mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

Posts Tagged ‘Kashmiri cuisine’

Kohlrabi Pickle

In From the Garden, Kashmiri, on the side, Pickles on February 17, 2018 at 8:38 pm

I can’t have enough pickles it seems; the previous post too was on pickling. Pickling is cool (again) and you are likely to see a lot of talk about them. Lacto-fermentation is trending. Me, I’ve always loved a good pickle and the process of making a perishable vegetable last longer. Pickles are a great way to use the abundance from your garden where the entire crop of any one kind tends to ripen all at the same time.

Monjji anchaar, (L) Feb 2016, (R) 2018. Oh, how the monkeys have ruined my once-lush palms!

There is so much nostalgia associated with many seasonal pickles that the mere act of making one brings all those childhood memories flooding back. Kohlrabi, monjji to Kashmiris, is much more than just any vegetable to them. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is a reminder of our homeland, our homes with the kitchen gardens, our community, our market streets, especially now when we have all been removed from it. As for all people who have known exile, the longing for things that represent that homeland only gets deeper. Monjji anchar (kohlrabi pickle) might once have been that pickle found in every kitchen cupboard in Kashmir, but today, for many of us, it is a lot more.

As in desserts, the Kashmiri Pandit cuisine is pretty limited in its repertoire of pickles. We have just one recipe for pickling, only the vegetables get swapped. You may use kohlrabi or cauliflower. If you are feeling very rebellious you could go all out and use onions. Read the rest of this entry »


Tchoek Vangun hachi – cooking with sun dried brinjals

In Kashmiri, Under 30 min!, Vegetables, Vegetarian on April 2, 2015 at 3:59 pm
tchoak wangun 05

Tchoek-wangun, Kashmiri khatte baingan, cooked with sun-dried eggplant

Drying is one of the oldest and easiest way to preserve food.  In a country with plentiful sun it is only natural that we should have a tradition of using the sun’s energy to process food. You will find wadi varieties from all over the country. Bengalis put their bodi into many dishes including shukto, Southen India gives us vadams and appalams in addition to celebrating dried vegetables in, the most delicious of all ‘curries’, the vatahkuzhanmbu. In Uttarakhand mountain cucumbers are combined with urad-dal to make wadi. Punjab’s famous wadis which come in various flavours (with plums, with tomatoes, and regular – all spiced up with generous amounts of black pepper) can be combined with the blandest of vegetables to lift them out of the ordinary. From the state of UP we have mangodi, small wadis made with mung dal. Kashmiris make sun-dried spice-cakes and call them veri. Pickles that have been cooked in the sun for a while are found all over the country.

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True-blue Kashmiri Dum Olu

In Kashmiri, Potatoes, Vegetarian on October 22, 2014 at 11:34 am
dum olu and dal

dum olu and dal

I am breaking the journey through the Kashmir Himalayas to share with you a family favourite from the region.  ‘Kashmiri’ dum aloo appears on the menu of Indian restaurants more often than it ought to.  I don’t imply that it is not worth offering, but that what is offered is not the real McCoy, but an outright imposter.  The only thing they have in common is the main ingredient, my favourite vegetable, the potato.  You may well say, “What’s the big deal?” If Saveur (their tagline – Savor a World of Authentic Cuisine!) can invent their inauthentic versions why not Indian restaurants!  Of course, one is free to try restaurant dum aloo, even like it, but there is nothing Kashmiri about it.  All I want is for you, my readers, to make an informed choice.

I used to cook it only occasionally as it involves a bit of frying and uses more fat than my average everyday cooking.  That meant cooking a larger batch since “who knows when I will cook it again,” which, consequently, involved consuming even larger quantities of oil.  I decided to change that.  Now I cook it at least once a month, enough just for two meals.  I get my treat and there is no need to binge.

Dum Olu

Dum Olu

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Ver – the opposite of Kheer

In Kashmiri, Rice, Traditions and Customs on December 17, 2008 at 11:35 pm

veri masala

As I said earlier, there is much Kashmiris make with rice. Besides being the staple on our plate it is also our preferred ingredient when it comes to celebrations of all kinds. All auspicious occasions begin with rice in some avatar or the other. Barring one sweet made with dry fruits all Kashmiri desserts have rice as the main ingredient. [Therein lies a lesson for all of us to look at statistics with a sharp eye – Kashmiri cuisine has 3.5 desserts in all!]

Kheer is the offering of choice for most Goddesses.  When a sweet offering will not fit the bill, taher is cooked to mark the happy occasion. Similarly, cooking and eating ver marks the beginning of important celebrations such as weddings and yagnopavit ceremonies.

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Al Yakhni (Bottle Gourd in a Yoghurt Sauce)

In Al Yakhni, Kashmiri, Low Fat, Under 30 min!, Vegetables, Vegetarian on August 23, 2006 at 12:08 am

Preparing lauki for Al Yakhni

Agar firdaus bar ru-e zamin ast
Hami ast o-hami ast o-hami ast…If there is Paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this…goes this famous Persian couplet

…describing Kashmir, not the humble ghia (doodhi, bottle gourd) of course, or al (pronounced ‘ul’ as in ultra) in Kashmiri.

Let’s go back to Kashmir for a bit, away from the hot sultry environs of stuffy (at the moment) Delhi. While half the country is drowning in floods, there has been hardly any rain here in Delhi. The clouds come raising our hopes and then the winds just blow them away.

And the bottle gourd is the kind of mellow vegetable that sits well in this weather. Nature knows how to balance cravings with abundance. There is plenty of good gourd in the market. Cooked in a light sauce, not greasy, not spicy. Perfect with steamed rice. And I have been craving rice.

The other day my cousin’s wife was shocked that we, in this house, cook roti for both meals. Actually, I think she felt a little sorry for me…The only roti Kashmiris traditionally had was the breads from the friendly neighbourhood naanwai (baker). It is not that rice is not important in Maharashtrian cuisine. It is. In fact, in most homes, it is served as the first (with dal) and last course (with dahi) at all meals. But, as in my family here, roti is still the main course.

Kashmiri cuisine makes room for roti and breads only at breakfast and afternoon tea. And these are never made in the house. Rice is the main staple as it is in Southern India where all the dosas and idlis, so popular even in the North, are served only as tiffin, as ‘minor’ meals.

So, with all the roti around me at all meal-times, there are times when I need to get back in touch with my Kashmiri side. There is a deep satiation that can only be brought about by a meal of rice and curry. With nothing coming between you and your rice – mixing in bits of chunky vegetables or meat into the rice using your fingers and taking it from hand to mouth in a loving graceful move. It is an almost complete sensual involvement – the visual, the smell, the taste, and the touch.

The use of saunf (fennel) as an integral spice in Kashmiri cooking separates it completely from the other cuisines of North India. In fact, coriander, the most common of Indian spices, is not much used. And the coriander leaf (cilantro), never. I think the fennel is a Persian legacy, as are all the breads from the naanwai. The Mughals were in love with Kashmir as is obvious from the Persian couplet quoted at the beginning, and must have cooked up quite a Wazwan with their spices which, over time, got assimilated into the local cuisine.

Yakhni is the common name for all yoghurt based sauces. I don’t use the word ‘curry’ here because there is no such term in Kashmiri cuisine. This recipe for the bottle gourd is subtly spiced with fennel and dry ginger powder. It is mildly spicy without much heat since cayenne is not used (surprise, surprise). I do, however, like to add some green chillies (surprise, surprise!) which impart another degree of subtleness to the dish. Other vegetables that may be prepared in a similar way are the lotus stem (kamal kakdi – Hindi, nadur – Kashmiri) and karela (bitter gourd). The meat based yakni is different and uses additional spices.

al yakhni with rice
Al Yakhni (Bottle Gourd in a Yoghurt Sauce)

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