"varattal" is a common method of stovetop cooking in Kerala. It is a mix of braising and stir-frying. There is also thaalikkal where the spices are sauteed first and then the meat is added., and cooked. You may use tomatoes instead of vinegar.
|aattirachi varattiyathu after the final seasoning|
bone-in or boneless mutton cubed -- 2 lb.
1/2 cup onion, sliced thin
2 tbsp ginger, crushed
5-6 green chillies, split lengthwise
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
4 tsp coriander powder
2 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
3/4 tsp cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp Kerala meat masala powder or garam masala powder
1 or 2 sprigs of curry leaves
1 tbsp vinegar
2 -3 tbsp cooking oil
final seasoning or "kaachal" - noun, "kaachuka"- verb:
1/2 to 1 cup onion, sliced thin
scant 1 tsp crushed red pepper
a pinch of cumin
Clean the meat thoroughly.Drain. In the pot you would be cooking in, mix all the ingredients in the first set, except the meat and vinegar, with enough oil (traditionally, coconut oil, but now, any vegetable/olive oil) to make a moist mass. Now add the meat and mix well. You may marinate this for half an hour, if you like. But not really necessary.
Cook with enough water to cover the meat. Give it a stir. Cover. Start with high heat till it boils. Pour in the vinegar.Then reduce heat. Stir again. Cover and cook till meat is done. If the meat is real tender, it will be done sooner than if it is tough. Usually it will take an hour or more. Check and stir occasionally. Test with fork, if the meat comes off easily from the bones, it is done. (Pressure cookers save time, by the way.) All the liquid should be gone at the end. (If meat is still not done, and water is gone, add more boiling water. If there is too much liquid, and the meat is almost done, leave the pot open, turn the heat high and let the liquid dry out. Meanwhile do not forget to taste and see if the seasonings including the salt is balanced and to your taste.
Once the meat is done, we go to the next step of "kaachal" -- it is okay to eat it now, but the next step makes it even more delicious.
Heat oil in a wok or skillet. Add the onion, garlic and curry leaves. Saute till almost brown -- do not burn --
Now add the prepared meat. Stir well. Reduce heat. Keep stirring.
Be careful about the center -- things could get sticky and burn.
Trick is to stir well and all around and under.
The longer you do this "varattal", the tastier the dish.
Serve with rice or roti. A simple, good accompaniment is morozhichukoottaan or buttermilk curry. Or if one feels real lazy, yogurt-onion sallaas.