Tchaman Kaliya (Paneer in a milky broth)

Paneer kalia, radish greens, andhra daal

Paneer is de rigueur for a Kashmiri vegetarian spread.  Good high-fat milk is hard to come by in mountainous Kashmir since there are no water buffaloes; low fat cow milk is what you get.  Despite this, dahi (yoghurt) and paneer are plentiful and a regular part of the diet.  On days fasting is prescribed, all Kashmiri Pandits practice vegetarianism; even those who may not be fasting.  Observing periodic dietary restrictions are to be found in most faiths and belief systems, be it Ramzan for Muslims, or Lent for Christians. Us Hindus seem rather fond of fasting and have created an immense variety of them.  To add to the fun, each fast comes with its own rules: what is kosher, what is not, or the length of the fasting period (half a day to up to an entire month).  You may also chose the frequency of fasting: weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or yearly.  If you like to walk your own path, well, you could even customise your fasting routine.

Some food preparations are so intricately tied with f(e)asting that it is hard to imagine anyone would cook them on ‘normal’ days!  Breaking of a fast with specific foods also brings a special significance to those foods and further intensifies the link between our memories of events and places with the food we eat.

Continue reading “Tchaman Kaliya (Paneer in a milky broth)”

Potato chips anyone?

potato chips

Winter seemed almost over.  The sun was out from behind the fog and days were back to being like they are in Delhi – bright and shiny.  There were signs of spring and I was determined to turn over a new leaf.

You have to make the most of spring in my neck of the woods; you blink and you might have missed an entire season.  Not so fast.  We are back to gloomy overcast days; with added rain, for good measure.  Which is all fine; who needs summer along before spring has had a chance.  Just that I decided to put the sunshine to good use and make a batch of home-style potato chips which are an essential ingredient in my chiwda.  Long story short – Lord Indra got a whiff, took a peek, decided to stay.  I thought I would get around him and make sure I had chips that stayed white as if they had received their two days in the bright sun.  Yup, the sun does different things for different people – some it bleaches, others it tans.  Determined to save my chips from browning I heated the oven, turned it down all the way to barely warm, set my cellphone alarm for 10 minutes, and went up to the office with my cup of tea. One hour later…
…toast!

potato chips
Yes, these are from last year’s batch! 🙂

Well anyway, it was good weather for potato soup, which is what we ate for dinner last night. Continue reading “Potato chips anyone?”

Cranberry Beans

cranberry beans

It’s nippy tonight – it has snowed in the mountains and it is raining in Delhi.  Some beans and rice is just what I would like…

I was lucky to get a little of the stash of fresh cranberry beans that a cousin brought over from a visit to the valley and shared with my mom who, indulgently, shared it further with me.  I had never seen these beans fresh before.  They are called thool razma in Kashmiri. Much rounder than the regular kidney beans, they do indeed, resemble tiny spotted eggs!  I had never cooked with them or even eaten fresh ones before so I asked my mom for some general directions.  She suggested I cook them with potatoes using the usual Kashmiri combination of fennel and dried ginger powder. Continue reading “Cranberry Beans”

Birthdays and other days

taher

Kashmiri Pandits, just like Bengali Brahmins, are known for their love of mutton and fish.  Just the sight of a goat can make my Bengali professor salivate.  Likewise, a Kashmiri is within her rights to discount a meal that did not include meat.

Food is perhaps amongst the most gossiped topics in the Kashmiri community.  The usual greetings and hugging are always followed by queries regarding the last meal.  How do you do?  What did you have for lunch?  The aunt will barely keep herself from clucking if you omit to mention some meat dish, real or imaginary, in your previous repast.  And you had better include the leftover morsel from yesterday’s meal while you are recounting the feast which is obviously your norm.  You can see the mental balancing underway as the relative from one side (paternal or maternal) weighs the meal in question (enjoyed at the other side) and determines who the winner would be after they are done serving you next. I have been accosted on the street – and after the pleasantries were done with –  “Ah, on your way from your maasi’s eh? So, what did you eat?!”  Now I look back at it with nostalgia; it did make our once-upon-a-time annual summer visits to Srinagar all the more colourful.

Yet, this blog speaks little of my nonvegetarian heritage.

Continue reading “Birthdays and other days”