As I sit to write this post, I am feeling nostalgic. Kabargah is a dish that features in all our major celebrations and as we have established by now, all our celebrations begin and end with food as the main focus. More than a couple of decades ago, when Kashmir was still the peaceful paradise, and I was still a child with a bright future and so much potential ( or so my parents thought), major celebrations in Kashmir were celebrated very traditionally. I would look forward to these celebrations or ‘saal’ as we call them. Saal means an invitation and it also means a celebration. The Saal is a sight to behold for the serving of the meal is a ceremony by itself.
Rows of people sit together, a long fabric is spread for the thaal (plates) to be placed on. Imagine it to be a place-mat, only that it is placed on the plush Kashmiri silk/wool carpets and spreads out for a couple of dozen people at one go. A beautiful Tasht – t – Nari is presented and the guests wash their hands. Are you re- reading this? Yes the guests are seated when they wash their hands. You can close that open mouth now!
After the guests have washed their hands, the food is served one dish after the other. The volunteer servers, who are usually close friends and family, bring in food and serve it. One of the dishes served is the Kabargah.
Ribs of young lamb or goat, cooked in milk and spices then fried in ghee (clarified butter). The key is to have them fork tender with the boiling and crispy and juicy with the frying. It is an art form and here is my recipe.
Kashmiri Kabargah – Fried Lamb Ribs
- 2 pounds Lamb ribs ( I used a rack of lamb but traditionally only ribs are used)
- 6 cups water
- 2 cups milk and 1 Cup water – mixed together
- 1 tsp garam masala ( Use Zafrani Garam Masala by Shan - it's the closest thing to my blend)
- a pinch of asafoetida
- 1 star anise ( 1 tsp fennel powder - the traditional way)
For yogurt batter :
- 4 Tbs yogurt
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- Ghee for frying ( begin with half a cup ghee)
- Bring the 6 cups of water to boil and add in the ribs. Continue to boil until the brownish riffraff floats to the top.
- Remove this riffraff with a spoon and throw it away. Continue until you don't see it floating to the top anymore.
- Now drain the water and wash the meat under a spray of water.
- Bring the milk and water mix to a boil.
- Add in the meat , salt, asafoetida, the garam masala and the star anise or the fennel powder and cook on slow heat until the meat is fork tender.
- The timing for this will depend on the quality of meat.
- The better quality ribs will be done before the milk evaporates and for others you may need to cook almost until the milk evaporates and then some more.
- Once the meat is tender, remove from the milk, and let drain on a wire rack.
- Mix the yogurt with a little salt, chilli powder and garam masala. dip the boiled ribs in this mix. Keep on a wire rack for a few minutes.
- Heat up some ghee in a pan and fry the ribs, a few at a time. Ensuring you don't overcrowd the pan.
- When they are nice and golden crisp , you know they are ready.
If you are pressed for time, you may first pressure cook the ribs for a few minutes and then cook them in milk and spice.
If your butcher refuses to hand over just the ribs, go ahead and make this with chops.