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Chef's corner: Keeping Kashmir alive through its food

OM Takoo , chef and owner of Poush, a Kashmiri restaurant chain, shares the recipe of Qahwa the poor man’s brandy on a cold night, and gushtaba pounded meat balls in curd gravy

When I came to Mumbai, my father asked me how I would keep the spirit of Kashmir alive. My answer was through food,” says Om Takoo, chef and owner of Poush, a Kashmiri Pandit who came to the city many years ago. He remembers his grandma’s Qahwa tea, made of green tea leaves, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon and almonds. “It is the poor man’s brandy, and if one catches a cold, a hot cup is the ideal remedy. We even serve a chilled Qahwa, owing to the city’s weather.” The Gushtaba, meanwhile, is a Kashmiri delicacy served as the last dish of a 36-course meal. “It signifies the end, a full stop to the meal. The mutton is hand-pounded, using a wooden hammer on a stone slab,” explains Takoo.

Gushtaba

Gushtaba is the last dish in a 36-course Kashmiri meal
Gushtaba is the last dish in a 36-course Kashmiri meal

Ingredients
1 kg meat, fresh boneless mutton pieces
5 tsp dried ginger (sounth)
2 tsp powdered saunf
1 tbsp ghee/oil
4 sticks of cinnamon
1 tsp onion paste
6 cardamom, powdered
Salt to taste
1 kg curd

Method
On a smooth-surfaced stone, pound the mutton pieces with a wooden mallet till they turn to pulp
Add a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of dried ginger. In a round-bottomed pan, boil an adequate quantity of water and immerse the meat
Stir it slowly for about five minutes. Remove and set aside. When cooled, toll them into small roundels and keep aside
In a separate vessel put ghee/oil, add the curd and beat the mixture. Stir till the curd turns light brown
Add six cups of water and all the remaining ingredients and the meatballs Boil for five minutes, then let it simmer for about 15 minutes
Note : Pounding meat is a laborious exercise. Any gadget which can grind the meat to a pulp would be advisable. Gadgets used for mincing meat are not advisable for this recipe

Qahwa

Qahwa at Poush, Phoenix Market City, Kurla. Pics/Sameer Sayed Abedi
Qahwa at Poush, Phoenix Market City, Kurla. Pics/Sameer Sayed Abedi

Ingredients
1 tsp tea leaves
4-5 cardamom
2 pieces of cinnamon
Pinch of saffron
2 tsp sugar
4-5 almonds, finely sliced

Method
Add the tea leaves , cardamom, cinnamon, saffron and sugar to four cups of water. Let it soak for a few minutes
Bring to a boil on a medium flame
Strain into cups and add the sliced almonds

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