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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RoghanJosh

Getting in to the makeup room every morning at work, and the hour that follows, is usually the most relaxing part of my day. And why wouldn’t it be. I sit in a chair while immensely talented and beautiful make up artists tame my hair, fix my face and provide the most stimulating conversations ever. Depending on who it is on the day, by the time my hair is perfect and my skin flawless, I’ve either delivered a lecture on Kashmiri history, chatted about Shakespeare, or ooh-ed and aah-ed over homemade sourdough bread. A few months ago, on an exceptionally good day, we managed to tick all three of those lovely boxes, and I ended up inviting my make up artist Cate over to mine, so she could watch me cook a traditional Kashmiri Lamb Curry – the RoghanJosh. Of course it took us forever to work dates/ schedules out, but we finally managed to make it happen last week. Added bonus, Marianne – another one of my lovely make up ladies – came along as well. Much fun was had as we chatted and cooked and sipped our drinks. Here’s the recipe for you guys. Must thank Cate for her lovely note-taking, and pictures.

Ingredients –

1 Kg lamb (You could use any cut, but chops are great – meat, fat, bone. Oh yeah.)

Whole Spices – Kashmiri cooking is all about whole spices. I tend to dry roast and grind some of mine purely because my five year old is a drama-queen + pea prince rolled into one, and hates ‘seeds’ in his food.

Seeds from 7 – because odd numbers are better than even. Yup – black cardamom pods
1-2 teaspoons of coriander seeds – optional. Kashmiri cooking doesn’t use these a lot, but I love their slightly nutty, aromatic flavour.
2 -3 black pepper corns
1 clove
1-2 teaspoons of cumin seeds

1 long stick of cinnamon

Ground Spices –

1-2 teaspoons of fennel powder

1-2 teaspoons of turmeric

1-2 teaspoons of Kashmiri red chilli powder

Salt

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3-4 medium sized shallots – finely sliced.

3-4 fat cloves of garlic – ground.

1 inch ginger root (optional) – ground.

Around 400-500gms of Yoghurt.

Oil for cooking – I use olive oil but vegetable oil is fine. As is ghee. Whatever rocks your boat.

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Take a thick-bottomed pan, big enough for all that meat. Once the pan is hot, add a generous amount of oil. Add the shallots and cook on a high flame for a few minutes till they are soft and translucent.

Add the meat and fry till golden brown.

Add all the whole spices (if you, like my son, don’t like “seeds” in your curry, or prefer a slightly more intense flavour, then all you need to do is dry roast the whole spices, except cinnamon, and grind them in a pestle&mortar, before adding to the meat. Boom), and fry, till it all smells gorgeous (5-6 minutes).

Next, add all of your ground spices to the pan, and fry those. Add garlic and ginger. Stir well, making sure to coat all of your meat with the spices.

Now is the time to start adding your yoghurt to the pan, a little at a time, making sure its cooked through before adding more. Once all the yoghurt is in, bring the pan to a boil. Add salt. Let it cook on a high flame for a couple of minutes before turning the heat right down. Put the lid on and forget about it for about an hour and a half till the meat is terribly tender and falling off the bone, and the gravy is rich and thick and beautiful. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with lots of steamed white rice.

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