Kashmiri mixed vegetable Pickle/ Aanchaar (Step by step pictures)

What’s the first thing that comes in to your mind when you hear the word – pickle? Apart from the last time you found yourself in one, of course. Ahem.

So depending on where you’re from you’re either thinking of little unripe mangoes chopped up, steeped in spices and oil, and left to ferment in the sun till they are soft and tangy and so so hot, and so so sour. Ditto with lemons, and green chillies, and everything else you can think of; Or, if you were born on a different continent, you are thinking of baby cucumbers, gherkins, radishes left to steep in vinegar, sweet and sour at the same time.

And if you were born in Kashmir, then, well, you are thinking exactly what I am thinking. Aanchaar.

What can I say about Kashmiri aanchaar. Well, first of all, it is the best achaar/ pickle in the whole wide world. That’s just a fact. (What? I am entirely objective. Ask my editor. Ahem.) Then of course you must know that there’s always this one family in your extended circle that makes the best aanchaar ever, and they dutifully send jars full your way every autumn.

And how can I not mention *baazruk aanchaar* (literally – of the market). A stroll down one of the main streets in Srinagar, and your nose will lead you to the aanchaar walas, sitting in a row, their big copper pots lined up in front of them. The reddest, hottest, sourest aanchaar, yours for a few rupees. I could never resist, even as my parents would remind me of the last time I bought some and completely ruined my stomach. I mean some things are just worth it.

Anyway, the point is, we are not in Kashmir, and even if we are, we are staying in and social distancing, so the stroll down Amira Kadal will have to wait. In the meantime we can make our own. Yep.

Important to mention here that when I called my mum to ask her how she makes hers, father jumped in and insisted he was going to talk me through steps. So for a change this is my dad’s recipe you guys. And true to form, poetry.

Ingredients

Vegetables – 1 kilo.

Any, really. But traditionally Kashmiri aanchaar has all the vegetables we love – monjje (kohlrabi), haakh (spring greens), carrots, radishes, lotus stems. Fresh green chillies. Also shallots, and garlic. Wash, peel, prep your vegetables like you normally would. Just try and chop everything to roughly the same size.

Spices –

Mustard seeds : 1-2 teaspoons

Ajwain seeds : 1-2 teaspoons

Fennel seeds : 1-2 teaspoons

Fenugreek seeds : 1-2 teaspoons

Kashmiri red chili powder : 2-3 teaspoons (more or less depending on how hot you want it to be.I don’t like my aanchaar too hot, so you know.)

Salt : To taste

Oil – I’d say about 7 tablespoons, and a bit more at the end. But see how it goes, you want enough to be able to coat all of your veg.

Method

So I’m assuming you have by now prepped your vegetables, yes? Great.

Now bring a big pan full of water to boil, (how big you ask? Well, big enough to hold all of your veg. Obviously), and throw your veg in. Yep, all of it. And just a bit of salt. Bring the pan back to boil – this will take a minute or two. And once that’s happened, turn the heat off, and drain the vegetables. The best way to do this is to use a colander/ strainer. Leave your vegetables in their for the next 30 mins to an hour to let the water drain completely. Once that’s happened, grab the the biggest tray you have, cover it with a kitchen towel, and spread the vegetables out in a single layer. What you’re trying to do is dry the lot out as best as you can. Leave to dry for at least a few hours, even better overnight.

That’s your vegetables all set. To be fair, you don’t *have* to blanch your veg before pickling, but it does make it better. (What? Dad says so. So there.)

Next let’s prep the jar/s. One jar big enough to hold all your veg, if you have one, or if like me you do everything on the fly and have to improvise improvise improvise, well then, an assortment of jars big and small. You know. So take your jars, wash them with hot soapy water and dry them thoroughly. Even better if you can sun dry them for an hour or so. But in any case, now your jars are dry, yes? Great. Now take some oil and brush/smear it all over the insides on your jar/ jars. Done? Good.

Remember that big pan you used to blanch your veg? Well I’m assuming by now you’ve washed and dried it, yes? Excellent. Now take that pan and add all of your spices and salt and oil in it. Mix everything up. And then pop all your blanched, dried vegetables in. And now the funnest part : getting stuck in there with your hands and making sure every little bit of your vegetables is entirely covered in the spice mix. Take your times with this. Rub the spices into every leaf, every piece of every vegetable. Don’t rush. It’s therapeutic. You’ll see.

Okay so now that that bit is done, all that is left is for us to fill the jars we’ve already prepped with our spiced vegetables. Ah, but it isn’t as simple as that now, is it. The path of true love never did run smooth, you know. Ahem. 

Basically what we are trying to do now is pack the vegetables in as tightly as we can, so that almost no air is left trapped in the jar. So let’s fill, say one third of the jar up, and then push everything down as much as we can. (At home where you are making enormous amounts of aanchaar and the jars are huge this is usually done with those magical wooden utensils called tchhotte – ah.) Then repeat this till your jar is filled pretty much all the way to the top. Again push everything down, one final time – and, importantly, take your time with this whole process, because if the vegetables are not packed in nice and tight you run the risk of fungus developing and ruining your entire project, okay?

And just to be sure we are completely on top of this, pour some oil over the vegetables. This will seep into whatever little gaps there might still be, and then pool in a thin layer on top. This is what you want. 

At this stage put the lid on. And that’s basically it. Now all you need to do is let it ferment, in a warm place – ideally a couple of hours in the sun every day – for about a week or so (depending on how hot or cold it is where you are). But listen, remember to put your jar/ jars on a plate/ tray while you leave it/them to ferment, because a few days into the process the oil will rise up and leak from the top. Do not panic when that happens. This is actually good, and tells you that you’re well on your way to amazing aanchaar. Okay?

Good. 

So like I said, a week, maybe ten days, and that’s it – lovely beautiful aanchar, which you can eat with, well, anything really – or if you are like me, then on it’s own even. Ahem. What. Hah.

Carrots. Springs greens. Radishes. Shallots. Garlic. Chillies.
Blanch.
Dry.
Spices. Oil. Salt.
Mix it all up.
Pack the vegetables in as tightly as you can. The word in Kashmiri is *tchyel*. Ahem.
Make sure you pop your jar(s) on a plate/ tray, and leave in a warm place for a week-ten days.

Radish and Walnut Chutney – Dooe’n tchyettin.

So tell me how do you like your walnuts? On their own? Candied? In a walnut and date cake? In a tart maybe? Or crushed and sprinkled over a soup? Sure, sure. Pretty versatile little nuts, they do lend themselves to a variety of different uses. I have to say when I was growing up we only ever ate walnuts (- unless they were tender and still green, in which case slicing through the still green shell, and getting the still white, tender, sweet flesh out would be a treat in itself -) with apples. Yep, you slice an apple, you crack open a few walnuts and then you eat them together. You know those annoying little spots that sometimes break out on your tongue as you are eating walnuts? Never happen if you eat them with apples. What? Try.

Anyway, I digress. Since cracking open walnuts and slicing apples doesn’t really require a recipe, let me come to the other time honoured way walnuts are used in Kashmiri cuisine. In chutneys. Walnuts, crushed with green chillies and shallots, finished off with yoghurt – that’s a classic. And then there’s this version, where you crush walnuts with white radish and green chillies (shallots too, if you want). This is so quick and easy, so good. Amazing effort to glory ratio you guys. Perfect side for any meal, but I’ll be honest, I’m that person who guiltily sneaks spoonfuls while no one is looking. Also works, excellently, as a dip on a cheese and cracker board. What? Try.

Shall we?

Ingredients

1-2 handfuls of shelled walnuts

1/2 white radish – this is mooli in Urdu/Hindi, safed muejj in Kashmiri – washed/ scraped/ peeled and chopped in to chunks. To be fair you could use small red radishes as well. Work just as well, and your chutney will be pale pink. What’s not to like.

3-4 green chillies. Less or more depending on how hot you want this to be. You know.

Salt.

1/2 cup of Yoghurt – optional.

Method

So the thing is you could do this in a mixer grinder – easier, but where’s the fun in that. What you really want is a good old fashioned pestle and mortar, neyaem in Kashmiri. Take your chopped up radish, put it in the neyaem and go to town – it’ll be quite wet at this stage. Now add your walnuts, a few at a time. As you keep adding walnuts the consistency of the mixture will change. Once you’re done with the walnuts, chopped up chillies go in. Be careful when you’re pounding these, a stray drop of juice flying in to your eye is no fun. You know.

You don’t want this is to be super fine, you want a bit of a bite. Which is why I don’t like doing this in a mixer/ grinder.

Anyway once everything is nicely mixed up, add salt, mix it up a bit more, have a taste, see if you’re happy with the salt/ chillies.

You could at this stage add a couple of teaspoons of yoghurt, but equally you could leave that out. Just see how you feel, okay?

But essentially that’s it. You are never going to look at walnuts in quite the same way are you? Or even radishes. Yep. You’re welcome.

Monjje ti Maaz or Lamb with Kohlrabi and Greens

Monjje in Kashmiri, Kadam in Urdu,  Kohlrabi in english. This root vegetable, with greens on top, is a firm favourite, part of Kashmiri DNA really, much like our deep and abiding love for gogjje, or turnips. Which is almost as deep and abiding as our love for lamb. Monjje, and monjje haakh –  on their own, with lamb (obviously), in achaar (Kashmiri achaar is the best achaar in the world and thats just a fact. Yep) – glorious.

I’ve recently been talking this dear friend of mine through various recipes. They love lamb (Kashmiri so, obviously), but aren’t too keen on vegetables (like I said, Kashmiri, so obviously). So I find myself suggesting lamb + veg curries a lot. Monjje ti maaz, or a Lamb Kohlrabi curry is a classic. Simple, wholesome, earthy flavours. Home.

Shall we?

Ingredients:

1/2 kilo of lamb – what cut you say? Pick your favourite. This will work regardless.

2-3 medium shallots – peeled, washed, sliced.

4-5 whole cloves of garlic – peeled, washed. Leave 2 whole. Mince 2.

3-4 medium sized monjje – pick the smaller, greener ones at the grocers. Do. Wash, peel, and quarter them. If you are lucky enough to find some with haakh, then yay! Snip off each haakh leaf, wash then tear roughly in to two or three.

Salt.

Oil.

Spices – 

Whole spices

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2/3 green cardamoms

2/3 black cardamoms

1/2 inch piece of cassia

1 clove

Ground spices

1 teaspoon of turmeric

1-2 teaspoons of fennel powder

1-2 teaspoons of Kashmiri chilli powder

Method

So the first thing you want to do is to get the lamb going. In Kashmiri we call this *paakh dyun*. As easy as bishte bishte byaryo. Really. Grab yourself a thick bottomed pan, big enough to hold all your meat. Put the lamb, 2-3 cloves of garlic, all of your whole spices, 1 teaspoon of fennel powder and a little salt in to the pan. Cover with just enough water. Bring to boil, then simmer and cover. You could skim off the surface of the water after the first 10 or so minutes if you want. But in any case, leave this to simmer for the next hour, hour and a half, till the meat is tender and cooked through. Keep checking to see pan has enough water though. If you, unlike me, are of the pressure cooker school of cooking, then by all means pressure cook away.

So while your lamb is doing the *paakh* thing, let’s get started on the monjje.

In another pan, big enough to hold all your monjje, (if you dont have a big enough pan then that’s okay too, just do this step in batches, but at no point do you want to cook these in an overcrowded pan, trust me) – by now you know I love the thick bottomed, non-teflon stuff, yes? Right – so in another pan pour a good glug of oil and when that’s nice and hot add your monjje, in a single layer, stir them around a bit to get the oil on all sides, sprinkle a bit of salt, then turn the heat down and cover the pan. This will make the kohlrabi sweat. What you want is for it to cook in its own juices, till all the water in the pan evaporates. At this point increase the heat a bit and fry them till they’re slightly golden green (what, do it, you’ll see) in colour. Take them out of the pan and keep them aside. Then just quickly fry the haakh, if you have any, in the same oil – 3-4 mins on a medium flame.

Once all your monjje are done, take a look at your pan and see if it needs more oil, it probably won’t, but check. To this add the shallots. Fry till soft and fragrant, 3-4 minutes, then add the remaining garlic, minced, and fry for another minute or two. To this then add your ground spices, fry for a minute or two. Then return the monjje/ haakh to the pan and carefully stir everything together so the masalas cover all of the monjje – do this for another minute or two.

Then there’s two ways you can proceed, depending on the size of the pans you’ve used. If the one with the monjje is big enough to hold everything then great, add the pieces of meat from the *paakh* pan to the monjje paan first. Stir everything together. Then add enough stock from the *paakh* pan so that it sort of covers everything. Bring to boil. Check for salt. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Garnish with coriander, if that’s your thing. And you are done.

But if your monjje pan isn’t big enough, then simply add the monjje to the lamb. You just need to make sure you’re happy with the amount of stock in there (- no one wants rasse koelle, literally streams of gravy, ahem -) then bring everything to boil, cover and simmer for 10 mins. And you’re done.

What would you eat this with, you ask? Take a wild wild guess. Do.

 

Kashmiri Spring Greens – Tchatte Haakh

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?

Ingredients:

400 gms of Spring Greens – you want baby spring greens, easier to cook –

3-4 Green chillies

2-3 fat cloves of garlic

Salt

Oil

Method:

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.

Sea bass with ginger and garlic.

So you know the way Kashmiris cook fish is pretty epic – chunks of fresh water fish, trout is a favourite,  are deep fried, then layered in a deep pan, with various seasonal vegetables, and a spice mix, and then the whole thing is cooked on slow heat for hours, sometimes even overnight – and obviously the way it tastes is even more epic – the fish is melt in your mouth tender and the vegetables have this other-worldly flavour that is impossible to describe. Sorry to lead you on a bit, but this is not a post about Kashmiri fish. What? Did you not read the title?

What I’m trying to say is that my fish-standards are pretty high. But this recipe, right here, lives up to even those. Add to this the fact that this recipe does not take hours, and is in fact one of the quickest, easiest ways to get a super delicious, healthy dinner on to the table in less than half an hour. Yep. Winner.

Prepare to be amazed.

Ingredients:

4 SeaBass fillets – you could use the whole fish cut up in to pieces, but the fillets are easier to cook, and lets face it no bones = easier to eat.

2-3 small shallots – sliced thinly

3-4 fat cloves of garlic – finely chopped

1 inch piece of fresh ginger – julliened

4-5 stems of spring onions – chopped

1 green chilli – more if you’d like it hotter of course – deseeded and chopped

Dash of soy sauce

Salt and pepper

Oil

Method:

So this is easy peasy. Take your fillets, wash and scale them (fillets are usually scaled but hello I am Kashmiri – no point cooking fish unless you scale it. Hah). Next with a small sharp knife score your fillets. Then season them generously with salt and pepper – both sides.

Next what you want to do is heat up a frying pan. Once it’s hot, add some oil, not too much, but enough to cover the pan. In to this add your fish fillets, skin side down. You might have to do this in batches, depending on how big your pan is.

This will splutter a bit, so be aware of that. This fish cooks quite quickly, but don’t be tempted to flip it to the other side too soon. Let it cook on the skin side for a good 5-7 minutes, maybe even longer depending on how hot your flame is. Once the skin is nice and crisp flip over, carefully, to the other side and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Once the fish is cooked, take the fish out – carefully because you really don’t want to break it now, do you – and transfer it to the serving dish (cover with foil to keep in warm).

Now, in to the same pan add your shallots, and fry till soft and translucent. To this add your garlic and ginger, and the green chillies – make sure the flame is high so you get a nice sizzle on. Once the garlic starts changing colour – 2-3 minutes – bring the flame right down and add the spring onions. As soon as the spring onions heat through turn the flame off and then add a dash of soy sauce to the pan. Give everything a little stir and pour all over your waiting fish.

That. Is It. Really.

You can, if you want garnish with a bit of coriander, but you really don’t need to. This is so yummy that there have been times when it has been eaten straight out of the serving dish. But if your self control is better than mine, ahem, this is beautiful served with white rice, or if you are watching those carbs even with a side of stir fried vegetables.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Green Beet Smoothie

So you know I’m a bit smoothie obsessed these days. And really if it isn’t green it isn’t super. You do the usual spinach, kale, Spring greens thing. And then you get a bit bored of the lovely, but same-old smoothies. So, in honour of Saturday I decided to shake things up a bit.

What are your thoughts on black cabbage? I confess I’d never even heard of it till yesterday. Turns out its Kale’s Italian cousin. All the goodness of Kale, slightly bitter and peppery. What’s not to love! (Having said that if you’re not of the *the-bitterer-the-better* school of thought, maybe just substitute black cabbage with regular kale. Yes? Good.)

Oh and beetroot, which is what gives this smoothie it’s lovely purple colour. Anyway let’s get to it then.

Ingredients:

1-2 leaves of black cabbage.

3-4 leaves of heart of lettuce.

Handful of coriander.

1 clementine.

Half a beetroot.

1/4 of a cucumber.

1 red raddish.

1 banana.

About an inch of ginger.

Half an inch of fresh turmeric.

2 Mejdool dates.

1/2 a cup of fresh/frozen strawberries.

3 walnuts.

4 cashews.

Method:

So basically all you do is prepare your ingredients – wash everything, peel, remove shells, stones – put everything in your blender, top up with water, and blend. And voilà, one super-green-purple-smoothie!

 

 

Best Ever Granola

So here’s the thing about breakfast cereals: I do not like them. At all. Not one little bit. Why? Well. They taste awful. Very little nutrition. And really not all that good for you either. In fact with most breakfast cereals all you can really taste is the sugar. (And cardboard?) In my mind, the worst, unhealthiest breakfast you can think of is still better than most ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. But – and if you are a time-strapped-working-parent this is a very very significant but – oh but the convenience of it! You open a box, pour a portion out into a bowl, add milk/ yoghurt, and within 30 seconds you’ve got breakfast on the table. But – yup another but – my point is this need not be and either/or proposition. In one word – GRANOLA. Yup. Make it at home and you get to control exactly what goes in, so you can make it as healthy or as naughty as you want knowing that even the naughtiest granola you make at home is going to be only a gazillion times better than your boxed cereals. Win-win, I say.

(I like my granola crunchy and not too sweet, but you can up the sweetness by adding an extra dash of honey if thats what rocks your boat.)

So, here we go.

Ingredients:

2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil.

3-4 tablespoons of agave nectar.

2-3 tablespoons of honey.

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

300g rolled oats.

125g of mixed seeds (I used pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and linseed).

100g of nuts (I used pecans this time, but you could used chopped almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashew – or even a mixture of some or all of these).

50g of desiccated coconut.

100g of dried fruit (I don’t really like dried fruit in this, but it can be done and works quite well. You could use dried berries, sultanas, raisins, apricots, whatever tickles your fancy.)

 

Method:

This is the easiest thing to make. In the Universe. Really. All you need to do is pre-heat your oven to 150C, which is 130C with fan, prepare two baking sheets/trays, and find yourself a big mixing bowl. Into the bowl add the oil, agave nectar, honey and vanilla, and mix. Tip in all the other ingredients, except the coconut. Give everything a good strong stir or five.

Now pour the granola mix onto the two trays and spread it out into an even layer. Into the oven for about 20-25 minutes. At this point get your trays out, mix in the coconut and dried fruit, and put them back in for another 15-20 minutes. Get out of the oven and let it cool before having a taste. Oh well, at least try.

Once completely cooled, you can store this is an airtight container for up to a month. (Though I admit I’ll be shocked if it lasts that long in your kitchen. In mine its all gone in a week, at the most :).) Absolutely fantastic with cold milk, over yoghurt, or on its own. Breakfast on the table in 30 seconds. And with good carbs, good fats and protein, fabulously good for you. Yay.

So. What have we learnt today? The best breakfast cereal is the one you make at home. Yes? Good.