boyz were ready to drop it like hot potatoes or coal, or whatever is hot!

Chowkidaar did catch a few winks in the night, but every once in a while, he would peer out of his post cabin, and clear the frosted glass to look out at the lawns and the palace beyond. He was able to stay warm, thanks to some pieces of the left-over red meat curry that he did finally get to eat. God bless the Chef. When he emerged from the cabin to open the gates for the milkman in the morning, he was greeted by icy white lawns. His feet almost slipped when he walked on the now frozen ground and it took him a while to realize that the cold winds last night also brought icy frost with them. When the lights got brighter with the rising sun, he noticed that all vegetation also had a thin white crust, almost like someone had dusted white sugar onto the landscape. This was indeed a cold winter morning, one that he had experienced only a few times in the past on Mt Abu.

Hope you are all enjoying the wintry conditions in your respective towns and cities. Take care and enjoy it the way you want to.

Have a nice weekend…. Cheers

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