Kashmiri Fish with Vegetables – Gaade (with step by step pictures)

So, honestly, I have often wondered why Kashmiris don’t eat more fish. The place is full of fresh water lakes and rivers. Fresh water fish, everywhere. And given conclusive proof of what we can do with just one ingredient – umm, hello Wazwan? – I have always thought it strange that there is really only one traditional way to cook fish. Ah, but like my dad would say, why mess with perfection, why try and reinvent the wheel, etc..

Kashmiris cook lamb/ sheep pretty much everyday, yes? And in a million ways – with shallots, yoghurt, vegetables, lentils. So it’s not even a conversation. Everyday there will be *syun* with which to eat the *batte*. Batte – our word for rice, is also our word for lunch/ dinner/ a meal. And Syun – our word for what you eat the batte with – almost always some sort of lamb/ sheep dish. It is a rare day indeed when you ask someone that universal eternal question : *syun kyah chhuv ronmutt?* (which roughly translates to what have you cooked today?), and they say *gaade*! But if they do, uff, it’s your lucky day.

Kashmiri fish curry – for want of a better word – is like nothing you’ve ever eaten before. We only cook fish in the autumn/ winter/ early spring months. No one eats fish in the summers. If the name of the month doesn’t have an R in it, you don’t eat fish in it. It’s the law. What?

And Kashmiri fisherwomen really do deserve a post all to themselves. The sassiest, cheekiest, most beautiful women you’ll ever see. In their pherans, the daejj/ scarf hanging loosely on their heads, and that big basket full of fresh fish balanced expertly on a ring made of hay, (is it?), which I always thought was a crown. They do the rounds early morning, just after having caught the freshest fish from your nearest lake/ river.

*Gaade haa chho*.

And when you call them in, they’ll scale, gut and clean your fish right in front of your eyes.

But the thing is of course that I live in London. And the fish you get here in the supermarkets – well you can pick stuff that’s scaled, gutted even filleted. So easy. But where’re the fun in that, eh.

Anyway, I digress. This post is obviously about to make your day 100% better. Because this post will show you how make the most delicious fish. Ever.

Shall we?

Ingredients:

1 Kilo fish (any firm fleshed fish will do. In Kashmir it’s usually trout. I only had sea bass fillets to hand, so that’s what I used) – scaled, gutted, cleaned and cut into generous chunks

Vegetables

I have heard of this fish dish being cooked with 7 different vegetables in some parts of Kashmir. You can use one, some, or all of course. Here’s what I used:

3-4 White Radishes (mooli in Urdu/Hindi, mujje in Kashmiri) – scraped, washed and chopped in to 1/2 inch thick rounds. I used whatever leaves these had on as well.

3-4 Kohlrabis, and their greens (Kaddam in Urdu/Hindi, monjje in Kashmiri) – peeled, washed, chopped in to generous chunks

You could also use –

2-3 Lotus stems (Nadrus) – washed thoroughly, cut in to chunks

Spring greens (Haakh) – washed, roughly torn.

6-7 fat cloves of Garlic – crushed

3-4 Shallots – chopped

Whole Spices

4 Black Cardamom pods

1 inch Cassia stick

1-2 teaspoons of cumin seeds

1 teaspoons of fennel seeds

2-3 cloves

Ground Spices

1-2 teaspoons of turmeric powder

1-2 teaspoons of Kashmiri red chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder

Magic ingredient –

Kashmiri spice paste – this is called vaerr, and will take this, and every other dish you ever make, up several notches.

Salt

Oil

Method:

First of all what you need to do is take a thick bottomed pan – since we are essentially deep frying here, a kadhai/ wok will work best. Pour in a generous amount of oil, and make sure it is super hot, before adding your fish to the pan. Now remember we are deep frying the fish, in batches if necessary – don’t put everything is there all at once. Just don’t. Also be aware that this will splutter. A lot. So a splatter guard, or a plain old lid is critical. What you are trying to do is deep fry the fish till the pieces are a deep golden-reddish-brown, and the flesh is pretty firm. Using a slotted spoon take the fish out.

Now in to this same pan, add your sliced radish slices, and  fry them, not for too long, on both sides till they are slightly golden in colour. Again batch fry these, a few at a time, depending on how big your pan is. Use a slotted spoon to take them out and put them aside.

Now do the same with your kohlrabi chunks. Once these are sort of golden, take them out too.

Basically repeat this step with any and all of the veggies you are using. At the very end put the greens in and sizzle fry them for a few minutes.

At this stage you now have a variety of fried goodies looking lovingly at you. Sigh.

Next, you need to make the spice tempering. For this, look at the remaining oil in the pan – get rid of the excess, leaving just enough behind to make your masala tempering (you want the equivalent of about 5-7 tablespoons of oil).

In to this add your shallots. Fry till they’re soft and translucent. Add all your whole spices and fry for another couple of minutes till everything is nice and fragrant. Then add your crushed garlic, and fry for another minute or 3. Finally add all your ground spices and fry those for a bit. Turn the heat off.

If you have managed to find some vaerr and are feeling particularly brave then break a chunk off, put it in a bowl and pour a little boiling water on it. Use a spoon/ fork to sort of dissolve the vaerr in to a thin paste.

Now comes the funest part! Take a deep thick bottomed pan. And start of by arranging your fried radish slices all over the bottom. Top this off with a layer of fried fish. Then spoon some of the masala tempering all over. Then next layer – of the kohlrabi. Then the fish again. Then the spices. And so on and so forth till you’ve used all your goodies up. Except for the greens. The greens go right on top. Then pour the last of your masala. And then pour your vaerr paste all over.

Now all you need to do is add a bit of water. Say a cup or so, and put your pan on a high flame to bring everything to a boil. Oh and add salt to taste. At this stage cover and simmer, on as low a flame as you can, and let it cook for at least an hour. Huge deghs of fish would apparently be cooked overnight. But we’ll settle for an hour, eh.

That’s it you’re done. Serve with plenty of fluffy white rice. But remember, ideally you’ve got to let it cool down to room temperature before eating it. Oh and it ALWAYS tastes better the next day.

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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 our 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 – you’re rice has been soaking, if you arent 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.

NunChai – Kashmiri Green Tea

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So you know if you are a non-Kashmiri,  in Kashmir, and you say, ah I’d love a cup of tea – chances are you’ll end up with this beautiful pinky-mauve brew. Take a sip, and if you have never had it before, you’ll probably be taken aback when you realise that this beautiful pink tea has salt, not sugar in it. And then the confusion on your face will give you away, and your Kashmiri host will tut tut and say, you should’ve said you want Lipton tea! *Oh but I don’t mind what brand it is, as long as it’s, you know, TEA*, you might want to say, but don’t. Seriously.

Quick tea-history lesson. Turns out chai was not a very popular beverage in the Indian subcontinent right up till the early twentieth century. People were more in to their lassi (yoghurt, water, salt or sugar, all churned together) and chhaach (butter milk), and doodh (milk). Place is so hot, makes sense for people to have preferred cold hydrating drinks to hot caffeinated stuff. Turns out it was the British who popularised tea drinking in India.

The himalayan mountain settlements were always another story though. Wherever you go along the Northern Himalayas you will find people have been drinking one or another version of this salt tea for ages.

In Kashmir, chai is essentially this beautiful salty pink tea. Anything else is called *Lipton chai* because Lipton was the first brand of tea that came along selling their chai to our towns and villages. Classic first mover advantage.

So anyway – I have over the years received so many messages asking for a foolproof nun-chai recipe that I recently did a poll on my Instagram account on whether I should or shouldn’t. And 5% of you, who voted *NO*, go away, this is not for you. Hah.

It’s a bit of an art, making the perfect cup of nunchai – the colour, the consistency, the flavour. And to be honest I have only figured it out quite recently. As in I could always make nunchai, but it was a bit hit and miss – great some days, not so much on others. But I think I’ve finally cracked it. *Kottar rathh hish* – every single time (for those of you who don’t understand Kashmiri, we use some interesting metaphors – always remind me of the metaphysical poets – this here means *just like pigeon-blood*. Don’t ask me how we know what that’s even supposed to look like, but hey John Donne would’ve been proud.)

This recipe will make around 3-4 mugs full.

Shall we?

Ingredients:

4-5 heaped teaspoons of Kashmiri chai – this is essentially a green tea.

4-5 pinches of soda bicarbonate – this is your magic ingredient here. Too little and your tea will be a pale pasty failure. Too much and it’ll be too bitter. So you have to get this just right. (Say hello to Goldilocks, will you.)

Salt – to taste, obviously.

1-2 cups milk – I always use full fat organic. The creamier the milk the richer, lovelier your nunchai will be. In Kashmir we often add a spoonful of malai (which is essentially the layer of fat that settles on top when you boil and then cool milk) to our steaming mugs of nunchai. Pure bliss. Sigh.

Water

Method:

There are two ways we can do this –

Traditionally this tea is brewed for a very very long time, to get the colour, flavour, etc just right – so what you do is you put your tea leaves and soda bicarb into a saucepan, then add a whole lot of water to begin with and bring it to boil on a high heat, and reduce the heat a bit, and then – let it boil, let it boil, let it boil (what? It *is* nearly Christmas!) till the water’s all but gone, and then you add another lot of water, and so and so forth till you get the brew you’re looking for. This method is fab, but does take forever.

The second method is quicker, but we start in exactly the same way – take your tea leaves and soda bicarb, and put them into a saucepan. But instead of adding a whole lot of water, pour just enough water to cover all the tea leaves, and then just a bit more, but not too much. Bring to boil on a high heat. And keep boiling it till the water’s all but gone. The add another little bit of water, boil it all down. After about 15-20 mins of doing this, you should be able to see a deep purple colour in your pan. You are basically done with the *tyotth* – which is what we call the base to which we then add water, milk and salt to turn it into nunchai. But the longer you boil it for, after this point, adding more water, as and when required, the deeper, more intense your nunchai flavour will be. So if you have time I would strongly recommend not rushing this step too much.

Once you are happy with the colour, consistency of your brew, boil it down, till very little water is left. To this then add about 2-3 cups of water, 1-2 cups of milk, and salt. Have a little taste to see if it needs more milk, more salt – and that is it, basically. Bring it all back to boil. Let it boil for a minute or two to make sure the salt is all mixed up, and you’re good to go.

Some will say, ah be sure to strain the tea leaves out when your pour your nunchai into your dainty little cups. I say, hah.

And if you are somewhere were they sell Kashmiri breads, I do not like you, don’t tell me. If like me you are far far away from a kandur – well then, homemade puffs are you best friend!

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.


 

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.)

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.

Best Ever Gingerbread Cake

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

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

Here we go then:

Ingredients:

250g of butter (softened)

250g of dark muscovado sugar

2 (generous) tablespoons of black treacle

375g of plain flour

5 teaspoons of ground ginger

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

2 eggs, beaten

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

300ml of whole milk

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awesome stuff, no?