When it comes to cooking king-size in India, it’s all a matter of ‘woking’ the talk. And by that yardstick, handi, the Indian wok certainly deserves a lot more credit for adding diversity to the traditional cuisine. One such recipe, which finds its footprints across the Indian Subcontinent, is Handi Gosht.
Gosht refers to tender meat, that has been cooked for a long time. Handi, on the other hand, is the cookware used for Dum cooking, which means ‘air-cooked’ or ‘baked’. What makes the handi unique is that it is a spherical shaped clay pot with a wide mouth and a narrow neck.
The circumference of the mouth in most cases is almost 85 percent of the circumference of the middle of the pot, but it opens into a narrow neck that is optimally designed for steam-based cooking.
Further, the lid of the handi is sealed with a hard paste made of flour and water. The handi is left on the charcoal for several hours, till the food is to be served. The heat creates the steam, it condenses and rolls down the curved walls. In other words, the steam is choked before it can escape.
The preparation of Handi Gosht utilizes spices including cloves, cardamom, coriander powder, cinnamon and cumin that are used generously to enhance the flavour of the meat.
“It essentially consists of small cubes of lamb or goat, which are cooked in tomatoes, green chillies, salt and preferably animal fat. The fresh meat is thought to provide the fatty base for the cooking, and it is meant to be savoured directly from the Handi with a side of hot naan,” says noted food columnist Bisma Tirmizi.
Several culinary accounts also state that Nawab Asaf-Ud-Daulah in 1783 re-introduced this style of cooking during the construction of Bara Imam Bara Mosque in Lucknow. For construction workers, the food was par-cooked in large clay handis. Not much has changed in all these years. When one has to ‘tasty cook’ for larger numbers, the recipe of choice is most definitely Handi Gohst.