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Sep 192014
Monji Haakh

Monji Haakh-Kohl rabi cooked in Kashmiri style

Writing about Roth – the sacred cookies from Kashmir made me realize just how much I miss the beautiful Valley of Kashmir. I was born there. I sort of grew up there. I can’t say I have all happy memories of the place. It was after-all the place from where I left one dark night in the back of a truck. Crouching amidst whatever belongings my Uncle’s family and a couple of neighbors could load into it in a span of a few hours. If we got caught leaving, our lives could end. The terrorists were threatening to kill Hindus and rape Hindu women in Kashmir. They had already attacked important members of the minority community. So our families hurriedly sent young girls out of the valley with a few belongings.

My youngest sister and I were living with my grandparents at that time. My parents lived and worked in a village a few hours out from Srinagar. We had lost all communication with them. So my grandpa packed a few of my clothes, a few of my school certificates, handed me some money and told me to go live with my aunt in Jammu.

It was difficult leaving them back. But he would have none of it. He wanted me, the young teenage girl, out of harms way. He had to stay back to make contact with my parents and then decide if he wanted to move from the valley or move to a safer place within the valley. My little sister was to stay with them and my uncle and aunt stayed back too.

In less than a night, the big old house that housed 5 families, was housing 5 members of my family. They were all waving silent goodbyes to me and my cousins. Urging us to leave, pleading us to just go and not cry.

It took me days to stop crying. At first because I was constantly worried about my family, especially my grandparents and my little sister. I wasn’t sure if they had averted an attack by sending us away or invited it by sending us away. Then I began to feel the pain of being uprooted from the place I called home. I cried. And prayed. And cried. And I had no idea if my family made it alive. And for the first time in life I felt alone.

It was after a few weeks that news came in that my parents and grandparents were united and safe. My little sister had made it to safety. Relief spread over me and for the first time in days I cried tears of relief.

I did go back to Kashmir a couple of years later because my family still lived there. It was different and deserted. The streets were full of Army bunkers and uniformed men were posted everywhere. It felt odd to know the place yet not recognize it.

But I still have more happy memories of the place than sad, terrifying ones. I choose to remember my home for how beautiful its people are, how gorgeous its mountains are, how youthful the rivers and how delicious the food is.

From the simple people of Kashmir comes this simple yet comforting dish of Kohlrabi, rice and lassi. It’s an everyday dish like the haakh. Comforting and nourishing. Not only does it comfort the senses, it heals the soul. It is my go to dish when I need a piece of home. A home where my roots are and perhaps always will be.




Monji Haakh – Kohlrabi cooked in Kashmiri Style

Monji Haakh – Kohlrabi cooked in Kashmiri Style


  • 1 bunch Kohlrabi with greens (1- 1.5 pounds)
  • 2 tsp mustard oil ( or any other oil )
  • 1/2 tsp asafetida
  • 2- 3 dry red chillies
  • salt to taste
  • 4 Cups water


    Prep the Kohlrabi and the greens
  1. Remove the greens from the bulb of the kohlrabi. Cut out the long stems and keep the greens aside to be used in the dish. Discard the stems.
  2. Peel the kohlrabi and cut the root side of the bulb and discard. Any woody feeling portions you simply discard.
  3. Chop the greens and slice the bulbs. Give everything a generous rinse.
  4. Cooking
  5. Heat oil until it smokes (mustard oil)
  6. Add the asafetida and then add the kohlrabi slices. Saute for a few minutes, then add the water, chillies and bring it to a boil.
  7. Add in the greens and cook until the kohlrabi and the greens are tender (about 30 - 40 minutes)
  8. Alternately you can pressure cook it for 5 minutes after the steam builds up in the cooker. In that case reduce water to 2 cups.


Serves 4- 5 as a side dish

Oct 032013


Simmering away on the stovetop, filling the kitchen with aromas from sweet cinnamon, spicy clove and hot chillies, used to be this wozij Chaaman in my Grandma’s home. She is almost 78 now and still feels pleased to cook a meal for all her grand-kids or for anyone visiting her.

 My Grandmom inspires me. Her story gives me courage and conviction to face life each day. Her deep set eyes, surrounded by wrinkles, light up every time she sees one of her grandkids or their kids. She looks forward to our visits and starts planning for them days in advance by instructing people to not harvest the tiny Kashmiri eggplants, pumpkin leaves and zuccini flowers, keeping an eye out for the street kids who otherwise help themselves to the mangoes or guavas so she can save them for us, making a batch of pickle or chutney and sun drying gourds, eggplants and tomatoes and sometimes even anchovies. All this to make us feel welcome and to be able to give us some parting gifts when we leave.

 She sits and knits doll clothes with my daughter and takes pleasure in teaching her how to knit or sew. The two of them can spend hours together in each other’s silent company – each doing her thing and yet connected.

My Grandmother shows her love through food and we receive it and take it as a blessing. This is her recipe.


Wozij Chaaman – Paneer cooked in Spices

Wozij Chaaman – Paneer cooked in Spices


  • Ingredients
  • 1 pound paneer
  • Salt to taste
  • 1.5 Tbs Kashmiri chilli powder (use less for a milder curry)
  • 1.5 Tbs saunf powder
  • 1 /2 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ¼ tsp shahi zeera
  • 1/4 tea spoon hing
  • ½ tsp Kashmiri Garam masala (recipe in files)
  • 3- 4 cloves .. slighltly crushed
  • 2- 3 green cardamom slightly crushed
  • 2 brown cardamoms
  • Mustard oil
  • ¼ tsp turmeric soaked in 2 cups hot water in a big pan


  1. Begin by cutting the paneer into cubes/rectangles/squares
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the paneer – 2 -3 pcs at a time and put them in the pan with turmeric water.
  3. Once you have fried all the paneer, take a couple of TBS of oil from the frying into a separate pan and add in the cumin and wait for it to splutter, add the hing and then add both the cardamom, cloves and saute.
  4. Add in the chilli powder and immediately add some water..about 2- 3 tbs to help chilies cook without burning. Add in the rest of the spices except the shahi zeera. Continue to stir until water evaporates and a deep reddish oil starts to float.
  5. Now add in the paneer along with the water and bring it to a rolling boil, then lower heat to simmer, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed and oil floats to the top.
  6. Add in the shahi zeera, cover and let it infuse for 2-3 minutes. Switch of heat. Enjoy with rice.

Sep 142013
Tamatar Chaaman

Tamatar Chaaman


According to wiki, Fusion cuisine is cuisine that combines elements of different culinary traditions.  And that is exactly what my mom did when she made the Tamatar Chaaman – paneer with tomatoes,  though she did not label it as fusion.  She took elements from the Kashmiri Muslim cuisine and elements of the Kashmiri Pandit cuisine and made an extraordinary dish called the tamatar chaman – Paneer with Tomatoes.

Use of onions, shallots and garlic is prevalent in the Kashmiri Muslim cuisine, be it the home cooking or the much fabled “Wazwaan”. On the other hand Kashmiri Pandit cuisine is sans onions and garlic especially in the “saal”, which is the equivalent of Wazwaan. The use of onions, in Pandit homes was allowed to an extent, in certain homely dishes but the use of garlic and shallots was unheard of.


Having lived and worked most of her life in the beautiful Kaprin, the population of which is  99.9% Muslim, she was introduced to their wonderful cuisine. And with that introduction, her fusion dishes started to make way into our daily food. For most part, she would eliminate the onions and garlic and base the dish on a traditional Kashmiri Pandit technique and use some elements of the Muslim cuisine. The resulting dishes were sublime.

The tamatar chaaman is a fusion between the wazwaan style Ruwaangan chaaman and the saal style Wozij chaaman. The main elements in the Ruwaangan chaaman are tomatoes, fried onions, garlic and red chillies with silky soft paneer, whereas the wozij chaaman is silky soft paneer cooked in fennel seed powder, red chillies and a dash of yogurt.

Homemade paneer

Taking the onions and garlic away, and introducing the tomatoes to the paneer and fennel preparation makes this dish a great fusion. It also makes it a quick and easy weeknight dinner.

Enjoy and Stay Blessed


Tamatar Chaaman – Paneer with Tomatoes a Kashmiri fusion Recipe

Serves: 10 servings as one of the dishes in an Indian meal.


  • 1 pound paneer
  • 1 pound tomatoes - Local organic / heirloom preferred - chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp hing
  • 1/2 tsp shahi zeera (black cumin)
  • 1/2 tsp sonth (ginger) powder
  • 2tbs saunf ( fennel powder)
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri garam masala ( Or use Shaan Zafrani garam masala)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Mustard oil for best taste. You can also use canola/ peanut.


  1. Put about 2 cups of hot water in a bowl. Add in the turmeric into to. Keep aside.
  2. Slice the paneer into thick rectangular slices.
  3. Heat some mustard oil (or any other oil you are using) for some shallow frying and fry the paneer one or two slice at a time. You basically just want to get a golden hue in places.
  4. Remove with a slotted spoon and dunk it in the waiting water turmeric mix.
  5. Continue to fry and dunk until all paneer gets the treatment.
  6. Take 2-3 tbs of the oil in which you fried the paneer in a different pan and add in the tomatoes to it.
  7. Add in the hing, cover and cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat.
  8. Stir and add salt. Cover and cook again for another 5 minutes or until the tomatoes are almost cooked to a paste.
  9. Add in the spices,except garam masala and zeera. Mix and cook until oil floats to top.
  10. Add in the paneer and along with the water it was basking in.
  11. Cook until oil floats to top again and you reach the desired consistency in gravy.
  12. Ideally this is slightly thick.
  13. Finish off with the garam masala and zeera . Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving.


Best Made with freshly made paneer.

Mar 202013


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

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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
  • Salt
  • 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)
  • Salt.


  1. Bring the 6 cups of water to boil and add in the ribs. Continue to boil until the brownish riffraff floats to the top.
  2. Remove this riffraff with a spoon and throw it away. Continue until you don't see it floating to the top anymore.
  3. Now drain the water and wash the meat under a spray of water.
  4. Bring the milk and water mix to a boil.
  5. 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.
  6. The timing for this will depend on the quality of meat.
  7. 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.
  8. Once the meat is tender, remove from the milk, and let drain on a wire rack.
  9. 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.
  10. Heat up some ghee in a pan and fry the ribs, a few at a time. Ensuring you don't overcrowd the pan.
  11. 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.


Mar 142013
Jammu Rajma

Jammu Rajma

Has it ever happened to you, that you presented the idea of making the best dish from your hometown with so much enthusiasm that you could barely resist the urge to get going and make it but your baloon of excitement was burst with one simple “ Sure! But I don’t understand what the fuss is about this dish.”

A lightening strikes and then there is a deafening silence. While you scurry for an appropriate response, your mind is racing with responses that you want to utter in a thundering voice so high pitched that every crystal in the house could shatter. You want to tell the person in question that the big deal about this dish is the same big deal there is about sushi, kimchi, hand made pasta, hand tossed pizza, freshly made cheese, the good old BLT, crawfish boil and on and on. But        you         don’t. You are saying all this in your head, while trying to find a calm and composed response.

So you calm yourself and say, “I just want to make this for the guests coming over tonight and I have a feeling they might like it,” and leave it at that.


Then you slowly gather whatever is left of your enthusiasm and set to work. The delectable aromas wafting from the wok with the frying of onions and the boiling of the sauce help you get back in the zone and you forget the previous conversation ever happened.

rajma masala

 You finish cooking the main dish and the sides and set the table, air out the cooking aromas and light candles, select a sophisticated playlist, fluff the cushions and head over to get the last minute brushing done on your hair and apply a hurried lip gloss before the guests knock at the door.

Conversations happen, there is quiet laughter and some hearty laughs. There is sharing of food and wine and compliments galore and then one big voice that gushes “ Oh Now I understand what the fuss is all about!”

And you say out loud, “Well, Thank you!” and smile a sweet smile while secretly placing this in the part of mind that keeps track of all things he did wrong. Husband! You should have known better!


So dear reader’s let me tell you what the fuss is all about! This recipe is for red kidney beans from the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir, one of the states in India.  The kidney beans from this region are smaller in size, sweeter in taste and the texture is far more superior than the regular kidney beans. Also the process of cooking Rajma in Jammu region is different from the rest of the Northern India, even though the spices and ingredients used are almost the same. The first difference is  that Jammu style Rajma is cooked with a stick of cinnamon at the time of boiling them. The other major difference is that we use more onions than tomatoes in the dish and we make it in ghee and serve it with rice with ghee topped over it.  And if you can get hold of Rajma from Doda in Jammu, you got yourself a Beany jackpot!

Do try out and find out what the fuss is all about.


Rajma – Indian Style Kidney Beans


  • 2 cups red kidney beans soaked in 8 cups of water for 8 hours or in hot water for 2 hours
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 tbs cumin coriander powder ( or 2 Tbs coriander +1 Tbs cumin powder)
  • 3 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp mango powder (amchoor)
  • 1 tsp pomegranate seed powder ( anardana powder)
  • 3 cloves slightly pounded
  • 3 cups sliced onions ( about 400 gms)
  • 1 ½ Cups chopped tomatoes (seeds removed)
  • 2 tsp garam masala (kashmiri preferred)
  • 2 tbs minced ginger
  • 2 tbs minced garlic
  • ¼ C cilantro
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 6 Tbs ghee ( non negotiable )
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1 tej patta (Indian bay leaf)


  1. Rinse the soaked kidney beans and put them into a pressure cooker along with 6 cups of water and the cinnamon.
  2. Put on medium- high heat and let it come to a boil before closing the lid of the pressure cooker.
  3. When the water starts boiling, close the pressure cooker, reduce heat to medium low and pressure cook for about 12 minutes.
  4. After 12 minutes, allow the pressure to gradually come down on its own. Place a do not disturb sign on it ;) Once the pressure releases check if the beans are done. Perfectly cooked beans will hold their shape, but yield easily to pressure.
  5. Heat the ghee in a pan, when its hot add the cumin. Wait for it to crackle. Add in the bay leaf, cloves and then add in the onions and cook until the onions are browned.
  6. Add in the ginger garlic and cook until fragrant. Now, Add in the red chilli and the cumin coriander powder, stir to mix and add in the tomatoes.
  7. Reduce heat and cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every now and then. When this mix oozes the ghee out, add in the rest of spices, salt and add the beans in along with the broth.
  8. Stir to mix, bring to a rolling boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes on medium low heat.
  9. The ghee separates once again and the consistency look like you see in the picture.
  10. Finish with the cilantro, mix it in.
  11. To serve them how my peeps in Jammu do, take some fluffy basmati, ladel the rajma on top and put some hot ghee on top. Add in a sliced onion and green chillies and understand what the big deal about Rajma really is.

Feb 152013
Kashmiri Walnut Chutney

Walnut is a significant part of Kashmiri culture. It is said that that the four kernels of the walnut represent – Dharma ( guiding principles by which we live life ) Artha ( Meaning of life ) Kama ( desires) and Moksha ( Nirvana). It is also believed to be symbolic of the four Vedas – Rig, Yajur, Atharva and Sama.

The whole walnut with the shell on is an essential element in all Kashmiri rituals and important religious festivals. The Festival of Herath ( Shivratri) – The celebration of the union of Shiva and Shakti – being the most important of them. An earthen pot is filled with water and walnuts and prayers are offered. Three days after the Pooja, the walnuts are shared with neighbors, friends and family. So while you are sending out the Prashad (sacred offering), more is coming your way too.

Kashmiri Walnut Chutney

Kashmiri Walnut Chutney

In Kashmir, walnuts are an essential part of Birthday celebrations, Sonth ( spring festival ) and the Navreh (New year ). And with so much emphasis on its use, it was kind of hard to not like them when I was young.

So if you are a Kashmiri, like me, you have a lot of reasons and ways  to eat walnuts – like this walnut chutney.  If you are not a Kashmiri, you still have a lot of reasons to eat walnuts and the walnut chutney.

They help with weight management : Even though walnuts are high in calories and contain fat, they can actually help you to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. The fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals can boost your health and help you to avoid eating too many other foods that are high in calories but low in nutrition. So munch on.

They help with diabetes – Studies have found that a diet supplemented with walnuts may positively impact individuals with diabetes.

Walnuts help improve Sleep :-  The body’s pineal gland produces the hormone melatonin that induces sleep and helps regulate sleep. This hormone is found in walnuts–making walnuts a great evening or bedtime snack for improving your sleep.

And I am sure you already know about the heart health benefits of walnuts  since they are a good source of  potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids .

Walnut is out ingredient of the week at 38 powerfoods blog group. Do visiit  Jeanette at jeanetteshealthyliving ; Martha at Simply Nourished Living ; Mireya at Myhealthyeatinghabits ; Alyce at More time at the table ;  Minnie at , Casey at  Sweetsav to read their stories and recipes on walnuts.



Walnut Chutney

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 8 minutes

Walnut Chutney

This is a quintessential chutney from Kashmir. There are many variations and this is a basic version.


  • 1/2 C mint leaves, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 C walnut halves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4-5 thai green chilies ( adjust quantity as needed- this is HOT)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbs water


  1. Place everything in a blender.
  2. Blend until very smooth.
  3. Use as a chutney with Indian meals or a dip with vegetables and kebabs