Cuisine of Kashmir
Kashmir, India. The Mughals called it “Paradise on Earth”. People today call it the Indian Switzerland. Showcased in innumerable Hindi films, Kashmir’s legendary landscapes can be instantly identified by Bollywood buffs. But besides all this, Kashmir is also famous for its aromatic and flavourful cuisine.
Traditional Kashmiri food is a blend of Iranian, Afghan and Central Asian culinary techniques. Today, the cuisine of Kashmir, India, can be classified into Kashmiri Pandit, Muslim and Rajput dishes. On the whole, however, Kashmiri food is largely non-vegetarian. Even Kashmiri Pandits have traditional non-vegetarian dishes. The staple food of the Kashmiris is rice, while the accompaniments are mostly lamb, goat’s meat and chicken dishes.
Fragrant spices such as saffron, saunf (aniseed), cloves, and cinnamon are important ingredients in Kashmiri food. Kashmiri chillies lend a rich red colour to dishes like rogan josh, whereas fried paneer enhances the rich taste of many traditional preparations. Also, Kashmiris traditionally use mustard oil in cooking and make liberal use of curd in most of their gravies to give them a creamy consistency.
They say that Pandit Nehru, one of the world’s most famous Kashmiri Pandits, was extremely fond of Kashmiri food, and that he often extended his stay here to enjoy culinary delights in the scenic environs of his home state.
So try out these traditional recipes and experience the cuisine of Kashmir for yourself.
Ingredients: 1 Kg mutton chopped into medium size pieces; ½ cup or 125 ml mustard oil; ¾ cup dahi (yogurt); 2 tablespoons red chilli powder or 2 tablespoons paste of Kashmiri chillies; 1 teaspoon turmeric powder;1 teaspoon cumin seeds; 4 to 5 cloves; 2 teaspoons dried ginger or ginger paste; 2 teaspoons saunf (aniseed) powder; 1 teaspoon sugar; ½ teaspoon hing (asafoetida); 1 teaspoon garam masala; 2 teaspoons pure ghee; salt to taste.
Method: Apply dahi to the meat pieces and set aside for 10 minutes. Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add hing, cumin seeds, and cloves. Add meat pieces along with the excess dahi, and keep turning the meat pieces with a ladle every few minutes for around 10-15 minutes till almost all the water dries up and the meat pieces start turning brown. Add 1 cup of water, dried ginger, saunf, chilli powder, turmeric powder, sugar, and salt to taste. Stir well and cook under pressure for 15 minutes. Continue cooking without pressure till meat is tender, adding a little water if necessary. Add garam masala and pure ghee and serve.
(Rajma with turnips)
Ingredients: ½ kg turnips pared and cut into medium sized pieces; 75gm rajmah (dried beans); ½ teaspoon chilli powder; 3 cloves; ½ teaspoon cumin seeds; ¼ teaspoon hing; 1 ½ teaspoon garam masala; 1 ½ tablespoon mustard oil; salt to taste.
Method: Wash and soak the beans in 1 ½ cup water overnight or for at least 10 hours. Heat oil in a pressure pan or cooker, add hing, cloves, and cumin seeds. Stir and add soaked beans along with the water in which they were soaked. Add a little more water if necessary. Cook under pressure for 10 minutes. Open the cooker. Add the washed turnip pieces, chilli powder and salt and pressure cook for 5 minutes more. Open the cooker and add garam masala powder. Stir and cook for a minute and serve.
(Also called Firun or Firin)
Ingredients: 125 gm good quality white rice; 1 litre milk; 200 to 250 gm sugar; saffron strands; silver varka; ½ teaspoon elaichi powder (optional).
Method: Soak the rice in water overnight. Drain water completely, and spread the rice on a clean cloth to dry for around 15 minutes. Grind rice coarsely in the mixer. Boil the milk, add the crushed rice and cook till mixture begins to thicken. Add sugar and elaichi powder and cook further till rice is soft and mixture acquires a custard consistency. Mix in saffron strands and pour into small clay cups or glass bowls. Decorate with silver varka and serve hot or after chilling in the fridge.
By Veena Patwardhan