So if you had to pick one dish that you would then have to eat everyday, what would it be? Yep. One dish. Every single day. I know the first thing that’ll probably come to your mind is probably something elaborate and beautiful and rich – ristas! biryani! korma! – yes? But every day? Forever? I think we forget that we love some of these dishes so much precisely because we eat them only occasionally. I mean the first wazwan of the season is *OHMYGOD YES*, but pretty soon we are all dying and cannot beat the thought of any more (yes, even tabakh maaz). No?
So, coming back to my original question – my dad says that he thinks the food of paradise will comprise of the following : white rice, tchhatte haakh, yoghurt. And I think he’s got something there. Something you’d happily eat every single day. Forever even. And that just tells you something about the joy and comfort of haakh for Kashmiris.
Tchhatte haakh is the simplest thing in the world and yet so hard to get right. Not everyone can take a bunch of spring greens and turn them in to this beautiful, bright green love fest. And the truth is no one makes better tchhatte haakh than my mum. It’s taken me years of practice, even when using her recipe, to come to a point where it actually works – it’s green, fresh, flavoured delicately and minimally with fresh green chillies and garlic. Thing of absolute beauty. Promise.
And If you are not Kashmiri, this recipe will change the way you look at your spring greens, forever. Promise.
Okay then, now that we’ve used words like forever and promise and eternal in a recipe for haakh, let’s get to it, shall we?
400 gms of Spring Greens – you want baby spring greens, easier to cook –
3-4 Green chillies
2-3 fat cloves of garlic
So first of all, you need to prep your greens. Break stems off the bulb, put them in a colander and wash thoroughly. You are not going to chop the leaves, just roughly tear them up in to 2/3 bits, depending on how big the leaves are.
Next, take a big wide thick bottomed pan and fill it with water. Bring this to boil. What you are going to do is blanch your greens. So as soon as the water comes to a rolling boil add the greens pushing them in to the water. Now wait till the pan comes to a boil again. And then count to, let’s say, 11, shall we? Turn the heat off, drain the greens immediately, and run under cold water. And then drain again. This step right here will make or break your haakh. If you do this right your haakh will stay a beautiful vibrant green. If you dont, well, good luck with your khaaki haakh. Hah.
Now in another pan heat some oil up. To this add your blanched greens, little by little. Once all in, add the cloves of garlic and green chillies. The greens will be wet, so there will be a bit of water in the pan already, add a bit more, and cook on a high flame for a few minutes, then turn the flame right down, cover and cook till the greens are melt in your mouth tender – with spring greens this is usually 10 mins or so, sometimes less.
There, you are done. All you now need is a plateful of fluffy white rice, and a bowl of homemade yoghurt. Paradise. Right in front of you.