Coorg Pork Pandi Curry – Love at first bite!!

This photo of Coorg Cuisine is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Coorg a.k.a Kodagu is a picturesque town located in the foot hills of Karnataka between Mysore and Mangalore. As the legend goes Coorgis are regarded as the descendants of the Greeks. It is believed that when Alexander the Great invaded India in 327 BC, the Greek soldiers married the local women and settled along the coastline. In 1834 the British East India Company took control of Kodagu and gave it the English name Coorg. The locals remained loyal to the British until they left India. Coorg today is one of the most sought after tourist destination in India. Its sprawling coffee and pepper plantations, spectacular waterfalls and luscious greenery are a treat for the eye.

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Pork Pandi Curry

The Kodava cuisine is quite different to rest of India. As the Kodavas were a warrior tribe they mostly ate non vegetarian because of what was available off the land.  The cuisine is quite season specific and uses only locally sourced spices, vegetable, fruits and meat. The Kodavas use spices very sparingly and the dishes are not an overdose of spices and masalas. Every dish retains the flavour of its key ingredients. Fat is used quite moderately and mostly used for tempering. Meat dishes are cooked in their own fat. One of the most common ingredient used in every Kodava house hold is the “Kachampuli” which is a dark sticky vinegar similar to balsamic. It is extracted from the ripe fruits of the Kodambuli fruit. The fruits are usually placed in baskets over large vessels to allow the juice to gently drip down over a few days as the fruit gradually becomes pulp. The extract thickens over time, this souring agent is typically used towards the end of the cooking process in many Kodava dishes (including the Pandi curry) and elevates the flavours of the meat.

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Kachampuli

Some of the famous dishes of the Kodava cuisine are Koovaleputtu which is a savoury item made from ripe jack fruit or banana, steamed in banana leaves. Kadumbuttu is rice-flour balls and are staples in every household. Bamboo shoot curry is cooked during the monsoon. ‘Akki roti’ with ‘Ellu Pajji’ (Sesame seeds chutney) is a popular breakfast among the kodavas. Cooked rice is used as an ingredient for making the Akki roti. A few more popular chutneys come from the seeds of the jack fruit which are boiled and worked into a chutney with coconut and lots of lime — a seasonal breakfast accompaniment to akki rotis, as is a delicious chutney made of kaipuli (or bitter orange which is a wild fruit).  And finally one of the most definitive dish of the Kodava cuisine the infamous “Pork Pandi Curry”. During the British Raj the Generals used to hunt the wild boar and their chefs who were the local Kodavas use to cook the Pandi curry with the wild boar. As hunting is now banned in India hence the curry is now cooked with pork and the most important ingredient being the Kachampuli vinegar. Pandi Curry is served with Kadumbuttu (rice-flour balls) and I can promise you that this dish is “Love at first bite”. I have listed the recipe below.

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Spice Market

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South Indian Spice Mix

Pork Pandi Curry 

Ingredients

1 kg Pork belly diced

1 tsp Red chilli Powder

1 tsp Turmeric Powder

Salt to taste

4 pcs of green chilli slit in half

1  1/2 tbsp Ginger paste

1 1/2 tbsp Garlic paste

5 Banana shallots finely sliced

2 tbsp Rapeseed Oil

1 tbsp Whole coriander seed

1/2 tbsp whole cumin seed

1 tbsp Whole black pepper

5 Green Cardamom

1 tsp Mustard seeds

1/4 tsp Fenugreek Seed

4 Cloves

1 inch stick Cinnamon

1 tsp Kachampuli or 1 tbsp thick tamarind pulp

10-12 fresh curry leaves (optional)

A few sprigs of Coriander Leaves for garnish.

Method 

  1. Clean and wash the diced pork belly under running cold water. Place it in a colander and drain excess water.
  2. Marinate the pork with salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, ginger and garlic paste and leave it marinating for 1 hr.
  3. Dry roast the whole spices and grind to a fine powder. (Mustard, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and fenugreek.) Keep aside.
  4. Heat oil in a cooking pot. Add the sliced shallots and cook till golden brown.
  5. Add the marinated pork and stir fry for 8-10 mins and add the ground spices and continue to stir fry for further 5 mins.
  6. Add two cups of hot water and slow cook the pork for approximately 45 mins to an hour or until the pork is tender. You could pressure cook it as well, to save time however I would recommend slow cooking the pork.
  7. Once the pork is cooked add the slit green chilli, curry leaves and kachampuli. If there is excess liquid cook off the pork on high heat at this stage, as the pork needs to be rich, dark and have a thick coating sauce.
  8. Garnish with a few sprigs of coriander leaves and serve with steam rice, chapatti, Akki roti or Kadumbuttu (rice-flour balls).

 

akki roti

Akki Roti

Photo Credit – Radha Ganapathy

For those who don’t know about the food of Coorg’s other communities, a Mappila meal is a must. The Mappilas of northern Kerala have been in Coorg for at least two generations cooking robust meals of chicken gravy and fish curry with Malabari porottas, as well as luscious biryanis.

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Fish Curry

Happy Cooking !!!

 

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The French Connection -Provence meets Pondicherry

Pondicherry (officially renamed as Puducherry) is located in the southern part of India, along the coastline of Bay of Bengal and often referred to as the “French Riviera of the East” about 160 km south of Chennai . The town served as the capital of French territories in India until 1954 when it was ceded to the Government of India. Dutch were the first to settle down before handing it over to the French. Pondicherry is synonymous with French Heritage in India and centuries of French rule has imparted this place a strong French feel in its architecture, monuments and food.

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The restaurants in Pondicherry are Indo-French. Indian restaurateurs offering authentic French food or Creole cuisine, it’s not just French cuisine that blends with a Tamilian style of cooking; there are also influences of the Portuguese, Malaysian and Mughals, among others. The food is surprisingly mild. Pondicherry cuisine is a unique and vibrant fusion of Tamil and French cuisine. French dishes in Pondicherry have been adapted to suit tastebuds used to spicier Indian food yet with minimal use of spices. The textures and flavours are far less robust. The thick gravies that we know so well are notably thinner, like the French sauces. Other highlights are the use of chicken or seafood stock in cooking and the appearance of baguettes amidst local desserts.Even the style of cooking,  is slow and elaborate. The spices are far more delicately used and do not overwhelm. The use of dried spices, fresh local catch from the sea and ample use of pungent vinegar much more than tomatoes or tamarind make this cuisine a delicious mix of flavours, and a melting pot of many cultures.

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To experience more I would suggest that you should pack your bags and visit this beautiful paradise. In the meanwhile please try my simple Seafood stew recipe thats an ode to the two great cuisines.

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Fruits de mer Pondichéry curry

 

Ingredients

1 kg Cod fillet

12 king prawns raw and headless

12 Fresh mussels scrubbed and beard removed

250 Gms squid

4 tbsp vegetable oil

8 – 10 shallots

8 garlic cloves

2 tbsp chopped ginger

1 tbsp. coriander seeds

1 tbsp. cumin seeds

1/2 tbsp Black Peppercorn

4 dried whole red chillies

1 tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp aniseed powder

Salt to taste

2 cups of coconut milk

½ cup of fresh grated coconut

12-15 curry leaves

1 tbsp vinegar

 

Method

  •     Cut the fillet of cod into 6 -8 pieces. De vien and remove the shell from the prawns keeping the tails on. Clean and wash the mussels in cold water, removing the beards and discarding any open ones. Clean the squids and cut them in rings. Set aside.
  • Finely slice the shallots and roughly chop the garlic.
  • In a cooking pot heat vegetable oil, once heated add cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorn and whole red chillies. As the seeds crackle add the chopped ginger and garlic, sauté on medium heat for 2-3 mins. Now add the sliced onions and cook unit soft and translucent. Add the grated coconut and cook for further 5 mins.
  • Add turmeric powder  and cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let the mixture cool before transferring it to a blender. Blend the mixture to a thick smooth paste by adding ½ cup of water. Add more water if desired to reach the right consistency.
  • Transfer the paste back to a clean cooking pot and add 1 cup of warm water and bring to a boil. Cook for further 7 mins. Add salt and continue cooking for 2 more mins.
  • Now add the coconut milk and bring the sauce back to boil. Stir in the aniseed powder and curry leaves. Start by adding the cod first and cooking it for 5-7 mins on medium heat. Be careful while you stir from this stage onwards as you don’t want to break the fish. Now add the prawns, mussels and squids. Carefully fold the seafood in the sauce, cover the cooking pot with a lid and simmer on medium heat for another 5-7 mins. Be careful not to over cook the seafood.
  • Once cooked add vinegar and mix. Remove from heat garnish with some fried curry leaves. Accompanied perfectly with steam rice.

 

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Ayurveda – Cooking with Five Elements.

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Thousands of years before even contemporary medicine provided scientific corroboration for the mind-body inter-connection, the profoundly wise scholars of India gave birth to Ayurveda, which persists to be one of the world’s most advanced and ardent mind-body health technique. More than a mere system of treating disease and ailment, Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge). It offers the body of wisdom of traditional medicines designed to help people stay vibrant, energetic and healthy while realizing their full human potential and capabilities.

The main fundamental rules of Ayurveda are that the mind and the body are connected in a way that are impossible to seperate, and nothing has more strength to cure and transform the body than the mind. Immunity from illness depends upon augmenting our own understanding, bringing it into balance, and then extending that balance to the body. This process isn’t as intricate as it may sound. For example, when you meditate you effortlessly enter a state of expanded awareness and inner peace that reinvigorates the mind and reinstates stability. Since the mind and body are inseparable, the body is naturally balanced through the implementation of meditation. In the state of relaxed consciousness created through meditation, your heart rate and breath slow, your body decreases the production of “stress” hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and you increase the production of neurotransmitters that enhance wellbeing, including serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.
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The age old practice of Ayurveda believes we’re made up of three different ‘body types’ that equates to our physical and personality attributes, known as doshas. These are: vata, pitta and kapha, each of which represents two of the five universal elements (a combination of either, air, fire, water, earth). Ayurvedic principles believe that each individual contains diverse proportions of each dosha, generally one or two in dominance. Our naturally predominant dosha does not denote imbalance, but rather how – or who – we are in our most healthy, balanced state. Mind-body health and harmony may be challenged when any of the doshas become aggravated or unstable. Understanding Identifying your predominant dosha and potential imbalances, which an Ayurvedic practitioner can assist with, is the secret to keeping your mind-body balance in check.

Ayurveda in its journey to transform dishes that create the perfect balance in the body has also invented cooking methods that are termed healthy today, like pan frying, roasting, steaming and blanching. The answer to why dishes in Indian cuisine are fried while others are steamed or roasted can be found in Ayurveda. This ancient science actually discovered how cooking and the time taken to cook can change the composition of a particular food and its effect on the body. Like the lycopene in tomatoes, which intensifies while cooking can be easily extracted. The same goes for onion. Tempering it with hing (asafoetida) balances the diuretic properties in onion that makes it good for cough and cold and helps in digestion. In fact, ayurvedic cooking prohibits from using fried brown onions that have lost all their nutrients and can cause acidity in a few cases. Blanching carrots robs them off their betacarotene, and so best eaten raw. In fact the all-popular steam cooking done by wrapping vegetable in a leaf is also quintessentially Ayurvedic practise.

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Kheer (Rice Pudding) , a dish that was first mentioned in the Ramayana was in fact an Ayurvedic invention. It combines the fat in milk with the starch in rice to boost energy.

The art of lactic fermentation and its use was yet another invention of Ayurveda to the culinary world. The proof of this is the high use of ghee and yogurt in Ayurveda to treat a huge array of diseases, from constipation to ulcers and even hangovers. An old scripture traced to the Gupta period states that Ghee was consumed by Khastriya soldiers before the war. It is said that after the Kalinga war, Emperor Ashoka gave up meat in favour of vegetarian food, five times a week, because it kept him agile and alert. Soups, yet another innovation from Ayurveda, too were hugely consumed back in time. In Chola dynasty back in the 3rd century BCE, it was used both as a morning beverage and for enhancing appetite. Soup was often the food given to new lactating mothers to regain strength.

Salads, mostly prepared raw with ginger julienne and lemon juice, were first consumed during the 200BCE was also credited to Ayurveda. The ‘raw food diet’ was adopted by the Buddhist from Kalinga (present day Odisha and West Bengal) who took it to other countries and continents while they travelled. Many food historians attribute the tradition of eating raw food or par boiled food in Chinese cuisine to Ayurveda and to the Chinese pilgrim Fa Hsien (c. 337–422 AD), who visited India to document the culinary and health system, notes that Indian cuisine then, especially the vegetarian side, used minimum spices and cooking time so as to impart that right flavour to the dish without compromising on the nutrients.

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According to Ayurveda, the best way to cook vegetables is to sauté them in ghee with spices. By first sautéing the spices in ghee, the volatile oils of the spices are drawn out into the ghee. These spices have therapeutic value. Turmeric, for example, has been found to be an antioxidant, and other spices such as cumin and coriander help with digestion and assimilation. The spices cook into the vegetables act as carriers, transporting nutrient from the vegetables into the bloodstream as we consume them. They also make the food taste aromatic and delicious.

Ghee is considered beneficial oil in Ayurveda. According to traditional ayurvedic texts, it is a rasayana – a Sanskrit word, with the literal meaning: Path (āyana) of essence (rasa). It is a term that in early ayurvedic medicine means the science of lengthening lifespan, good for overall well-being and longevity. Modern research shows that it is an antioxidant and contains beta- carotene. Since the milk solids have been removed, ghee does not spoil easily like vegetable oils do. If you are on a weight loss program, limit your intake of ghee or oil to judicious amounts. It is this philosophy of cooking that is still followed by those practicing Ayurveda, and makes it a healing and restorative cuisine. What also lends ayurvedic cooking its unique identity aside the cooking method used for each food and the good use of local ingredients, is the use of certain herbs and practices. Most recipes in Ayurveda call for kasturi (curcuma aromatic), a fragrant variety of turmeric root instead of ordinary turmeric (curcuma longa) because of its aroma and nutrients. It also uses a lot of flowers and berries in its dishes instead of spices like chillies to extract the required flavor without too much cooking. So assuming that Ayurvedic dishes are all bland is truly a misconception. A spice and meat jaded palate will find it high on subtlety, but that is because each dish is made to suit a person’s character, which is a mix of Vatta Pitta and Kapha.

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10 common herbs and spices used in Ayurveda.

HARIDRA:

Commonly known as turmeric, haridra has a bright yellow color and it tastes bitter and astringent. It has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Turmeric is used in the treatment of health problems like constipation, hemorrhoids, eye disorders, dysentery, parasites, hemorrhoids, high cholesterol, coughs, lupus, conjunctivitis, diabetes and many types of cancer like breast cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer.

Curcumin (Active Ingredient In Turmeric Spice) Very Effective At ...

Picture Credit: Fanatic Cook 

AMALAKI:

Also known as amla or Indian gooseberry, Amalaki is a small fruit, pale green or yellowish green in color. The taste of this fruit is very sour. It has antioxidant, diuretic, antiviral, antimicrobial, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and anti-anemia properties. For centuries, people have amla to treat a wide range of illnesses like hyperacidity, constipation, ulcers, hepatitis, colitis, high cholesterol, diabetes and anemia. It can prevent cancer and protect the liver, heart, kidney and nerves.

Gooseberries

BRAHMI:

Also known by the name of Bacopa or Indian Gotu kola, Brahmi is a small, creeping herb with numerous branches. It is bitter in taste. Research has shown that Brahmi has Antioxidant, Cardio tonic and anticancer properties. Brahmi helps restore memory, higher cognitive and neurological functions. It is highly effective against diseases like bronchitis, asthma, epilepsy, insomnia, hoarseness, arthritis, rheumatism, backache, constipation, fever, digestive problems, depression, autism and all sorts of skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, abscess and ulcerations.

File:Bacopa monnieri W IMG 1612.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

MANJISTHA:

Popularly known as Red Madder Root, Manjistha is a climber, usually growing over other bushes or trees. The roots as well as the stems are used for medicinal used. It has astringent, anti-bacterial and diuretic properties. This plant is used to treat dropsy, paralysis, jaundice, amenorrhea, menopause, visceral and hepatic obstructions, skin diseases, chronic diarrhea, intestinal debility, rheumatism, tuberculosis, intestinal ulcer gallstones and stones of the urinary tract, bleeding disorders, and much more. It also works as a blood purifier for skin diseases and to improve the complexion.

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 Picture credit: Felicity Ford 

NEEM:

Also popular by the names of Indian Lilac or margosa, Neem has been used for centuries by millions of people for its medicinal properties. It has antibacterial, antifungal, anti-ulcer, blood purifier, and antipyretic, anti parasitic, antiseptic, and antiemetic properties. Various parts of the tree are used in Ayurveda for treating a plethora of health problems. This herb is used to treat diabetes, leprosy, itching, blood disorders, intestinal worms, piles, dysentery, jaundice, vomiting, wounds, eye disease, paraplegia, female genital diseases and all kinds of fevers.

JEERA:

Jeera also known as cumin seed has been used in Indian cooking for centuries. The nutty peppery flavor of cumin seeds can make any food yummy. In Ayurveda this common spice is used to treat different health problems due to its antiseptic, carminative, diuretic, antispasmodic, anti inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-flatulent properties. It is used in the treatment of various health problems like indigestion, amnesia, diarrhea, morning sickness, nausea, acidity, flatulence, stomach pain, common cold, cough, and insomnia.

cumin
 Picture Credit: Kris A

DHANYA:

Also known by the name of coriander, dhanya has been used as a flavoring agent and medicinal plant since ancient times. In Ayurveda both the seeds and the leaves of this plant are used for treating many health problems. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-septic, antipyretic, anti-fungal, cooling and diuretic properties. It is used to treat health problems like arthritis, stomach gas, urinary tract infections, and nausea, mood swings associated with menstruation, menstrual cramping, bloating, anemia, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, diabetes, bladder infection, intense itching, conjunctivitis, and eczema.

Whole Coriander Seed
 Picture Credit: Emily Barney

DHRUT KUMARI:

Also known as Aloe vera, this herbal plant is often described as a “wonder plant”. It is a succulent and mucilaginous plant that can grow up to 40 inches in height. The thick and heavy green leaves contain the precious healing gel that provides many health benefits. Aloe vera gel has disinfectant, anti-biotic, anti-microbial, germicidal, anti-bacterial, anti-septic, anti-fungal and anti- viral properties. The gel is used in the treatment of cuts, minor burns, constipation, enlarged liver, hepatitis, bronchitis, asthma, tumors, Candida infections, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis and various types of skin infections. 

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TULSI:

Also known as Holy Basil this plant is actually considered sacred by many religious groups. It is a small plant with small leaves, and has hairy stems and very soothing fragrance. It has demulcent, expectorant, anti catarrhal, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, digestive stimulant, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti parasitic and antibacterial properties. Ayurvedic practitioners use holy basil to treat a myriad of ailments like arthritis pain, back pain, headache, influenza, common cold, asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, fever, viral hepatitis, diabetes, malaria, tuberculosis and ringworm.

Tulsi (Holy Basil)
 Picture Credit: Thangaraj Kumaravel

YASHTI MADHU:

Yasthi Madhu or licorice root has been used as a powerful medicine in both Ayurveda and various forms of modern medicine. Licorice root works as an expectorant, anti-spasmodic, anti- inflammatory, laxative, hypertensive, anti-ulcer, estrogenic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and immune stimulant. The sweet and cooling taste of licorice root is used to treat peptic ulcers, canker sores, acid reflux, cough, asthma, eczema, osteoarthritis, liver disorders, malaria, tuberculosis, food poisoning, sore throat, common cold, ulcers, nervous exhaustion, cystitis and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

licorice root
 Picture Credit: denAsuncioner

Apart from the above mentioned spices and herbs, there are many more natural ingredients that are used in Ayurveda. When choosing an herb or spice to consume for whatever health problem that you have, make sure to do thorough research and always consult your doctor if it’s okay to take any of these natural ingredients.

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Rajasthani Laal Maas

Rajasthani Cuisine has always had a special place on my menus. Dishes from this region of India have always been a regular feature when I design menus. Keeping in mind that Rajasthan is a desert region of India, and the cuisine was constantly challenged by very limited water supply, fresh fruits and vegetables. The region serves predominantly vegetarian fare which is flavoured with red chillies and cooked in Ghee (clarified butter).

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Rajput royalty were keen hunters and this is where meat became an integral part of the cuisine. Their chefs always carried sets of herbs and spices and after the Shikaar (hunting) the meat would be either marinated and roasted or cooked as a stew in a pot with vegetables and spices. As the wild meat was quiet tough and took a lot of time to cook, stewing was introduced. Meats like venison, rabbit and wild boar were cut up in dices and than cooked in a pot along with onions, ginger, garlic, spices and stewed for hours over wood fire to produce succulent and flavoursome curries. A few examples were the Junglee Maas (the meat bought from the hunt was simply cooked in pure ghee with only salt and red chillies), Laal Maas, Safed Maas, Maas ki kadhi, Handi Bootha and Murgh ka Shweta.

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One of my favorite dishes out of them all is the rustic Laal Maas. “Laal” means red and “maas” refers to meat. The dish was introduced in the early 10th century. Laal maas was a cherished dish among the Rajput royalty. Post Hunting sessions the meat was cooked in a haandi (large cooking pot) with dried red chillies, whole spices and onions. Laal maas was traditionally made with venison or wild boar. Chillies were used to mask gamey odour.  The dish is smoked with desi ghee and cloves. Made with first pressed mustard oil. The dish was refined further when it was introduced in the royal kitchens of the Rajputs. A key characteristic of this dish is imparted by the chillies used in this dish. Grown in the Mathaniya region close to Jodhpur. Mathaniya Red chillies are  famous for its reddish color. Because it is identified with this district only, this variety of chilli whole has come to known simply as the Mathaniya lal Mirch.  It is used only as dry spice. It lends pungency to a dish and also color and body.

I have penned down the recipe for Laal Maas with a bit of variation, keeping the essence of the dish intact.

Recipe

Serves 4-6 

Cooking time – 2 hrs 30 mins 

Ingredients

Lamb Shanks – 4 (I asked my butcher to cut them in half)

Marinade

Yoghurt – 225 gms

Salt to taste

Deghi Mirch Powder – 2 tbsp

Coriander Powder – 1 tbsp

Roasted Cumin Powder – 1/2 tbsp

Garlic Paste – 3 tbsp

Gravy 

15 dried mathaniya red chillies or kashmiri dried chillies.

6 green cardamom (crushed)

2 black cardamom (crushed)

4 bay leaves

2 cinnamon sticks

6 cloves

5 medium sized onions (finely sliced)

6 tbsp mustard oil (you can use any other cooking oil if mustard oil cannot be sourced)

1 tbsp desi ghee (clarified butter)

For Smoking 

1 piece of Charcoal

1 tbsp desi ghee

10 cloves

Method

1. Marinate the lamb shanks with all ingredients for the marinade for atleast 2 hrs.

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2. Add mustard oil and desi ghee to a cooking pot. Heat the oil, once heated add the whole spices except the red chillies. Cook for a minute so the flavour of the spices is released in the oil.

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3. Add the sliced onions and fry until golden brown. Add the marinated lamb and stir for 10-12 mins on high heat. Lower the heat add the dried red chillies and  2 cups of warm water.  Cover with lid and cook for an hour on low heat.

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4. After an hour remove the lid and stir the lamb. If required add another cup of warm water and cook for further 30-45 mins on low heat. Post 30-45 mins the shanks should be absolutely tender. Check for seasoning.

5. Remove the cooking pot from the stove. Place a piece of charcoal directly on the cooking hob on direct flame and with the help of a pair of tongs keep turning until the charcoal turns white, this would take 5-7 mins. Place a small stainless steel bowl directly in the centre of the curry pot. Place the charcoal carefully inside the stainless steel bowl. Add cloves on the charcoal and desi ghee. As the smoke starts to appear, immediately cover the pot with aluminium foil or kitchen foil making sure the pot is completely sealed. Let it smoke for at least 20 mins.

6. Remove the foil after 20 mins, remove the stainless steel cup and discard the charcoal. Transfer the laal maas in a serving bowl and serve with fresh chapatis or rice.

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Hope you enjoy cooking this dish.

Happy Cooking

Safed Maas (Royal Chicken Korma)

Inspired by my travel to India last year. I had the privilege of tasting a few old classics. Two interesting dishes that stood out were “cream chicken” and “safed maas” both being distant cousins of the Korma clan. IMG_5758-0 Cream Chicken is a particular dish that has been raved about throughout Northern India and I was keen to sample this delicacy. Brain child of the Late Attar Singh Chawla, he introduced this dish in the early 1960’s in a small town called Nainital. This unique chicken curry is cooked with onion, milk and cream, flavored with black peppercorns and green cardamon. A simple dish transformed to a whole different tangent. Absolutely scrumptious and mind blowing, best eaten with Garlic Naan.

Safed Maas on the other hand is an age old recipe from the Rajput cuisine of Rajasthan . Safed means white and Maas translates to meat. This particular dish was traditionally cooked with goat meat. The gravy which imparts the white element was cooked with onions, ginger paste, garlic paste, yoghurt, cashew nuts, almonds, poppy seeds, coconut, dried red chillies and whole spices. This dish was truly fit for royalty. IMG_3846 After tasting both these dishes I went back to my kitchen to produce a cross between the two using chicken as the principal meat. The results were exceptionally good. I have put down the recipe on this blog and would encourage everyone to try out this delectable dish.

Recipe Serves 4-6 people

Cooking time – 45 mins

Ingredients 2 whole chicken deskinned approx 800 gms each (cut into medium sized pieces)

2 tbsp desi ghee (clarified butter)

6 tbsp vegetable oil

4 bay leaves

6 green cardamom

4 cloves

2 black cardamom

1 inch cinnamon stick

2 mace

12 whole dried red chillies

1/2 tsp hing (asafoetida)

1 tsp white pepper powder

1 tsp crushed black pepper

1/2 tbsp roasted cumin powder

1/2 tsp green cardamom powder

1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves powder

Salt to taste 4 medium sized onions finely chopped

2 tbsp of garlic paste

2 tbsp of ginger paste

200 gms yoghurt

150 gms Cashew nuts

200 ml double cream

Method

1. Heat ghee and oil in a cooking pot. Once heated add all the whole spices except the dried red chillies and asafoetida, let the flavour of the spices release into the oil. This will take around a minute cooking on medium heat.

2. Add the chopped onions and cook until the onions are about to turn golden brown in colour. Do not let them completely change colour. Now add the ginger and garlic paste and sauté until the paste is cooked. This process will take around 5-7 minutes on high heat.

3. Add the chicken pieces to the pot and stir well. Add salt at this stage and sauté for 7-8 mins. Add all the powdered spices except dried fenugreek powder. Lower the heat to minimum and add the yoghurt followed by cashew nut paste. To make the cashew nut paste, boil the the cashew nuts for 10 mins, drain and let them cool. Process the nuts in a food blender with enough water. The paste should have a milkshake consistency.

4. Once the cashew nut paste is added mix well for for couple minutes on high heat. Add the dried whole chillies and one cup of warm water. Lower the heat and cover the pot with a lid and cook for 15 mins until the chicken is cooked.

5. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the lid and increase the heat and stir for further 5-7 mins until the liquid is evaporated and you are left with a thick gravy. The oil should have surfaced to the top of the cooking pot by now. Add the dried fenugreek powder and cream. Mix for a couple of minutes more on high heat. Check for seasoning. To make dried fenugreek leaves powder take dried fenugreek leaves and roast in a pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously. Transfer to a clean plate and crush the leaves with your palm. You will be left with a fine powder. Strain this powder through a strainer or sieve.

6. Once the chicken is ready. Remove from heat and cover the pot with a lid and let it rest for 15 mins before serving. Serve the Safed Maas with luccha parantha or roomali roti accompanied with onion salad.

I hope you enjoy cooking this recipe. Looking forward to your feedback.

Happy cooking. IMG_6122

Dhabe Ka Gosht (Highway Lamb Curry)

Inspired by the “Dhabas” of India, this dish features not only on their menu but is now cooked around the globe. A simple rustic curry is slow cooked over charcoal heat traditionally. I was keen to share this recipe. It’s simple to cook and full of flavour.

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Preparation time – 15 mins
Cooking time – 20 mins
Serves 3-4 people

Ingredients

750 gms leg of lamb diced (on the bone)
3 medium size onions
2 medium size tomatoes
2 tbsp ginger and garlic paste (2 parts of garlic and 1 part of ginger)
5 fresh green chillies
1/2 bunch coriander
Ginger Julienne for garnish
1tsp turmeric
2tsp red chilli powder mild
1tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp Garam masala
1/2 tsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek)
Salt to taste
3 pods green cardamom
1 pod black cardamom
3 bay leaves
1 stick cinnamon
6 tbsp mustard oil or vegetable oil
1 tbsp desi ghee
Juice of half a lemon.

Method

1. Wash the lamb in cold water and drain the water. Finely slice onions. Finely chop tomatoes and slit green chillies.

2. In a cooking pot heat mustard oil. Once heated add all the whole spices. Cook the spices for about a minute till all the flavour is released in the oil. Now add the sliced onions and cook until slightly golden in colour.

3. Add the lamb and sauté for further 10 mins. Add the salt. Now add ginger and garlic paste. Cook for further 10 mins.

4. Add the powdered spice except for Garam masala and kasoori methi. Cook for further 5 mins until the spices and incorporated evenly. Add 2 cups of hot water. Cover the pot with a lid and cook on low heat for 20 mins.

5. Remove the lid after 20 mins and add the chopped tomatoes and cook on high heat for 5-7 mins. Lower the heat add another cup of hot water and simmer for further 20 mins or until the meat is tender. I always add potatoes to my curry so if you prefer you can add two potatoes cut in quarters at this stage.

6. Remove the lid and mix well. Add Garam masala, kasoori methi, finely chopped coriander, lemon juice and desi ghee. Increase the heat and cook for 2-3 mins. Once done transfer into a serving bowl and garnish with ginger Julienne and chopped coriander . Serve with hot chapatis or steam rice and onion salad.

You have to cook this dish to believe how simple and easy it is to make a curry. I have attached a brief video about the recipe below. Do leave your feedback.
Happy cooking.

A Culinary Ode to Kashmir

“Agar firdous baroye zameen ast, hami asto hami asto hami ast” – If there is paradise on earth, its here, its here, its here.

A Persian couplet that describes the beauty of Kashmir valley. Its also been referred to as paradise on earth. But today through my blog I shall take you through an extraordinary culinary journey of this beautiful valley. Often underrated, Kashmir has some of the most delectable delicacies on offer. The most simplest of all cuisines, Kashmiri cuisine involves minimum use of spices and most of them are common in all dishes. The emphasis lies mainly on how every cut of meat is used and the techniques of cooking, the same would apply for the vegetarian fare.

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Let me start with a brief history of Kashmiri cuisine and the external influences that led to the evolvement of the cuisine as we see it today. Kashmir was originally known as Kashyap Mar or the holy land of the Great Rishi (Saint) Kashyap. Thats how Kashmir got its name. The valley was inhibited by Kashmiri Pundits also referred to as Saraswat Brahmins and were know to be the descendants of the saints. So the actual cuisine had been in existence over hundred years. However the change happened when the Uzbeks invaded Kashmir in the 15th century and bought the Muslim influence on the cuisine, giving it a more finesse touch by introducing meat and other ingredients. However there is a slight contradiction here as according to my research and speaking to a few culinary historians I learnt that the Kashmiri Pundits were heavy meat eaters themselves but its still not clear whether this change happened pre Uzbek invasion or post. Although the Kashmiri pundits avoid the use of onion and garlic in their food preparations even for the meat dishes. Saying that neither the Kashmiri Pundits nor the Muslims consume beef. Apart from the Uzbeks, Kashmiri Cuisine also had a notable influence from the Persians and the Afghans.

Kashmiri food until a few years ago was mainly confined to homes. One would rarely see a restaurant or an eatery of any other kind serving this cuisine in India or abroad. However there were a few places to savour these delicacies in Kashmir itself. But now there are quite a few good restaurants serving authentic Kashmiri cuisine in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. I wouldn’t be able to say the same for eateries outside of India.

Kashmiri cuisine can be divided into two categories broadly. The cuisine of the Kashmiri pundits and the cuisine of the Kashmiri Muslims. Though not much of a difference in names although there is a difference in the ingredients used. The Kashmiri Pundits typically avoid using onion, garlic and even tomatoes in their cooking. I believe that its quite subtle and light preparation with more emphasis on the actual flavours from the meat and vegetable and of course being complemented with freshly ground spices. The main spices used are Kashmiri chilli powder, ginger powder, saffron, hing (asafoetida), saunf (aniseed) and a unique garam masala called Var or Veri. This is a blend of spices and is compressed in a cake form. Its mixed with oil and then sun dried. Its supposed to be a great flavour enhancer. The medium of cooking is usually Desi ghee (clarified butter) or mustard oil and a lot of thick yoghurt is used to give body to the dishes.

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A few famous dishes are

Dum Oluv or Dum Aloo – these are potatoes that are simmered in spicy gravy flavoured with Hing.  The spice factor is due to addition of Kashmiri chillies and this dish is bright red in colour again due the chilli factor.

Gugji Rajma – This a red kidney bean stew cooked with turnips.

Monji Haak – Kohlrabi cooked in mustard oil and flavoured with veri (kashmiri spice cake) and hing.

Tschaman Kaliya – Its a paneer curry which is flavoured with saunf (aniseed), green cardamom, veri (spice cake) and surprisingly cooked with milk. a very subtle and light dish yet very delicious.

I shall cover the Non-Vegetarian fare in the Wazwan section of the blog but i need to mention a few unique chutneys that are made in Kashmir and often savoured during the Wazwan. “Muji Chatin” or Radish chutney with is made with radish and yoghurt and there is another version where its just grated and sauteed with mustard oil flavoured with red chilli powder, green chillies and walnuts. “Doon Chetin” or Walnut chutney is made with walnuts, yogurt, dried mint, green chillies, red chilli powder and fresh coriander. “Gand chetin” or Onion chutney is made with sliced onions which are soaked in vinegar and flavoured with dried mint leaves and red chilli powder.

Moving on to the epitome of the Kashmiri cuisine – Wazwan which is a spectacular banquet served and i can’t find any other cuisine I could compare it to. Lavish and ultimate is all could say . Wazwan was influenced mainly by the Kashmiri Muslims. As i said before the difference between the Pundits and Muslims cuisine was that the Pundits never used onions and garlic while the Muslims used garlic and only wild onions also known as “Pranth” in their cooking.

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Wazwan is a banquet that serves 36 courses. The dishes are cooked by “Vasta Waza” or the head chef and “wazas” or the assistant chefs. Wazwan has a very high significance culturally among the Kashmiri Muslims and is treated with a lot of respect. A typical Wazwan has people sitting in groups of 4 and the meals are served on a “Trami” which is a large engraved copper plate and the meals are shared. The meal traditionally starts with washing hands. This is done by passing jugs (tash-t-nari)  filled with water among the guests. The trami is then filled with a heap of rice and the rest of the courses follow. I wont be able to list all the 36 dishes but will try to cover most of them.

The meal usually start with kabab which is made from lamb or goat mince and and skewered over charcoal. I believe this the only form of starter that served through the entire meal apart from kaanti kebab.

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Kaanti Kabab – made with the fillet of goat or sheep marinated with yogurt, spices and garlic and is fried rather than being grilled.

Lahabi Kabab – these flattened kababs which are made from a blended mince of the kabab that are served as the first course and the mince of the rista and goshtaba- cooked in a yoghurt gravy.

Rista – these are meatballs cooked in a red gravy. The red colour in kashmiri cuisine is usually derived from either the Kashmiri chillies or “cockscomb flower” also known as “ratanjot”. The meat is derived from either sheep or goat and then pounded very carefully on a wooden block. The perfect meatballs are achieved through maintaining the right temperature throughout the pounding process and laced with kidney fat.

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Palak Rista or Waza Palak – This dish is same as the above with the addition of Spinach.

Goshtaba – the same meatballs as rista are used in this recipe however the gravy has a yoghurt base and its very mildly spiced as compared to rista. Even the dumplings are slightly flattened while making the rista as compared to goshtaba.

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Yahni – this dish is made with sheep or goat shanks and cooked in a yogurt based gravy.

Methi Maaz – this dish is cooked with the off cuts and trimmings of the animal and flavoured with methi or fenugreek leaves.

Tabak Maaz – this dish is prepared using sheep or goat ribs which is cooked in milk along with spices and aromatics and then covered in a yogurt based batter and cooked again on dum by sealing the pot with dough and placed on charcoal for about an hour. Another similar dish is called “Kabargah” wherein the entire process is the same but instead of cooking it on dum its flash fried before serving.

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Dhaniwal Korma – Goat or sheep curry thats cooked with loads of fresh coriander and yoghurt.

Marchwangan Korma – Goat or sheep korma cooked with fiery hot Kashmiri chillies and spices.

Aab Gosht – Sheep or Goat ribs cooked in a milk based gravy. This dish clearly brings out the Persian influence onthe cuisine.

Doudha ras – this is meat cooked in a sweet milk gravy.

Rogan Josh – A so called signature dish of the Kashmiri Cuisine, this dish has introduced people to Kashmir. Persian in influence this dish was introduced by the Mughals. Prepared in clarified butter, without the addition of onions, garlic or tomatoes by the Kashmiri Pundits while the Kashmiri Muslims add wild onions. One of the most popular dishes on every Indian restaurant menu all over the world. How authentic? is the question to ask .

Waza Kokur – Twice cooked whole chicken marinated and deep fried then cooked again in a spicy gravy that evenly coats the chicken.

Nadir Yahni – The vegetarian fare of the Wazwan. Lotus stem roots cooked in yoghurt gravy with spices. Another version of this is served in the Wazwan with the addition of spinach called Nadir palak.

Haak – Kashmiri greens simply cooked in mustard oil and kashmiri chillies.

I have not mentioned individual spices in the above dishes as Kashmiri cuisine uses very few spices and they are used across the board for all the above dishes with the addition and subtraction of a few.

Not to mention Kashmiris do consume seafood in their diet as well. Trout I believe is the only form of seafood consumed. Trout is farmed in Pahalgam and interestingly was introduced by Frank J Mitchel from Scotland in the early 1900.

Phirni – Kashmiris don’t boast of desserts in their cuisine however this humble dessert forms a part of the Wazwan, ground rice cooked in milk until thick custard consistency and garnished with edible silver leaf and assorted chopped nuts.

Tea is a very important beverage in the Kashmiri culture. Served during all important occasions and festivals.  Kawah is served during marriages, its a green tea made with saffron, spices and almonds. Noon chai is also another quite popular salted kashmiri tea. You can read more about Kashmiri teas on my previous blog on “Nashta” the great Indian Breakfast.

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I have always felt that Kashmiri cuisine is quite unique in its approach as compared to it counterpart cuisines. Subtle yet leaves a punch on your tongue. With the minimum use of ingredients I feel the emphasis is more on how every part of the animal is used to give different textures to the Wazwan.

I leave you with this “authentic” recipe of Rogan Josh. Do give it a try and you could compare it to restaurant version for yourselves.

Recipe Rogan Josh

1 kg Lamb or Goat (Use the leg meat, ask your butcher to cut it in dices with the bone.)

200 gms thick yoghurt.

150 ml Ghee or clarified butter

12-15 whole kashmiri red chillies

5 green cardamom

4 cloves

3 black cardamom

1 tsp fennel powder

1/2 tsp ginger powder

couple of pinch of hing (asafoetida)

salt to taste

Method

1. Boil the red chillies for 10-15 mins. Drain and make a smooth paste. Add a little water if required.

2. Wash the meat and drain the excess water.

3. Heat ghee in a pot, add the hing, and the whole spices. Stir for a few minutes and add the meat. Stir on a high heat till the meat pieces are brown. Add the powdered spices, along with salt, yoghurt and the chilli paste. Stir fry for another 15 mins and add 2 cups of hot water. cover with lid and cook on low heat for 45 mins -1hr or until the meat is completely tender.

4 . Serve hot with parathas or rice.

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Photo credits – maverickbird http://wp.me/p3hiyv-19G