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Mutton chops masala: A lip-smacking favourite among sky warriors

As the year comes to an end, I wanted to pay tribute to our sky warriors, constantly protecting us so we may live in peace.

Mutton chops masala: A lip-smacking favourite among sky warriors
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Chennai

One has to live amongst them and think like them to understand what living in the moment truly means. Living in the moment included midnight surprise visits to batchmates’ houses to have some delicious home-cooked food, which the mess couldn’t provide. 


Before being married to an Air Force pilot and having a brother-in-law who is also one, I always imagined Air Force pilots in my mind. I had the vision of a grim, dedicated, humourless man, dressed in military camouflage, all ready to jump into a place and respond to an enemy provocation.


But, meeting them and getting to know them made me realise that not only were they spontaneous, fun loving, caring and living like a huge family with no religion, but also lived for the moment. Most of the accommodations in those days at smaller Air Force stations were in barracks — majorly old, crumbling British military-style one-room accommodations. The wives cooked, baked, grilled on all innovative devices, as gas was not common. I remember learning baking from Betty (retired Air Commodore Joe D’Souza’s wife), on an ancient stove in a tin box, placed inside a cooker. She baked such excellent cakes. Her mutton chops were also famous all across the Air Force. Whoever started to learn cooking also wanted Betty’s mutton chops as part of the recipes. 


Love stories were common among the Air Force pilots, for their chivalrous attitude and dare devil approach to life drew plenty of attention from the fairer sex. Happiness, joy and enjoying life were all for the moment as one never knew when tragedy, and which family could have someone taken away in his prime. It took me a long time to get over losing some of my best loved friends I had made among the pilots. The song sung by Rajesh Khanna in the film, Andaz, Zindagi, ek safar hai suhana, yahan kal kya ho kisne jana (Life is a beautiful journey. Who knows what will happen tomorrow?) was like the national song for the Air Force. Numerous love stories ended tragically, especially during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. There are also some others like my dear friends, Sonali and Pingle, Sudha and Kacker, who continue to be in love and are enjoying their golden years together.  


Food, a bottle of wine, and love brought friends together in every Air Force pilot’s home. The life of sky warriors is a little treasure chest of exciting incidents, some of the best heritage foods cooked on innovative contraptions available. Betty’s mutton chops were always a part of New Year potluck parties thrown at the messes. Here’s the recipe to recreate Betty’s mutton chops masala, that was much loved by many sky warriors. 

Betty’s Mutton Chops Masala
Marination time: Overnight 
Prep time: 15 min 
Cooking time: 40 min 
Serves:
Calories per serve: 385 cal 
Ingredients

Fresh mutton chops: 250 gm
Onions: 3 chopped fine
Vinegar: 1 tbsp
Lime juice: 1 tbsp
Ginger garlic paste: 1 tbsp
Salt: To taste
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
Coriander seeds: 1 tsp
Fennel seeds: 1/2 tsp
Red chillies: 2
Coriander powder: 1 tsp
Whole pepper: 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds: 1 tbsp
Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, fennel, black cardamom: Total 1 1/2 tsp
Bay leaf: 1
Curry leaves: A handful
Refined oil: 3 tbsp
Mint coriander paste: 1 tsp
Water: 1 cup
Method
  • Marinate overnight the pieces of mutton chops with vinegar, lime juice, pepper powder, jeera powder, chilli and coriander powder, mint and coriander paste, and ginger garlic paste. Keep in the fridge overnight. 
  • Dry roast the masala condiments, including coriander seeds and red chilly. Powder the masalas, and keep coriander and chilli separately. 
  • Heat a pressure cooker and add 3 tbsp oil. Temper fennel seeds, bay leaf, and curry leaves. 
  • Add chopped onions and saute for a while. Add ginger garlic paste and stir well. 
  • Add turmeric powder, pepper powder, cumin powder, coriander, chilli powder and garam masala powder. 
  • Mix all the powders well, add a little water, and cook till oil splits from masala.
  • Remove mutton chops from fridge, well before cooking. 
  • Add mutton chops into the cooker, saute for a while, and add salt, one cup of water. 
  • Pressure cook for 4 whistles, then place a tawa under the pressure cooker and cook on low fire for 25 minutes for 5 more whistles. Once done, open the lid. 
  • Serve as a main course with roast potatoes and homemade Malabar parathas.
Kitchen Tips
  • Fresh chops, instead of frozen ones, make the tastiest dish 
  • Make sure not to burn the chops with too little water in the pressure cooker. Hence, half way, always place the dish on a tawa 

— Chef Ramaa Shankeris the authorof ‘Festive Offerings to the Gods: Divine Soul Recipes’

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