Ruvaangan Kuffte (Lamb meatballs in a tomato sauce)

Every family kitchen has at least one staple dish – you know the one that will be cooked every week, irrespective of whatever else is going on. In my mum’s kitchen it was, well, basically this or that variation on what was essentially a lamb curry : syun. We always had syun with rice, and anything else was sort of, extra. Well in my kitchen, (and this is thanks entirely to the seven year old who has taken over my life and owns me heart and soul), its meatballs. Koftas in Urdu, Kuffte moenjje in Kashmiri. These are delicately flavoured lamb meatballs, cooked in a tangy tomato sauce. (There is of course a meatballs-with-spinach variant that goes down a treat as well – but that’s another post.)

Like I said, I make these pretty much every week. And I promise this is an easy recipe – kitchen to table in about an hour.

Also, I must say, that I use a couple of spices in this recipe that are not traditionally used in Kashmiri cooking. Coriander seeds, for example. I feel that these and black peppercorns add a lovely depth to the flavours here, though. But please do feel free to leave these out if you prefer a more traditional flavour.

Let’s get to it then –

Ingredients:

For the Koftas –

1 kilo of good quality lamb mince – find a butcher who sells organic. So worth it.

3-4 fat cloves of garlic.

1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger

Handful of fresh coriander leaves

1 small shallot – Finely chopped

Whole Spices:

2-3 pods of black cardamoms

1-2 teaspoons of cumin

1-2 teaspoons of coriander seeds

2-3 whole pepper corns

Ground spices:

1-2 teaspoons of turmeric powder

1-2 teaspoons of fennel powder

1/2 teaspoon of Kashmiri red chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Pinch or two of cinnamon powder


For the Tomato Sauce:

1 kilo of fresh tomatoes – roughy chopped, if you’re crazy like me and like to de-seed your tomatoes, well don’t let me stop you (You can substitute fresh tomatoes with good quality organic Passata, with fabulous results – also cuts down on cooking down when you’re up against it).

1-2 inch piece of Cinnamon/ cassia

2-3 fat cloves of garlic – crushed

3-4 shallots – sliced

Oil – I’m an olive oil kind of girl – but you know that

Method:

For the Koftas:

So first of all what you need to do is find yourself a big old pan and dry roast the following : cumin, coriander seeds, seeds from the black cardamom pods, black peppercorns – till everything is lovely and fragrant, about 3-4 mins. Now transfer all these lovely roasted spices in to a pestle and mortar and grind everything up into a smooth powder. To this add your garlic, ginger, chopped shallot, and grind everything up into a smooth paste. Next put your ground spices, and salt in, and mix everything together. Thats your spice paste ready.

What you need to do now is put your lamb mince in a big enough bowl, add your home-made-extra-delicious-spice-paste and some of that chopped coriander. Now comes the fun part: you basically need to make sure that all the spices are evenly distributed throughout the mince, and you could use a big spoon, some people use forks etc but seriously the best way to do this is to get stuck in there with your hands. Go on. You know you want to.

So once everything is all mixed up, (and take your time. In many ways this is the most critical step. We don’t want lumpy masala in your koftas now, do we?) wash your hands and pour 2-3 fingers worth of water in your pan and put it on a medium flame. What you are going to do next is use your hands to shape your mince into oblong “balls”, and drop them in to the water. Once all the koftas are in, and the pan comes to a boil, cover, simmer and let it be. For now.

For the Tomato sauce:

While the koftas are doing their thing, take another pan, and add a good glug of oil to it. Then add your sliced shallots and fry till they are soft and translucent – about 4-5 minutes. To this add your crushed garlic, and fry for a minute or two till fragrant. in goes the cinnamon/ cassia stick. (You could add a bit of turmeric at this point, but I don’t because I like my tomato sauce to be really really red! Also you could put some chilli powder in, if you fancy a hotter sauce.) Next add your tomatoes and fry some more. Sprinkle of salt, cover, turn the heat to med-low and let the tomatoes sweat. You basically want to fry them down to the point where all the water’s gone and you can see oil in the pan.

And Finally:

So when you get there and your tomatoes are nicely fried all you need to do is pour them all over the nicely simmering koftas. Give everything a good old stir, bring the pan back to boil, cover and simmer for another 10 mins or so.

And there you are. Perfect Koftas. Lovely Sauce.

Please tell me you remembered to put the rice on? Yes? Good.

 

 

Advertisements

Hareesa/ Harrise (with step by step pictures)

What’s your winter morning nostalgia made of? Mine is very simple – a thick blanket of soft snow, a kanger tucked under a pheran, and a steaming hot plate of hareesa, with lavase and nunchai.

What is hareesa, you ask? Well, first of all it is *not* harissa – the lovely North African hot chilli pepper paste, which I’ve come to love, in spite of my epic disappointment when years ago someone mentioned harissa and brought this tiny little pot out, but that’s another story.

It is also *not* Haleem – the spicy stew made with meat, lentils and grains that’s popular in the Indian subcontinent.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, here’s what Hareesa (harisse in Kashmiri) is : a slow cooked dish of lean meat (lamb, mostly) mixed with either rice, or the thin Kashmiri flat bread lavasaa, and delicately flavoured with just a few spices. It is what winter morning dreams are made of. The kind of breakfast that sets you up for a freezing snowy day. It may not look like much but it really is a thing of pure joy.

This is my mum’s recipe, but it’s fairly universal.

Ingredients

1 kilo lamb – any lean cut will do, usually the leg, with a bit of bone works well. (Traditionally a whole leg of lamb will be chopped up in to a few big chunks for this recipe. I used a kilo of boneless leg because, well, that’s what I had, and it turned out super anyway.)

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed.

3-4 shallots, sliced thinly.

2 small (Lebanese) khobez breads. These are very similar to the Kashmiri lavase flatbreads, so work quite  well. You can use one cup of cooked rice instead of khobez, and that’ll make this recipe gluten free. I’ve even used a couple of slices of bread in a pinch. Not ideal, but not end of the world either.

Oil.

Salt.

Whole spices –

1 inch piece of cinnamon

4-5 pods of green cardamom

2 pods of black cardamom

2 cloves

2 teaspoons of fennel seeds

Method

This is a fairly easy and straightforward recipe. It does call for patience, and some good old fashioned stirring muscles though.

First of all wash the meat, and put it in a (preferably deep, thick bottomed) pan. Add enough water to cover the meat, and a bit more, and the garlic and bring to boil. Cover, simmer and cook for the next one/ one and a half hours till the meat falls off the bones.

At this stage you want to separate the bones and the meat. I like to take the meat out, and then strain the stock to make sure I don’t miss any bones. Then return the meat to the pan with the stock.

Now add all your whole spices, and keep cooking on a medium-low flame. Add the bread, and bring it all back to the boil.  Some folks like to soak the bread in a bit of water before adding it to the pan. Either way what you’re trying to do is make sure the bread sort of dissolves in to the meat/stock. Check for salt, and add some according to taste.

Now basically all you need to do is keep stirring, and grinding, and stirring till the hareesa gets to the right consistency. *Gass dyun* in Kashmiri. This is where you’ll benefit from the wonder that is the * choncha* – Kashmiri wooden cooking spoon – next level, folks!

Depending on your meat you might be stirring – not continuously, thank heavens – for the next hour or two. My dad has this fail proof test for whether the hareesa is done or not. So you try and pick a spoonful up and if you are able to do that without any strands of meat dangling off of your spoonful, then you’re done.

Once you’re done, all that’s left is the tempering. For this heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the shallots till they are almost black. Using a slotted spoon, take them out of the pan and keep aside.

In the same frying pan heat up a generous amount of oil till its almost boiling. Pour this oil, very carefully, all over the hareesa.

Poems have been written on the lovely crackling sound the oil makes as it hits the meat, or at least poems should be written on that utterly beautiful *tchhirr*. Ahem. Anyway, I digress.

Give everything a good stir, making sure the oil is all mixed up with the hareesa. Fry for a few minutes. Take off the flame, and scatter fried shallots on top.

Traditionally hareesa is served topped with fried seekh kebabs, along with Kashmiri bread and nun chai.

You’re allowed to skip the kebab. Ahem.

You’re welcome.

Sundried Turnips with Lamb (with step by step pictures)

Apart from being stunningly beautiful, and green, and lush, and surrounded by towering mountains, with lakes and rivers and springs everywhere, Kashmir is also a place where  winters can be pretty harsh. Lots of snow, freezing cold – so basically nothing grows for about 3-4 months. Which sort of explains our fixation with meat – mostly lamb. But it also explains the fabulous variety of sun-dried vegetables that are staples during the winter months. Tomatoes, marrow, aubergines, turnips – we basically sun dry everything that grows during the summer for the long, cold winters. And then we cook them, mostly with lamb, all through those dreary freezing months, in beautiful warming stews. This one I’m sharing now is one of my all time favourites, with *cold-winter-evening* written all over it. Sun-dried turnips with lamb. Now, by now you know that the Kashmiri love for turnips is pretty legendary – on their own, with lamb, with red kidney beans, with red kidney beans *and* lamb – oh yeah. Well our love for Gogjje-aare, or sun-dried turnips, is just as special. And this curry/ stew is a thing of pure joy and beauty. Trust me.

Ingredients:

400gms of sun-dried turnips (these are basically turnips that have been washed, peeled, cut into thin circles, then strung up together and left to dry).

2-3 small shallots – thinly sliced.

3-4 cloves of garlic – finely chopped, or crushed.

500gms of lamb – I used chops, but then I *always* use chops. Feel free to use whatever cut you prefer.

Salt to taste.

Oil for cooking.

Whole Spices:

11 green cardamoms.

3 black cardamoms.

1 teaspoon of cumin.

1 cinnamon stick.

Ground Spices:

1-2 teaspoons of turmeric.

1-2 teaspoons of fennel powder.

1 teaspoon (or more if you like your curry hotter) of Kashmiri red chilli powder.

Method:

Alright so the first thing you want to do is get your dried turnips off of the string, and wash them really well in plenty of running cold water. Then put them in a pan, cover with fresh cold water and bring to a boil. Let the pan boil for a good 5-7 mins. Then take off the heat, drain and put aside.

Next, take a wide bottomed pan and heat up a good glug of oil. Add the shallots and fry till they are soft and translucent. To this add the meat and fry on both sides till golden brown.

Now add the garlic, whole spices as well as the ground spices to the pan and mix everything really well to ensure that the meat is evenly coated. Fry everything together for 1-2 mins, till you can smell all the lovely spices.

At this stage add the turnips to your pan, give everything a good old stir. Fry for another couple of minutes till the turnips are all nicely coated with the spices. Then add just enough water to cover the meat/ turnips. Add salt to taste. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for about one and a half hours till the meat is terribly tender and the the turnips almost melting into the curry.

Garnish, if you want with fresh coriander, and serve with lots of fluffy white rice. Perfection.