Quince with Lamb (Bammetchoonthh ti Maaz)

So last week I found quince at my local green grocer’s. If you’re Kashmiri then you have a pretty good idea how that must’ve made me feel. If you aren’t, let me tell you. Quince is one of those things that are inextricably linked to my childhood. My mum always loved quince. So it was always a happy day when she made the first quince curry of the season. Fresh Quince curried with lamb, with lots of fluffy white rice. In my head that’s the taste of Autumn. And then as the winter set in, dried quince with lamb, or on its own. Beauty itself. So obviously I bought more than I should have. Both quince, and lamb. Got home, terribly excited. And then realised that much as I’ve loved bamtchoonth all my life, I’d never cooked it. Sure I kind of knew what I should do. Getting the lamb sorted is always easy.  And how hard could the quince part of the dish be. Right? But then again I knew how epic my disappointment would be if it didn’t taste like it does in my head. So I did the only thing I could. Yep. I called my mum. Which means you guys can *rest assured* that this recipe is AWESOME. Just like my mum. ❤

Ingredients —

1 kg of lamb. Any cut will do, but a bit of fat on the meat does take this up a notch.

500-700 gms of quince. (About 6-7 apples. Are they called apples? Kashmiris call them apples, so I’m going to call them apples. Yep.) These you’ll need to wash, peel, core and chop. But more on that later.

3-4 medium sized shallots, sliced.

3-4 fat cloves of garlic.

Whole spices:

7 black cardamom pods.

11 green cardamom pods.

1-2 sticks of cinnamon.

2 teaspoons of cumin seeds.

Ground spices:

1-2 teaspoons of turmeric.

2-3 teaspoons of fennel powder.

1 teaspoon of Kashmiri red chili powder.

Salt.

Oil.

Method — 

First things first, let’s get the lamb started. So you basically wash the meat and put it in a big enough pan. Add all the whole spices, garlic, fennel powder and salt. Pour in enough water to cover the meat. Bring to boil. Cover. Simmer. And forget about it for about 1-2 hours till the meat is incredibly soft and tender. Ah, yes, Kashmiris are the undisputed KingsAndQueens of over-cooking. *Deep bow*.

So while the lamb is doing its thing, let’s prepare the quince. Now this, as far as I’m concerned is the hardest part of this recipe. And having a good, sharp knife will make it a *lot* easier. So, wash and peel the quince. Easy enough. Then you want to core each fruit and chop it into 8-10 chunks. Which sounds fairly straightforward till you realise how unbelievably hard the core of these fruits is. *Good lord in heavens above!* So remember a good, sharp knife is critical to this step. There. That’s the most labour intensive bit done. Promise.

Now, take another pan, wide-bottomed and shallow. Pour in a generous amount of oil. Once the oil is hot carefully place your quince chunks in a single layer, in the pan. What you want to do is fry them, like you would say, pieces of chicken — in batches. Don’t put them all in and go stir-crazy. Just don’t.

What you’re looking for is a nice golden reddish brown hue. (What? There is such a hue. It exists. Fry. You’ll see.) Use a slotted spoon to take take the quince out.

Once you’re done frying, put your shallots into the same pan and fry till soft and translucent. Add the turmeric and chili powder, and fry till fragrant – 30secs to a minute. And then add the fried quince. Give it all a good stir to make sure the spices coat the quince. Fry for a minute or two, and then add the meat, which by now is hopefully all done. Add the pieces of meat first, and stir everything carefully. Once all the meat and quince and spices are well mixed, add the stock that you cooked the lamb in – not too much though, just enough to nearly cover everything. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or till the quince is soft.

There. You’re done. Autumn and love, all in one dish.

 

Super green smoothie

I finally bit the bullet and bought the, ahem,  NutriBullet (see what I did there. Yo) a few months ago and and I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love it. It makes making smoothies a doddle. Seriously. As easy and get, set and whiz. (Of course a blender will do the job just as well, but hey I’m a little bit in love, therefore allowed to gush. Sigh.)

So I thought why don’t I post a quick green-smoothie recipe while I’m getting the quince-lamb-curry recipe sorted in my head (what? It’s a process. It takes time. You can’t force it. Ahem).

Now I know most people look at green smoothies and go eewww, but I promise this one tastes awesome, is chockablock full of nutrients, and so so good for you. What’s not to love.

Still not convinced? All I’ll say is, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Give it a go. And prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Yo.

Ingredients

Spinach leaves, a handful or so, rinsed well.

Curly Kale, one big leaf, again, rinsed well.

Coriander, a handful, yep, rinsed well.

2 fresh dates, pitted.

1 fresh apricot. Remember to take the stone out. (You guys have no idea how hard it was to not write “stoned” next to apricot, up there. Such self control. Wah. :P)

Blueberries, handful or so again. By this time you know we’re washing everything that goes in this, right? Good.

1 inch piece of ginger.

1/2 inch piece of fresh turmeric root.

1 banana.

5 walnuts, shelled, obviously.

2 teaspoons of mixed seeds. Loving hemp, sesame and pumpkin seeds these days.

1 teaspoon of Maca powder. New super super food.

1 teaspoon flaxseeds.

Water.

Method

All you need to do is put everything into your NutriBullet/ blender cup, starting with the greens, and topping everything off with water — only upto the max line. Plug it in. Whiz for around 20-30 secs. Pour into a tall glass. Stick in a straw. I told you so.

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Paneer with Tomatoes (Ruvangan Tchaaman)

So Kashmiris eat a lot of lamb. I know that. You know that. The whole world knows that. We put lamb in almost all our dishes. We do cook lots of seasonal vegetables, but there are almost always, with a few notable exceptions, two versions of every vegetarian recipe : a) without lamb, and,  b) with lamb. And guess which version gets picked if you’re having people over? Ahem.

But growing up, I remember every time my mum was faced with a oh-one-of-the-guests-doesn’t-eat-meat moment, her go-to substitute main course was always paneer, which is essentially a fresh, unsalted, soft white cheese. Big square chunks, fried, and then cooked in a beautiful tangy red tomato sauce. And much as I love lamb, this is one dish I will *never* say no to.

Can I also just point out that Ruvangan (tomato) tchaaman (paneer) is the only vegetarian dish in the Wazwan. I rest my case.

And now, here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

500 gms of paneer. It is surprisingly easy to make your own, but if you can get fresh good quality paneer from a shop where you are, go for it.

6-7 big tomatoes, chopped into chunks. The redder the better. (Now, I’ll confess I like to de-seed my tomatoes before I cook them, but you don’t have to. Yup. I’ve got issues.)

3-4 shallots, sliced.

2 fat cloves of garlic, ground.

Whole spices – (obviously. Whole spices in *everything*. Does this mean we love our whole spices even more than we love our lamb? *Shock horror*)

3 black cardamoms.

7 green cardamoms.

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds.

1-2 cloves.

1 stick of cinnamon.

Ground spices – the usual:

1 teaspoon of turmeric (optional – I sometimes leave this out but only because the tomatoes look a lot redder when cooked without).

1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder.

Salt.

Oil.

Method

The first thing you need to do is to slice your paneer. Now, what your slices look like will depend in part on what your paneer looks like. I remember in my grandmother’s house, my grandfather used to get the freshest paneer from the milkman. So fresh that a knife would cause it crumble and fall apart. So he always used a length of thread to cut large square chunks of it. Oh but I digress.

So basically once you’ve sliced  your paneer (into large squares, smaller cubes, whatever works) you need to fry it, and depending on how much paneer you have and how big your pan is, you might need to do this in batches. (Or, if you have a deep fryer, you could even use that.)

Take a wide bottomed shallow pan, pour a generous amount of oil into the pan, and put the paneer in. Now please be aware that this will splatter. A lot. So be careful and make sure you use a splatter guard. Once the paneer is nicely fried – you’re looking for a reddish/light brownish/golden hue – use a slotted spoon to take the slices out and dunk them into a bowl of cold water. This gets rid of the excess oil but also prevents the paneer from falling apart.

So the paneer’s done. On to the sauce. Into the same pan that you used to fry your paneer, add all of your whole spices and fry till fragrant – 2/3 minutes. Add the shallots and fry till soft and translucent. Next put the garlic in and fry for about a minute or two – you do not want the garlic to burn. Time for the ground spices to go in. Once everything is nicely mixed and fried, add the tomatoes. Give everything a good old stir. Add salt. Cover and simmer. What you want to do with the tomatoes is to cook them down till the water has all evaporated and you have a lovely rich thick red sauce.

Into this add your fried paneer, along with some of the water it was in. Bring to boil and cook everything together on a medium flame for another 10 minutes or so.

Garnish with coriander and serve with.. I wonder what we should serve this with..? Should we just say lots of fluffy white rice? Just this once? Hah.

Granola Bars

Just a quick post about my most favourite granola bars in the universe. This has been my go-to recipe for breakfast bars for years. Lovely, slightly crunchy, and so so good for you. I made these last week and took some in to work. Always very popular these, but this time one of my colleagues suggested I should patent the recipe, quit my job, make and sell mountains of these :).

Such praise left me with no choice but to confess that its actually a BBCGoodFood recipe which I’ve kind of made my own. By the way, I *love* BBCGoodFood. Oh Yeah. So anyway I thought while I’m getting my head around the Tchaaman Ruvangan (Paneer with tomatoes) recipe, which I intend to put up next, I’d put this up.

My love for oats is the stuff of legends. No really. I love oats. Porridge is my thing. And no-cook-soaked-oats. Oh Yeah. And I’ve got an incurable sweet tooth. These bars are absolutely fantastic because there are oats in there, and good healthy sugars. And good healthy fat. And nuts. And seeds. And coconut! Ticks so many of my boxes. Oh Yeah.

So, without much further ado, how do you do!

Ingredients — 

100gms of coconut oil – you could use butter, but coconut oil is much much healthier and tastes amazing in this recipe.

3 tablespoons of honey –  golden syrup will do just as well, but again, honey is healthier.

85gms of demerara sugar – if you find jaggery (gudd) anywhere, you could use that as well, gives it a lovely complex flavour. But of course regular white sugar will do the job just as well.

140gms of porridge oats – so we’re talking regular rolled oats, not the quick cooking variety.

½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon – mmmm cinnamon.

50gms of desiccated coconut.

3 tablespoons of seeds – whatever seeds you prefer or have to hand : pumpkin, sesame, linseeds, melon, hemp. I like to mix all of them up and put the lot in.

100g chopped nuts – again of your choice. I love pecans in these. But walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, separately or mixed, work just as well.

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Method —

So once you have all your various bits measured out and in place this is a shockingly easy recipe to throw together.

Fire your oven up and preheat it to around 160C, which is 140C with the fan on. Take a square baking tin (the I one I use is 22cm), grease and line it with some baking parchment (I *love* baking parchment! Oh Yeah).

That done, what you need to do is to put your coconut oil, honey and sugar in a pan and melt it all down over a low flame. In a mixing bowl mix all your other ingredients – oats, cinnamon, coconut, seeds, nuts. Pour your melted oil/sugar/honey mixture into the oats and mix really well. All of that then you transfer to your lined baking tin. Level everything off, pressing the mixture down into the tin with the back of a spoon.

In it goes, in to the oven, for about 30-35 minutes, during which time your whole house will smell like candy. Oh Yeah.

Let it cool for about 5-7 minutes, then cut into slices, squares, triangles, whatever. Oh and try not to polish the whole lot off with your afternoon tea, because these actually store really well in an airtight container for unto a week.

And you’re done.

Razmah Gogje (Red kidney beans with Turnips)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, ahem, Kashmiris make the best Raajma (red kidney beans) ever. Ahem. And this blog post is going to prove it. Ahem.

Let me paint you a picture: Red kidney beans, soaked overnight, slow cooked for hours. With lovely sweet turnips. (And lamb of course. Because we put lamb in everything. And because lamb makes *everything* better. But I’m leaving lamb out for this recipe, if only to prove that this works exceedingly well as a fantastic vegetarian dish.) Its the stuff winter dreams are made of. In Kashmir this would be served with lots of rice – yep, like everything else – but ladle it into a soup bowl and dig in if you want. I promise you it’ll warm your hands, your tummy, your heart and your soul.

All fabulous Raajma recipes begin with soaking the beans overnight. Anyone who tells you they taste just as good out of a can is lying. Believe me. Having established that, lets jump right in.

 

Ingredients —

500 gms of Red kidney beans – washed and soaked overnight in plenty of water.

5-6 medium turnips – pick the smaller ones out at the grocer’s, they’re sweeter and cook quicker.

4-5 medium tomatoes (optional – Most Kashmiri recipes are tomato free, and this one works brilliantly without, but I like the slight tang that tomatoes bring to this dish).

2-3 shallots, finely sliced.

4-5 fat cloves of garlic. Leave one clove whole and grind the rest.

1 inch root of ginger, ground (optional).

Bunch of coriander for garnish.

Whole Spices —

5 black cardamom pods.

1-2 teaspoons of cumin.

1-2 teaspoons of coriander seeds (optional – this is not a very Kashmiri ingredient, but I must confess I love the slightly nutty flavour these give to this dish).

1-2 sticks of cinnamon

Ground spices —

1-2 teaspoons of turmeric powder.

1 teaspoon of Kashmiri red chili powder – You could use whatever chili powder you have to hand, but I should mention here that Kashmiri chilies are the reddest, most aromatic etc. Another truth universally acknowledged. Ahem.

Salt.

Oil for cooking – You know by now that I cook *everything* in olive oil, but hey, free world.

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 Method – 

So first of all drain and rinse your soaked kidney beans. And now do that again. Good. Next, put them in a big thick bottomed pan with plenty of water and one clove of garlic and bring to boil on high heat. Cover and simmer till the beans are melt-in-your-mouth soft – anywhere between 2 – 2.5 hours, maybe even longer (make sure to keep adding water to the pan as and when, and to stir the pot every now and then to prevent scorching. That can happen if your pan isn’t thick bottomed enough, or if its on too high a flame). Alternately put your beans in a pressure cooker, and you’ll be done in 20 mins – gotto love science!

While your beans are doing their thing, pour a good glug and a half of oil into another pan. Add all your whole spices and fry till fragrant – about 2-3 minutes (you could dry roast and grind all of these, except the cinnamon, if you prefer more intense flavours). Now add the shallots, and fry till soft and translucent. Next put the ginger and garlic in. Fry some more. Finally the ground spices. If you don’t want to use tomatoes then your tempering (baghaar) is pretty much done. Otherwise now is the time to add your tomatoes to the pan and cook them down and fry them till all the moisture is gone and you can see oil in the pan.

The next thing you need to sort out are of course the turnips. I love turnips. On their own. With lamb (obviously). In this dish with Raajma. It is, after all, yet another truth universally acknowledged, ahem, that Kashmiris are marked as much by their high foreheads and long noses as they are by their near universal love of turnips. True fact.

And here’s what you need to do to these beauties – wash, peel and chop them into chunks. Heat some oil in a pan. Add the turnips. Slight sprinkle of salt. I do what my mum does, (good thumb of rule in the kitchen – do what your mum does. Seriously) which is to give the turnips a good stir on high heat for a minute or two, then cover and bring the heat right down, and let them cook for a good 20-30 mins. The salt and low heat work together to make the turnips sweat. They cook in their own juices and get fried after they’ve softened. All round best result. Mum’s know *everything*! So basically by the end of this step you’re looking at soft, golden turnips.

Okay, time to check on those beans. Once they are done, use the back of a wooden spoon to smush some of them as you stir. This will make your gravy lovely and thick, and you’ll thank me for it. Obviously.

Now what you need to do is to pour your tempering, with or without tomatoes, into the beans. Add salt, keeping in mind that you’ve already put some in the turnips which are going to make their way into that pot pretty soon as well. Give it a good old stir, bring everything to boil again, cover, simmer. After about 5-10 mins, add the turnips, good old stir again, bring everything to boil again, cover, simmer. Patience. You’re nearly there. 10 more minutes. A bit of coriander scattered all over and you’re done.

Go on. Have a taste. You’re welcome. Also, I told you so.

 

Kashmiri Yakhni

This is one of my childhood favourites. Beautiful, tender lamb cooked with whole spices, and yoghurt. Its a delicately flavoured, mild curry. In Kashmiri cooking, unlike most Indian/ Pakistani curries, the heat comes mostly from red chilies, and other spices, most often used whole, are for flavour rather than fire.  And this recipe uses no chilies at all, so when I say mild, I mean really really mild. Yoghurt gives it a lovely tang though, and its all finished off with a sprinkle of dried mint. Mmmm. Lovely. Incredibly easy to make, this recipe has just one slightly tricky step, and that’s getting the yoghurt cooked down without letting it curdle. And the trick there is to keep stirring continuously till the yoghurt comes to a boil. I know some people who add an egg white to the yoghurt before cooking it down, and that apparently prevents curdling, but you know me, I prefer the traditional, no-shortcuts-stir-till-it-boils way. Hah.

Okay, so here’s the recipe then:

Ingredients

1 Kg of lamb. (You could use any cut. Traditionally a bit of fat on the meat works really well with this recipe. Though I used diced leg this time.)

500-750 ml of Natural Yoghurt — you want to whisk it a bit to make sure its all mixed up and homogenised.

Whole Spices – You know this by now, but let me say it again anyway – Kashmiri cooking is all about whole spices. (OhYeah)

5 black cardamom pods.

11 green cardamom pods.

1-2 sticks of cinnamon.

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds.

Ground Spices

1-2 teaspoons of fennel powder. (This is one powdered spice you’ll find in pretty much every single Kashmiri lamb recipe. Along with Turmeric. *No turmeric* in Yakhni though!)

Salt.

2-3 fat cloves of Garlic.

1-2 Shallots, finely sliced.

Oil for cooking — I’ve got a thing for OliveOil, but vegetable oil is fine (though apparently not that good for you), or butter, ghee. Whatever you fancy.

Oh, and dried ground mint for garnish.

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Method

So what you want to do first of all is to put all your meat in a big pan, add all the whole spices, ground fennel, garlic and salt to the pan. Pour enough water to cover the meat, and bring to boil. Then cover and simmer till the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender — one and a  half to two hours, depending.

While the meat is doing it thing, pour your yoghurt out in to a thick bottomed pan and give it a good whisk. Put the pan on medium heat and start stirring. Now basically you’re going to stir and stir and stir – and this is the most critical bit here – without stopping, at all, till the yoghurt starts bubbling. Once it comes to a boil, you’re okay to rest your achy arms, and only stir every now and then.

What you’re trying to do now is to cook the yoghurt down till most of the water evaporates and you’re left with a thick, very pale yoghurt mix. Once that happens, put a good glug or two oil in there and fry the cooked down yoghurt till all the water has evaporated and you can see the oil around the yoghurt. So your yoghurt is now ready and hopefully so is your meat. At this stage all you need to do is to pour the cooked down, fried yoghurt into the meat, give it a good old stir, bring everything to boil, cover and simmer for another half an hour or so till the meat is all lovely and yoghurty.

Almost done. All you need to do now is fry the shallots in some oil till they’re nicely caramelised and pour the oil/shallots over your Yakhni. Mmmm, beautiful. And then sprinkle some dried ground mint all over before you serve it with lots of fluffy white rice.

There you are, paradise in a bowl.

PS: its 0100, and you won’t believe how hungry writing this recipe down, and looking at the pictures has made me. Thank god for leftovers, is all I’m going to say. OhYeah

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