WeekDay Daanival Korme Pulao

Okay, so this one’s been a long time coming, and isn’t so much a recipe as it is a weekday dinner improvisation. So what happened was that it was a Monday night, we had just come back from our weekend away in Paris, I had a box or two of DaanivalKorme in the freezer, and suddenly felt like the Universe was whispering in to my ear that magical word Kashmiris hear only once in a while — Pulao.  If you know anything about Kashmiris by now it is that we are big rice eaters. And that when we say rice, we mean rice – plain, cooked, white rice. No fancy shmancy pulaos and biryanis for us. Except on that rare occasion when the Universe whispers certain words in to our ears, you know.

Just to give you an idea of how down on our list of *things to do with rice* Pulao is – you know Wazwan, the definitive Kashmiri feast, a proper-sit-down-at-least 7 course meal, each course more refined, more spectacular than the one before – all of it served with plain white rice – in that feast of indulgence and excess Pulao is served as an accompaniment alongside an assortment of chutneys – and for a traami of 4 people there is just enough for each person to get one mouthful. Basically. And that’s it.

And Biryani, you say? I say, what?

Anyway, you get the point. It was a very unusual Monday night. I had no fresh meat to hand. But I had DaanivalKorme in the freezer. And I had rice, soaking, as usual. So here’s what I did.

(This makes 2-3 generous servings.)

Ingredients:

Around 250 gms of lamb, cooked – That’s your DaanivalKorma (Click for link to recipe, please!)

3-4 finely sliced shallots

1/2 cup of peas (Optional. Frozen or fresh. I used frozen)

2 cups of basmati (Rinsed thoroughly at least thrice. Then soaked for at least an hour. Make sure you get rid of the soaking water before cooking.)

Oil – I always use olive oil, but you could ghee, butter. (Remember vegetable oils are not as healthy as you might have thought. You are better off with butter than sunflower oil. Here.)

Spices:

Well, since your DaanivalKorme already has all the spices, all you need is:

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

2 green cardamoms

2-3 black pepper corns

1 clove

Method:

So take a deep, thick bottomed pan, and pour in a glug of oil – remember though, your Korma already has oil in it, so don’t over do it. Once the oil is hot add the cumin seeds, cardamoms, clove, and pepper corns. After about a minute or so add your sliced shallots. These you want to fry till they are completely caramelised and almost black. You’ll have to work quickly when you come to this stage because there’s a very fine line between perfectly done shallots and burnt shallots – I’m sure there’s a life lesson in there, but anyway.

Add your peas, and fry for a minute or two. In goes your frozen Korma. Add a bit of water, bring it to boil on a high flame, and then basically let it simmer till the korma has thawed and heated through. This will take about 10-15 mins.

What you do next is pour all of your korma out in to a bowl. Drain and rinse your rice, and put it in the same pan. To this add the pieces of meat – use a slotted spoon so that you don’t get any of the gravy in at this stage. Then measure the gravy out using the same cup that you used to measure the rice. I got about 2 cups of gravy. So I added those, and then 2 cups of water. You’re looking for a 1:2 ratio between rice and water here.

Mix everything up, gently – your rice has been soaking, if you aren’t gentle it will break and you wont get that lovely long grain effect. Check for salt. Then bring everything to boil on a high flame. Cook uncovered for about a minute. Then cover, simmer and cook till the liquid is all gone and the rice is tender – about 15-20 mins, but it pays to check.

That’s it, really. You’re done. You could add other vegetables – sliced carrots, beans, whatever you want – to the fried shallots, and turn this in to a real one-pot dinner, but hey rice, meat, maybe peas – the Kashmiri in me didn’t want to mess with that kind of perfection. Plus shallots ARE vegetables, aren’t they. Ahem.

And if you are really lucky, if you have been really good, then maybe you will get a bit of the *phoherr* too. What is that you ask? You really should learn Kashmiri, you guys. But anyway, phoherr is the layer of rice at the bottom of the pan, that basically gets overcooked, and in a *pulao situation*, ahem, fried to a lovely, crunchy crisp. You never serve that to your guests of course. Because, you know, it doesn’t look great, the perfectly cooked pulao, or indeed rice should have no phoherr, and because YOU WANT TO KEEP IT ALL FOR YOURSELF. Hah.

And you can see I ate mine with, ahem, tomato koftas (recipe here – what can I say, it’s your lucky day. Ahem). Because tomatoes are vegetables, or fruits, or whatever – and there is no such thing as too much meat. Clearly.  Oh and I also dotted mine with salted butter just before I served it. Because you know, ButterMakesBetter. Fact.

You’re welcome.

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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.

 

 

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.