Flavours of Kashmir

GITA HARI indulges in sumptuous Kashimiri delicacies at Peshwa Pavilion.

Food varies in our country to the extent of different cuisines existing alongside in a region with the same location and climate. When you talk of cuisine from Kashmir valley, two specialties come to mind. One is Wazwan and the other more traditional Kashmiri Pandit cuisine and the major difference between the two is the former one is a Muslim feast whereas though generally pundits are vegetarians, Kashmiri Pandits are Hindus who eat meat. All-day dining Peshwa Pavilion of ITC Maratha in Sahar is teeming with guests agog to taste specialty Chef Suman Kaul’s unique items served aesthetically in silver-plated thalis and to sip on Kahwa – Kashmir’s green tea beverage.

“Another big difference viewed is that Kashmiri Pandit cuisine is devoid of onion or garlic but resorts to the natural flavours of spices grown in the valley. All our dishes are free from artificial colouring or essences,” enlightens the smiling Chef Suman Kaul who has come down from ITC Kakatiya, Hyderabad, to introduce some heavy duty preparations of the cool and gorgeous valley from the north.

Kashmiri cuisine has always been known for its flavours derived from spices inherent to the stunning vale. For instance, cardamom, saffron, bay leaves, cloves with plenty of dry fruits make for a rich and aromatic meal. The whole experience is enhanced by the open-ceiling ambiance of the place in an atrium. Dim lighting and palm tree punctuations with buffet station at the extreme end makes for a luxurious setting for a dinner date.

Starting with appetizers of Chamman and Apple Pakorey (the batter covering them were outstandingly thin and crisp) accompanied by Ddhoone Pudhene Chateni, in other words, walnut mint chutney was simply scrumptious. The boneless chicken cubes marinated in mild Kashmiri spices and roasted, called Kokur Kanti were succulent while Kabargah of lamb ribs simmered in hung curd and saffron emanated a delicious flavour. The chutney added its own beat to the symphony.

For the mains, six indigenous items were presented on a thali with a matki of curd and a bowlful of fragrant rice. They all seemed to contain gravy and while I wondered how they could be made without onion paste, the affable Chef Suman clarified, “yoghurt or hung curd is used instead alongwith native spices.”

On examining the subzis I found they contained Alae Yakheni – bottle gourd in yogurt gravy tasted good, Roghini Chaman – paneer doused in an orange-hued, creamysauce was akin to paneer makhani but with a distinct taste; Mutter Palak was a dry preparation of tender spinach with green peas and much to my surprise I loved Tsoch Wangun which brought out brinjal’s delicate insides in tangy tamarind pulp. Kashmiri Roganjosh, Roowagan Kokur (chicken preparation in tomato gravy) and Kasher Gaad (fish cooked in Kashmiri spices) are some of the main course non-vegetairan dishes.

One vegetable I would otherwise never have but I especially enjoyed here was Monje Haak made of collard-green known popularly as knol khol in its own leaves and in a clear syrup. The crunch of knoll khol provided a sharp contrast to the soft and delicate greens in the dish. The hands-down winner is, of course, Kasher Madhur Pulao consisting of basmati rice mixed in dry fruits simmered in saffron and sugar. Sugar cravings are taken care of by Kesari Rice Kheer and Shufta which has slivers of dry fruits simmered in honey.

Any apprehensions of Kashmiri food for the vegetarian will melt away after having this wonderful, palate-pleasing and nutritious meal. With weather being inclement in Kashmir, tea drinking is a part of Kashmiri Pandit culture. With our meal we were served Kahwa – green tea with almonds and saffron to a hint of cardamom. Right from tickling our olfactory nerves with subtle whiff of ‘gul poush vadie’ to tantalizing our taste buds with spices that was a sumptuous meal served by cheerful Chef Suman at Peshwa Pavilion! She shares with us some of her popular recipes.

Kashmir Dum Aloo

INGREDIENTS:

l ½ kg Potato (medium size)

l 1 tbsp Black Pepper coarsely ground

l 3-4 nos Cardamom Green

l 2 nos Cardamom Big Black

l 1 tbsp Coriander Powder

l 1 tsp Cumin seeds

l 4-5 nos Cloves

l 2 nos Cinnamon

l 1 tbsp Pure Ghee

l 1 tbsp Red Chilli Powder

l ½ tbsp Ginger Powder Dry

l 4 tbsp Mustard Oil

l 2-3 Bay Leaves

l 1 tbsp Saunf Powder

l Salt to taste

Flavours of Kashmir

Method:

Boil the potatoes, peel and poke them with toothpick. Heat Mustard Oil in a deep cooking pan and fry the potatoes until golden brown In another pan heat 4 tablespoon of mustard oil add pepper, green and black cardamom, Cumin seed, cloves, cinnamons and bay leaves. When the cumin seeds start popping add red chilli powder and 1/2 cup of water and stir. After 4-5 seconds, add dry ginger powder, saunf, coriander powder and stir for 2 minutes. Add Ghee and keep stirring gently, when the surface of the gravy becomes oily, add about 750 ml of water. When the water starts boiling, add the fried potatoes and cover with a lid. Cook for another 20 Minutes on a low flame till the gravy is reduced to 1/4, add some coriander leaves and serve hot.

Kokur Yakheni

INGREDIENTS:

l 500 gm Chicken

l 200 gm Thick curd

l ½ tsp Black peppercorn

l 6 nos Green cardamom

l 2 nos Black cardamom

l 5 nos Cloves

l ½ tsp Shahi jeera

l 1 tbsp Mustard oil

l ½ tsp Asafetida

l 1 tbsp Fennel powder

l ½ tsp Dry ginger powder

l 1 tsp Garam masala

l Salt to taste

l 1 bunch Coriander leaves

Method:

In a handi heat mustard oil, asafetida, black peppercorn, green cardamom, black cardamom, cloves and crackle shahi jeera along with it. Add chicken curry cut and sauté for a while, also add salt to the chicken along with 1 cup of water. Add fennel powder, dry ginger powder and check if the chicken is tender. Add the thick curd and stir in constantly for 5 minutes on slow flame, add garam masala and chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

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