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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