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.

 

 

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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.

Walnut Bread

So what if I told about a recipe for walnut bread — yummy, beautiful, moist walnut bread, dotted with chocolate chips even — that uses no butter, and no processed/ refined sugars? Hmm? Well. Prepare to be amazed. This is just the thing for winter afternoons. Make yourself a steaming hot cup of cocoa. Cut yourself a generous slice of this beautiful walnut bread, smother it with full fat butter, sit back and tuck in. I promise you, whatever it is that you are struggling with right now, this will make it better :).

Lets get started!

Ingredients:

75g of unrefined brown sugar.

175g of honey, or agave nectar (I went half and half).

200ml of whole milk (you could use almond milk and turn this into a lacto-free recipe).

50g of chocolate chips – optional (but lets face it, chocolate chips make everything better).

50g of roughly chopped walnuts.

225g of self-raising flour.

1 teaspoon of baking powder.

1 egg, beaten.

Method:

The first thing you want to do is preheat your oven to 180C, which is 160C with fan. And grease and line a standard loaf tin with baking paper.

Next up, get yourself a pan and pour in the milk, sugar, honey/agave nectar, and heat gently till all the sugar has dissolved. You will need to let it cool quite a bit before getting on to the next step.

Now get a large mixing bowl and put your flour, baking powder, walnuts and chocolate chips in. To this add the cooled syrup. And then the egg. Mix everything together really well, till you have a smooth mixture.

Pour this into your tin, sprinkle some more walnuts on top, and in it goes, in to your preheated oven for about an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. Once done, let it cool in the tin for about 10 mins, and then turn out on to a cooling rack.

Or in any event *try* and let it cool before you do that thing we talked about earlier, you know with the cocoa and butter etc.

 

Best Ever Gingerbread Cake

What’s winter without a bit of ginger eh? And gingerbread. And gingerbread cake. Ahem. You see where I’m going with this. Ahem. So. Yes. Gingerbread cake. Fair to say I’ve tried quite a few recipes, adapted quite a few, but let’s just say I hadn’t stopped looking. Well. Until now. This recipe is absolutely fantastic. Dark, treacly,  very gingery, intense. And yet soft, with an incredibly light crumb, and almost too easy. If you like ginger in your baked good, then prepare to be delirious. And if all of this wasn’t enough this also keeps amazingly well for up to 4 days. In fact if anything, the taste actually improves. So bake on a Sunday and your teatime is pretty sorted for the week. You can even have friends over. This recipe is going to single handedly kick start your social life in the new year. What? Fine. I’m assuming too much. It’s only a cake. And your self control is clearly not as legendary as mine. Ahem.

Must say here that I found this recipe on the bbcgoodfood website (surprise surprise!).

Here we go then:

Ingredients:

250g of butter (softened)

250g of dark muscovado sugar

2 (generous) tablespoons of black treacle

375g of plain flour

5 teaspoons of ground ginger

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

2 eggs, beaten

3 pieces of stem ginger (crystallised/ from a jar – optional)

300ml of whole milk

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method:

First thing you want to do is grease and line two standard 7inch victoria sponge tins with baking paper and preheat your oven to 160C, which is about 140C with fan.

While your oven is getting ready gently heat your butter sugar and treacle in a pan, stirring until smooth. Let it cool a bit.

In a large mixing bowl mix together your flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground spices. To this add the treacly-sugar mixture, and mix thoroughly till well combined. To this add the stem ginger and eggs and mix some more.

Warm the milk, just a tiny bit, and add that to your mix and stir till everything is well blended. Your mixture will look a bit runny at this stage, but that’s nothing to worry about.

Pour into the prepared tins. In they go, into the oven, for about 30-35 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Once done, let them cool in the tins for about 10 mins, and then on a cooling rack till completely cool.

Awesome stuff, no?

 

 

 

Baked Banana Blueberry Date Oats

So I realise that I’m very very lucky in that I actually enjoy my work and don’t quite understand *monday blues*. In fact I quite love Mondays. And all the other days. My only gripe with working weekdays is that I don’t have enough time for a proper cooked breakfast. And if you know anything about me at all, you know that when I say proper cooked breakfast I mean porridge, of course. Oh and baked oatmeal. The real reason I love weekends? I can actually spend half an hour in the morning baking oats. Seriously. So here’s a Sunday morning ritual : pot of tea – loose leaf first flush Assam these days, get boy started on some warm golden milk and a homemade granola bar, and then bake oats. Oh yes.

This morning it was banana, blueberries, dates, almonds, and a splash of Agave nectar. So so beautiful.

Let’s get to it then:

Ingredients:

1 cup organic rolled oats. (You know how I feel about organic, unprocessed food by now. Yes? Good.)

2 small bananas. Sliced

2-3 dates. I used Mejdool – roughly chopped.

1 cup of blueberries – rinsed.

1/2 cup of rice milk. You could use almond milk, even regular milk.

11 almonds – roughly chopped.

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon powder.

1 tablespoon of agave nectar (totally optional this).

Some boiling water.

Method:

So, first of all you need to pre-heat your oven to 190C, which is 170C with a fan. Then pour your oats into a bowl, cover with just enough boiling water and let them soak for about 10 minutes.

While the oats are doing their thing, prep all your other ingredients – fruits nuts etc. Then stir everything including the rice milk, agave nectar, and cinnamon powder into your oats.

Transfer to a baking dish. I like to put some banana slices on top just because it looks pretty :).

In it goes into your preheated oven for about 20 minutes, till it’s nice and golden on top.

And you’re done. So awesome this is. Baking fruits caramelises natural sugars so everything is sweeter, the flavours deeper. And in any case you know you’re winning when boy wants seconds. Oh yes.

 

Best Spiced (Christmas) Porridge Ever

Oh my god this is seriously the best porridge I’ve ever made, or eaten. And given my forever, unending love for porridge, and the sheer amount of the stuff I eat, that is saying something. In fact that is saying A LOT. Slightly seasonal this, with cinnamon, nutmeg and/ or mixed spice. I added extra dates for garnish but you could make it even more christmassy with dried cranberries, if you like those.

Okay, so, without further ado, let’s do do do. (Or Ho Ho Ho. Ahem. Merry christmas y’all :).)

Ingredients:

(Serves one by the way. Me. Obviously.)

1/2 cup of rolled oats. I use organic jumbo oats – lots more texture, flavour etc, but any kind of rolled oats work. (I have to admit I do not like the ready-in-two-minutes- quick-oats though *oats-snob-alert* HoHoHo.)

Half an apple. Cored. Grated. Or could chop it up quite fine and that would work also.

Half a carrot. Grated.

3 dates. Pitted.

1 teaspoon of almond butter.

1 teaspoon of coconut oil.

1 cup of water.

1/2 cup of almond milk.

Spices:

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder.

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg powder. (Of course freshly grated nutmeg is what you really want, but I didn’t have any at hand, and the powder worked pretty well.)

Pinch or two of mixed spice (optional).

 

Method:

So basically all you do is put your oats, water, almond milk, carrot, apple and 2 of the 3 dates into a saucepan, give it a good mix and cook it on a low to medium flame for about 8-10 minutes till its all lovely and gooey and porridge-y. Remember the more you stir, the creamier your porridge will be, so don’t be shy.

Once your porridge is ready. Take it off the heat and add your almond butter and coconut oil to the saucepan and give it a good stir till everything is nicely mixed together. The almond butter and coconut oil take this porridge to another level altogether. The creaminess is plain ridiculous. Anyway, time to put your spices in, and stir some more. By this point your kitchen actually smells like “’tis the season to be jolly!” Truly.

Now, pour your porridge into your serving bowl. And go crazy with the toppings! I used sliced apples, dates, almonds and toasted coconut flakes. But hey, whatever you fancy!

Christmas for breakfast. In a bowl. And so good for you, its not even funny. SoMuchWin.

 

A Bagful of Almonds – II – Almond Butter

So, this is going to be part II of  my adventures with, you guessed it, a bagful of almonds. Oh Yes.

Now, I love a good nut butter. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely and entirely and irrevocably in love with butter – never have done anything in moderation – but lets face it you can’t really get away with eating mountains of the stuff. Sigh. Slightly lactose intolerant in my old age, ahem, and also slight heart-scare recently. So all in all perfect time to look at alternatives that are delicious *and* good for you. And this is where nut butters come in. They are really really good for you. Good fat. Good protein. Lots of vitamins. And yummy. You can’t really go wrong with a good nut butter.

So of course almond butter is my favourite. I go through quite a lot of this stuff every week. And it ain’t cheap. Now since I had all these lovely almonds sitting there in a jar, I thought hey, maybe I should make some almond butter. And you know what, I did B-).

Again, you are going to need a powerful blender for this. I used the NutriBullet, obviously. Technically speaking you could, of course, make almond butter in a mortar & pestle, because essentially all you are doing is grinding the nuts up till they they emulsify into a sort of paste. So if you have the time, a big enough mortar & pestle, and very strong arm muscles, go for it!

Here:

Ingredients:

1 cup of almonds.

1 or 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.

Drizzle of honey (optional).

Method:

First of all what you need to do is put your almonds in to the blend and grind them up into a flour. If you’re using the NutriBullet, for this you’ll have to use the milling blade. That done, add the coconut oil (and honey, if using), and blend – this time using the extractor blade. That basically is it Within minutes you’ve got yourself the most amazing jar of homemade Almond Butter. #Win, I’d say.

 

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