Chef Pabitra Jena, a seasoned chef, hails from Kendrapada, Odisha. An alumnus from Institute of Hotel Management (IHM), Bhubaneswar started his way up from Taj Banjara to Cosi, to Kandolhu Maldives and finally has been the Executive Chef at a famous restaurant in Bhubaneswar. Though his exposure to international cuisine has been his main forte. But his heart still beats there for Odia cuisine. He still yearns for Mutton Curry cooked in earthen pot by his Grandma. Thus he has curated a special recipe –Grandma style Matti Handi Mansa. As the saying goes, a good mutton curry on Sunday with a good siesta gives the best satisfaction. Thus it is only painstakingly done on Sundays.
While preparing Matti handi Mansa the mutton (‘mansa’) is marinated with spices and simmered in an earthen pot (‘Matti Handi’) for an hour on a traditional hearth, till it is cooked. The cooking does not involve much frying, sautéing or pressure-cooking, (though it has been a practice now to cook the final stage in a pressure cooker) as the seasoned meat is left to cook in its own juice, though with occasional stirrings and addition of water when required. It is then sealed with a cover. The whole jaunt of the cooking method has its own charm when cooked on an earthen ‘chulha’ burning firewood. The meat after been cooked acquires a deep brownish tint while retaining individual aromas of the spices added. The meat pieces with the authentic smoky flavour and spices, leaves you craving for more.
The spices used in the dish are very complex due to different plant hormones & molecules, pigments, sterols and even. Most notably, Terpenes, which are responsible for the pleasant aroma effects associated with them. For example Sulphurous Compounds come from garlic, Unique Compound from Turmeric, Warming Compounds comes from – nutmeg, caraway seeds, mace, Sweet warming Phenols from Clove, Cinnamon, Bay leaves, Green and Black Cardamom gives you penetrating Terpenes, pungent Compounds from Chilies, Cumin and Coriander seeds gives earthy Terpens and Unique compounds.
Since time memorial Earthenware cookware has always been an integral part of Indian households. The benefits of earthen cookware as opined out by Ayurveda Specialist, Dr. Surya Bhagwati, “in these cookware – cooking is simpler and improves the quality of food, the porosity and natural insulation properties of clay causes heat and moisture to circulate throughout clay pots, which makes cooking in the clay pot a slower process thus preventing burning of the dishes”.
On this, Executive Chef Pranay Mullick of ITC Fortune adds that cooking in earthen pot help in retaining the vitamins, minerals of the food, especially while cooking meat, the collagen imparted gives that special taste to mutton, which one can achieve only while cooking in earthen pots.
Though there are other places across the city, which serve Matti Handi Mutton, Chef Paitra’s Curated version stands out in the crowd.