I’ve been having the same dream again and again, over the last few weeks, and I’ve been waking up suddenly, not in a cold sweat, but with pangs of hunger. Unlike my other dreams, this is one I always remember. I’ve been dreaming about the three mutton dishes I most fondly remember from my childhood. Dishes I rarely hear anyone order in restaurants anymore.

These three mutton preparations were a staple in the old Punjabi-cuisine restaurants of the ’70s and ’80s. Whether it was Gaylords, The Society or Talk of the Town — all of which served some Punjabi dishes alongside their Continental fare — or Sher-e-Punjab, Copper Chimney, Berry’s, Khyber and Kwality, which specialised in Punjabi cuisine, all of the above were always dishing out plates and portions of these now-sadly-sidelined mutton dishes.

The three are mutton rara, mutton do pyaza, and mutton jalfrezi. Interestingly, none of the three is actually cooked in Punjabi homes. They are wholly restaurant creations. And while the names may seem familiar to you—when was that last time you ordered even one of them? Today, it’s all bhuna gosht and rogan josh and I feel bad for these old favourites. Perhaps that’s why they recur again and again in my dreams.

Let me start with the rara, probably the most complex and extravagant. This is a slow-cooked dish, with a double dose of mutton in ghee. The dish combines pieces of mutton and minced mutton kheema. While the recipe may vary from restaurant to restaurant, it was traditionally mutton that had been cooked lovingly for hours over a slow fire, the meat and mince slowly mellowing in the fragrance and flavours of tomato, onion, whole black peppercorn, bay leaves, cinnamon, clove, star anise, black cardamom, green cardamom, cumin seeds and Kashmiri red chillies — the rich kheema gravy turning from deep red to brown in pure ghee..

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The three are mutton rara, mutton do pyaza, and mutton jalfrezi. Interestingly, none of the three is actually cooked in Punjabi homes. They are wholly restaurant creations. And while the names may seem familiar to you—when was that last time you ordered even one of them? Today, it’s all bhuna gosht and rogan josh and I feel bad for these old favourites. Perhaps that’s why they recur again and again in my dreams.