Mum’s Daanival Korme/ Coriander Lamb Korma

Okay, so this one is extra special. It’s a simple enough lamb curry, cooked with yoghurt and lots of coriander – umm, hello, the clue’s in the name – and very popular everywhere is Kashmir. I grew up eating what I thought was DaanivalKorme, and loving it. It was my most favourite – melt in your mouth lamb in a yoghurt based gravy, red with Kashmiri chilies, and lots and lots of coriander! I would always request my mum to make it when we went on those much anticipated school picnics where every child would bring one dish and then all of us would sit down, usually under the shade of a majestic Chinar, and dig in to each others’ food. In fact her DaanivalKorme was such a hit that after the first couple of times all my friends, and some teachers even, started say things like, “Oh and Aliya can get her DaanivalKorma!”

Fast forward to years later when I was visiting one of my aunts and she insisted I tell her what to cook for dinner – she wanted to make something I really liked. So obviously I said DaanivalKorme. Imagine my surprise when she brought this pale yellow, nearly white, coriander curry on to the table that night. I thought it looked like Yakhni, with coriander. And that’s when I realised that the DaanivalKorme my mum makes is her very own take on the classic recipe, which indeed is pale white and has no chilies in it at all. Ah. The classic is lovely of course, but I have to say I much prefer my mum’s version.

So basically, this is your lucky day. Ahem.

Ingredients:

500 gms of lamb – any cut really, but you know how I feel about a bit of fat, a bit of bone, eh.

400 gms of yoghurt – natural full fat yoghurt. Though I have to say Greek yoghurt is a dream to cook with. You want your yoghurt to be smooth and lump-free, so stirring it well is a good idea.

2-3 small shallots, sliced

3-4 fat cloves of garlic (2 minced, 2 whole)

Big bunch of fresh coriander – get the leaves off, wash, drain.

Whole spices:

2 black cardamom pods

5 green cardamom pods

1 inch piece of cinnamon/ cassia

1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds

Ground spices:

1-2 teaspoons of fennel powder

1-2 teaspoons of turmeric powder

1 teaspoon of Kashmiri chili powder (If you prefer the traditional DaanivalKorme then all you need to do is not add these. That’s it. Really.)

Salt

Oil

Method:

There are two ways of doing this. If you have the time, inclination and an abundance of pans that you can use without worrying about washing up then here’s what you can do:

Wash you meat and put it in a thick bottomed pan with all the whole spices, whole garlic cloves, and fennel powder. Pour in enough water to cover the meat, and then some. Add salt. Bring everything to a rigorous boil. Cover. Simmer. And forget about it for about one and a half/ two hours, till the meat is terribly tender and falling off the bone.

In another pan, heat up a generous glug of oil, and to this add you shallots. Fry on a medium flame till the shallots are soft and translucent. Add your minced garlic, and fry for a couple of minutes till fragrant. Now turn the heat right down and add turmeric and chili powders (- you really do need Kashmiri chili powder for the colour here, others will give you the heat, of course, but not the prettiness). Fry for a minute or so. At this point what you need to do is put your yoghurt in, a little at a time, (this step is quite similar to how we cook yoghurt down for the RoghanJosh, by the way) cooking it down till you can see oil in the pan, before adding more. Add a big handful of coriander leaves along with the last of your yoghurt, and then cook it down as before. Smells so good, doesn’t it?

Now what you want to do is add your meat, along with the broth its been cooking in to your yoghurt/ coriander base. Give everything a mighty old stir, check for salt, bring to boil, add the rest of the coriander – just save some for garnish, if you’re in to that kind of stuff – cover and simmer for another 10 or so minutes.

On the other hand if you are, like me, always strapped for time and LOVE one pan recipes, here :

Take a big thick bottomed pan and heat a generous amount of oil in it. Add your shallots to the pan and fry till soft and translucent. Next add the meat and fry it lightly on both sides. Next add all your whole spices and fry them for a couple of minutes, and then add the garlic (all minced). To this add your powdered spices and fry for a minute or two. Then all you need to do is add the yoghurt to the pan, a little at a time, cooking it down till you can see oil in the pan, before adding more. Add a big handful of coriander leaves along with the last of your yoghurt, and then cook it down as before. Then add enough water to cover everything, bring to boil, cover, simmer till the meat is tender – 1-1/12 to 2 hours. Keep checking to make sure there’s enough water in the pan though – no one will thank you for scorched DaanivalKorme. Ahem.


 

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Gogjje ti Maaz (Turnips with Lamb)

So you know I’m from Kashmir. Which means I know a lot of, you know, Kashmiris. Ahem. All sorts, really. Village folk. From the north. The south. City people.  Downtown-ians. Civil liners. Every single shade of the political spectrum. Ahem. They don’t always agree on things. They will sometimes slag each other off. In ways that are sometimes subtle, sometimes not. You know.

But what if I tell you there is one thing that is true of every single Kashmiri I know. Like, you know, all of them. What is it, you ask? Would you like to take a guess? No, we are not talking about politics. Ahem. (Yes, you’re probably right. Ahem.) They all *love* turnips. It’s true. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. Even my 7 year old who’s more London-ian than Kashmiri. It’s in our DNA, obviously. What other explanation can there be. Ahem.

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Okay, so the point of all that was this : Turnips – On their own. Fresh. Dried. Amazing.

But Turnips with lamb – next level. Thing of beauty. And joy. Obviously.

Shall we?

Ingredients:

500 grams of lamb – this works with pretty much any cut. I used boneless chunks of leg because that’s what I had. A bit of bone will add lots to the flavour though.

7-8 medium turnips – pick the smaller ones out at the grocer’s, they’re sweeter and cook quicker.

2-3 small shallots, sliced

3-4 fat cloves of garlic (2 minced, 2 whole)

Whole spices:

2 black cardamom pods

5 green cardamom pods

1 inch piece of cinnamon/ cassia

1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds

Ground spices:

1-2 teaspoons of fennel powder

1-2 teaspoons of turmeric powder

1 teaspoon of Kashmiri chili powder

Salt

Oil

Method:

Okay, so first things first – wash your meat and put it in a big enough thick bottomed pan. Add all your whole spices, 2 whole cloves of garlic, fennel powder, and salt. Pour enough water to cover everything, in to the pan. Bring to boil on a high heat, cover, and simmer. And do what we do with pretty much every single lamb recipe : forget about it for the next 1.5 to 2 hours, till the meat is super soft and tender.

Now while your lamb is going about its ah, tender business, here’s what you need to sort out : your turnips! Wash, peel and chop them in to chunks. Take another pan, heat it up and then add a good glug or two of oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering add your turnips. Fry for a couple of minutes on high heat. Sprinkle of salt all over, cover, and bring the heat down to medium/low. What this will do is make the turnips sweat, and cook in their own juices. Once all the water has evaporated, turn the heat up and fry them for a couple of minutes. By this point your turnips should be changing colour. Beauties! Push them to one side of the pan – add shallots, fry them for a bit and then mix everything up. Next, do the same with your minced garlic. Fry everything together for a couple of minutes, and then add your turmeric and chili powders. Good old stir again. (You could take the turnips out of course, and then add the shallots/ garlic/ turmeric/ chili powder, and then return the turnips to the pan, but hey ho. Hah.)

So by this point if your lamb is all done all you need to do is add it to the turnips, bring everything back to boil, check for salt, cover, and cook on a medium/ low flame for another 10 minutes. If your lamb is still cooking, take the turnips off the heat and wait till your lamb is done before you do the whole mixing bit.

And that’s it. Every Kashmiri’s comfort/ soul/ love food. Promise.

(What will you serve this with? Let’s see. Hmmm. Ummm. I wonder. Hah.)

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.

 

 

Tchoek vaangan/ Kashmiri khattey baingan/ Baby aubergines in a tamarind sauce

So usually one vegetable will have one name in one language, yes? In English a tomato, for example, is a tomato, a carrot is called a carrot, and an onion an onion.

Oh and then there are some that are called by two different names, in the same language, depending on where you are. When I first came to this country, for example, no one knew what I was talking about when I asked for capsicum, because here they call them peppers – green, red, yellow, orange. Coriander is apparently called cilantro in America etc.

And then there are aubergines. Or eggplants. Or brinjals. *eye roll*. For the longest time I thought these were all different varieties. And in as much as there are white/ yellow eggplants etc, maybe that’s true. In any case I’ve made my peace with all these names, though I have to say I prefer the Kashmiri “vaangan”.

And that brings me, quite neatly, to Kashmiri tchoek vaangan. These are baby aubergines cooked in a spicy tamarind sauce. No onions. No tomatoes. And in the Kashmiri Pandit version, no garlic.

Fun fact – most Kashmiri recipes don’t use tomatoes, because tomatoes came to the region after these brilliant recipes had already been perfected. Ahem.

Anyway.

This is one of those quintessential Kashmiri recipes – up there with RoghanJosh and Yakhni. There aren’t many purely vegetarian dishes that get Kashmiris going, but this is definitely one.

Mum’s recipe again, this. What I love about calling her up for recipes is how she assumes a certain level of knowledge. For this recipe, for example, I asked her at the very end, “so no garlic? Or ginger powder?” And she goes, “tch of course you put garlic with the haldi/ mirch. And ginger powder at the end.” 🙄😊

She’s the best ❤.

Should we get to it then?

Ingredients –

1 kilo of baby aubergines. Washed. The idea is to leave the stems on, and cut them lengthwise twice, so you have four long slices, still attached at the stem. Easier than it sounds. Believe me.

2-3 fat cloves of garlic. Crushed.

About 1-2 teaspoons of tamarind. You can use fresh whole tamarind, dried, paste, all work. You can substitute this with lemon/ lime juice, even vinegar. This is where the tartness comes from.

Whole spices –
2-3 pods of black cardamoms
1-2 teaspoons of cumin
1-2 inch piece of Cinnamon/ cassia

Ground spices –
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1-2 teaspoons of kashmiri red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger powder
1 teaspoon of ground fennel powder

Salt

Oil

Method:

So first of all you take a pan full of boiling water and drop your washed, slices aubergines in, just long enough for everything to come back to the boil. Then using a sieve, or a colander, drain all the water out and let the aubergines dry a bit.

In another pan put your tamarind in with some water and bring to boil. Then simmer and cook till the pulp separates from the stones and you have a fairly homogeneous tamarind-water. Sieve to get rid of the stones and skins, and set aside.

Next heat a generous amount of oil in a thick bottomed wide pan. In to this add your blanched, drained aubergines, in a single layer. You’re basically trying to deep fry them, on all sides, without actually deep frying them, and making sure they don’t break in the process, so go easy with the stirring. Once you’re happy with your aubergines take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

Now in the same pan add your cumin, Kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric, and garlic. In the Kashmiri Pandit version of this garlic is substituted with asafoetida. Fry everything together till fragrant – 2-3 minutes, then add a little of the tamarind water and cook it down, then do this again, and one more time, till you’ve used up all your tamarind water.

Now return your aubergines to the pan, making sure to coat them in the sauce. Add some water, not too much, because the idea is to cook it all down without turning the aubergines in to a pulp. To this then add the black cardamoms, cassia/ cinnamon, fennel and ginger powders. Salt to taste. Stir everything in. Bring it all to boil. Cover. Simmer, till the water is all gone and your aubergines and soft and cooked through. A bit of coriander to garnish, if you like, and you’re done.

This is served with, yep, lots of white fluffy rice. Usually alongside at least one meat dish. But it’s okay, you focus on the aubergines. Ahem.

 

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.

 

 

Quince with Lamb (Bammetchoonthh ti Maaz)

So last week I found quince at my local green grocer’s. If you’re Kashmiri then you have a pretty good idea how that must’ve made me feel. If you aren’t, let me tell you. Quince is one of those things that are inextricably linked to my childhood. My mum always loved quince. So it was always a happy day when she made the first quince curry of the season. Fresh Quince curried with lamb, with lots of fluffy white rice. In my head that’s the taste of Autumn. And then as the winter set in, dried quince with lamb, or on its own. Beauty itself. So obviously I bought more than I should have. Both quince, and lamb. Got home, terribly excited. And then realised that much as I’ve loved bamtchoonth all my life, I’d never cooked it. Sure I kind of knew what I should do. Getting the lamb sorted is always easy.  And how hard could the quince part of the dish be. Right? But then again I knew how epic my disappointment would be if it didn’t taste like it does in my head. So I did the only thing I could. Yep. I called my mum. Which means you guys can *rest assured* that this recipe is AWESOME. Just like my mum. ❤

Ingredients —

1 kg of lamb. Any cut will do, but a bit of fat on the meat does take this up a notch.

500-700 gms of quince. (About 6-7 apples. Are they called apples? Kashmiris call them apples, so I’m going to call them apples. Yep.) These you’ll need to wash, peel, core and chop. But more on that later.

3-4 medium sized shallots, sliced.

3-4 fat cloves of garlic.

Whole spices:

7 black cardamom pods.

11 green cardamom pods.

1-2 sticks of cinnamon.

2 teaspoons of cumin seeds.

Ground spices:

1-2 teaspoons of turmeric.

2-3 teaspoons of fennel powder.

1 teaspoon of Kashmiri red chili powder.

Salt.

Oil.

Method — 

First things first, let’s get the lamb started. So you basically wash the meat and put it in a big enough pan. Add all the whole spices, garlic, fennel powder and salt. Pour in enough water to cover the meat. Bring to boil. Cover. Simmer. And forget about it for about 1-2 hours till the meat is incredibly soft and tender. Ah, yes, Kashmiris are the undisputed KingsAndQueens of over-cooking. *Deep bow*.

So while the lamb is doing its thing, let’s prepare the quince. Now this, as far as I’m concerned is the hardest part of this recipe. And having a good, sharp knife will make it a *lot* easier. So, wash and peel the quince. Easy enough. Then you want to core each fruit and chop it into 8-10 chunks. Which sounds fairly straightforward till you realise how unbelievably hard the core of these fruits is. *Good lord in heavens above!* So remember a good, sharp knife is critical to this step. There. That’s the most labour intensive bit done. Promise.

Now, take another pan, wide-bottomed and shallow. Pour in a generous amount of oil. Once the oil is hot carefully place your quince chunks in a single layer, in the pan. What you want to do is fry them, like you would say, pieces of chicken — in batches. Don’t put them all in and go stir-crazy. Just don’t.

What you’re looking for is a nice golden reddish brown hue. (What? There is such a hue. It exists. Fry. You’ll see.) Use a slotted spoon to take take the quince out.

Once you’re done frying, put your shallots into the same pan and fry till soft and translucent. Add the turmeric and chili powder, and fry till fragrant – 30secs to a minute. And then add the fried quince. Give it all a good stir to make sure the spices coat the quince. Fry for a minute or two, and then add the meat, which by now is hopefully all done. Add the pieces of meat first, and stir everything carefully. Once all the meat and quince and spices are well mixed, add the stock that you cooked the lamb in – not too much though, just enough to nearly cover everything. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or till the quince is soft.

There. You’re done. Autumn and love, all in one dish.

 

Paneer with Tomatoes (Ruvangan Tchaaman)

So Kashmiris eat a lot of lamb. I know that. You know that. The whole world knows that. We put lamb in almost all our dishes. We do cook lots of seasonal vegetables, but there are almost always, with a few notable exceptions, two versions of every vegetarian recipe : a) without lamb, and,  b) with lamb. And guess which version gets picked if you’re having people over? Ahem.

But growing up, I remember every time my mum was faced with a oh-one-of-the-guests-doesn’t-eat-meat moment, her go-to substitute main course was always paneer, which is essentially a fresh, unsalted, soft white cheese. Big square chunks, fried, and then cooked in a beautiful tangy red tomato sauce. And much as I love lamb, this is one dish I will *never* say no to.

Can I also just point out that Ruvangan (tomato) tchaaman (paneer) is the only vegetarian dish in the Wazwan. I rest my case.

And now, here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

500 gms of paneer. It is surprisingly easy to make your own, but if you can get fresh good quality paneer from a shop where you are, go for it.

6-7 big tomatoes, chopped into chunks. The redder the better. (Now, I’ll confess I like to de-seed my tomatoes before I cook them, but you don’t have to. Yup. I’ve got issues.)

3-4 shallots, sliced.

2 fat cloves of garlic, ground.

Whole spices – (obviously. Whole spices in *everything*. Does this mean we love our whole spices even more than we love our lamb? *Shock horror*)

3 black cardamoms.

7 green cardamoms.

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds.

1-2 cloves.

1 stick of cinnamon.

Ground spices – the usual:

1 teaspoon of turmeric (optional – I sometimes leave this out but only because the tomatoes look a lot redder when cooked without).

1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder.

Salt.

Oil.

Method

The first thing you need to do is to slice your paneer. Now, what your slices look like will depend in part on what your paneer looks like. I remember in my grandmother’s house, my grandfather used to get the freshest paneer from the milkman. So fresh that a knife would cause it crumble and fall apart. So he always used a length of thread to cut large square chunks of it. Oh but I digress.

So basically once you’ve sliced  your paneer (into large squares, smaller cubes, whatever works) you need to fry it, and depending on how much paneer you have and how big your pan is, you might need to do this in batches. (Or, if you have a deep fryer, you could even use that.)

Take a wide bottomed shallow pan, pour a generous amount of oil into the pan, and put the paneer in. Now please be aware that this will splatter. A lot. So be careful and make sure you use a splatter guard. Once the paneer is nicely fried – you’re looking for a reddish/light brownish/golden hue – use a slotted spoon to take the slices out and dunk them into a bowl of cold water. This gets rid of the excess oil but also prevents the paneer from falling apart.

So the paneer’s done. On to the sauce. Into the same pan that you used to fry your paneer, add all of your whole spices and fry till fragrant – 2/3 minutes. Add the shallots and fry till soft and translucent. Next put the garlic in and fry for about a minute or two – you do not want the garlic to burn. Time for the ground spices to go in. Once everything is nicely mixed and fried, add the tomatoes. Give everything a good old stir. Add salt. Cover and simmer. What you want to do with the tomatoes is to cook them down till the water has all evaporated and you have a lovely rich thick red sauce.

Into this add your fried paneer, along with some of the water it was in. Bring to boil and cook everything together on a medium flame for another 10 minutes or so.

Garnish with coriander and serve with.. I wonder what we should serve this with..? Should we just say lots of fluffy white rice? Just this once? Hah.

Razmah Gogje (Red kidney beans with Turnips)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, ahem, Kashmiris make the best Raajma (red kidney beans) ever. Ahem. And this blog post is going to prove it. Ahem.

Let me paint you a picture: Red kidney beans, soaked overnight, slow cooked for hours. With lovely sweet turnips. (And lamb of course. Because we put lamb in everything. And because lamb makes *everything* better. But I’m leaving lamb out for this recipe, if only to prove that this works exceedingly well as a fantastic vegetarian dish.) Its the stuff winter dreams are made of. In Kashmir this would be served with lots of rice – yep, like everything else – but ladle it into a soup bowl and dig in if you want. I promise you it’ll warm your hands, your tummy, your heart and your soul.

All fabulous Raajma recipes begin with soaking the beans overnight. Anyone who tells you they taste just as good out of a can is lying. Believe me. Having established that, lets jump right in.

 

Ingredients —

500 gms of Red kidney beans – washed and soaked overnight in plenty of water.

5-6 medium turnips – pick the smaller ones out at the grocer’s, they’re sweeter and cook quicker.

4-5 medium tomatoes (optional – Most Kashmiri recipes are tomato free, and this one works brilliantly without, but I like the slight tang that tomatoes bring to this dish).

2-3 shallots, finely sliced.

4-5 fat cloves of garlic. Leave one clove whole and grind the rest.

1 inch root of ginger, ground (optional).

Bunch of coriander for garnish.

Whole Spices —

5 black cardamom pods.

1-2 teaspoons of cumin.

1-2 teaspoons of coriander seeds (optional – this is not a very Kashmiri ingredient, but I must confess I love the slightly nutty flavour these give to this dish).

1-2 sticks of cinnamon

Ground spices —

1-2 teaspoons of turmeric powder.

1 teaspoon of Kashmiri red chili powder – You could use whatever chili powder you have to hand, but I should mention here that Kashmiri chilies are the reddest, most aromatic etc. Another truth universally acknowledged. Ahem.

Salt.

Oil for cooking – You know by now that I cook *everything* in olive oil, but hey, free world.

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 Method – 

So first of all drain and rinse your soaked kidney beans. And now do that again. Good. Next, put them in a big thick bottomed pan with plenty of water and one clove of garlic and bring to boil on high heat. Cover and simmer till the beans are melt-in-your-mouth soft – anywhere between 2 – 2.5 hours, maybe even longer (make sure to keep adding water to the pan as and when, and to stir the pot every now and then to prevent scorching. That can happen if your pan isn’t thick bottomed enough, or if its on too high a flame). Alternately put your beans in a pressure cooker, and you’ll be done in 20 mins – gotto love science!

While your beans are doing their thing, pour a good glug and a half of oil into another pan. Add all your whole spices and fry till fragrant – about 2-3 minutes (you could dry roast and grind all of these, except the cinnamon, if you prefer more intense flavours). Now add the shallots, and fry till soft and translucent. Next put the ginger and garlic in. Fry some more. Finally the ground spices. If you don’t want to use tomatoes then your tempering (baghaar) is pretty much done. Otherwise now is the time to add your tomatoes to the pan and cook them down and fry them till all the moisture is gone and you can see oil in the pan.

The next thing you need to sort out are of course the turnips. I love turnips. On their own. With lamb (obviously). In this dish with Raajma. It is, after all, yet another truth universally acknowledged, ahem, that Kashmiris are marked as much by their high foreheads and long noses as they are by their near universal love of turnips. True fact.

And here’s what you need to do to these beauties – wash, peel and chop them into chunks. Heat some oil in a pan. Add the turnips. Slight sprinkle of salt. I do what my mum does, (good thumb of rule in the kitchen – do what your mum does. Seriously) which is to give the turnips a good stir on high heat for a minute or two, then cover and bring the heat right down, and let them cook for a good 20-30 mins. The salt and low heat work together to make the turnips sweat. They cook in their own juices and get fried after they’ve softened. All round best result. Mum’s know *everything*! So basically by the end of this step you’re looking at soft, golden turnips.

Okay, time to check on those beans. Once they are done, use the back of a wooden spoon to smush some of them as you stir. This will make your gravy lovely and thick, and you’ll thank me for it. Obviously.

Now what you need to do is to pour your tempering, with or without tomatoes, into the beans. Add salt, keeping in mind that you’ve already put some in the turnips which are going to make their way into that pot pretty soon as well. Give it a good old stir, bring everything to boil again, cover, simmer. After about 5-10 mins, add the turnips, good old stir again, bring everything to boil again, cover, simmer. Patience. You’re nearly there. 10 more minutes. A bit of coriander scattered all over and you’re done.

Go on. Have a taste. You’re welcome. Also, I told you so.

 

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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