Shikaar. The word itself conjures myriad images in our minds — jungle trails, sitting up in machaans waiting for the prey to arrive, duck hunts in marshes on moonlit nights…While hunting is out of the question these days — and rightfully so — we get a glimpse of what it was like in bygone days when the men of many well-to-do families would go on frequent shikaar trips with friendsand sycophants through books and accounts of the hunters themselves.
Many shikaar books were compiled by women who had to wait at home while the men went hunting and cook the meat they brought back. It is but natural that these books often contained many recipes on the right way to cook game. While hunting was rampant in the early part of the 20th century, the men were usually at a loss what to do with the meat on long hunting trips. While in Africa they dry the meat and make the ubiquitous biltong, our desi gentlemen-hunters, however, had no such know-how. But what they usually had was a large number of retainers who polished off any excess meat that was about to go bad.
So how would they cook the meat? : Since they could not carry many provisions with them on the hunting trip, a retainer was usually sent to the nearest village for provisions and since these villages — in back-of-beyond areas — usually had the most basic stuff, one had to make do with the bare minimum. Thus jungli maas was born. There are two versions of the same. The rule of jungli maas is to use only four ingredients, which are easily available in any village in India. The hunter has, of course, already obtained the meat.
Jungli Maas :
1 kg duck/chicken pieces
4 onions (finely sliced)
10 Kashmiri red chillies
½ cup ghee or oil
1 cup water
Salt to taste
Fry one onion till brown and keep aside. In a deep casserole dish, heat the ghee or oil, add the rest of the onions and fry till they are translucent. Add the chicken, chillies, water and salt. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Take the lid off and cook till all the water evaporates. The jungli maas will be dry and quite oily. Spoon off any excess oil. Sprinkle the browned onions on top and serve hot with rotis. You can increase or decrease the amount of red chillies according to your taste.
Jungli Maas II :
The concept here is the same. Four ingredients, though different ones this time, but equally easy to obtain. We have used venison here, but it can be substituted with mutton, pork, beef, almost anything. Like the earlier recipe, this jungli maas is also quite piquant, but here we have used black pepper instead of chillies.
1 kg venison, cut into curry pieces (boneless would be good but not necessary)
¾ cup ghee or mustard oil
50 gm black pepper
Juice of 4 lemons
Salt to taste
3 cups water
In a heavy-bottomed pan heat the ghee (if using mustard oil, heat till it smokes) and add the meat. Fry till the meat is brown and add the black pepper, lemon juice and salt. Stir a bit and add the water. Cover and cook on a low flame for 50 minutes. Remove the lid and cook till water evaporates and the oil comes on top. Serve with rotis or Goan pao.