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.

 

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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