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By Autar Mota (text and photograph)
Curd is an integral part of kashmirian Society .Apart from Liberal Consumption , Over a period of time , it has assimilated itself in kashmirian society in such a way that it became a part of their culture and the tradition .
For kashmiri Pandits , No ceremony ( Religious or otherwise ) is complete unless curd is used . This applies strictly to Birth , Marriage , Shradaa , Birthday Pooja and so many other ceremonies and rituals . In olden Days, when pregnancy of the Daughter in Law was announced in a kashmiri Pandit family , it was customary for her parents to send a Dulloo ( Big Earthen Pot ) of Curd / Yoghurt to her in laws House . It was a signal that the Girl needs to be put under extra care .
A boy of a girl going to appear in some Examination or interview was asked to take some Curd / Yoghurt before leaving. It was believed that the Curd or Yoghurt sip would make things simpler for him or her. The family of a married boy or even middle aged person still receives Curd / Yoghurt from his Inlaw’s home on his Birth day . This Curd / Yoghurt along with Kashmiri Bakery Breads are meant to be distributed amongst relations and neighbors . On her Lagana ( Marriage ) day , a Kashmiri Pandit Girl ( Bride ) is still given two or three Dulloos ( Big Earthen Pots ) of Curd / Yoghurt for the Bridegroom’s family the moment she leaves her parental home.Some saffron is also put over Curd Dulloos/ Vaaris ( Earthen Pots Big and small ) sent in marriages or to relations / Guests by Kashmiris .
Along with Milk , Honey , Sugar , Sandal wood paste, Flower Petals ,Sesame Seeds etc, Curd forms essential Ingredient of the Nirmal Jal ( Sacred water ) offered to a Deity for Snana or Abhisheka ( Bath ) in every Pooja in kashmiri Pandit Families . In Unanai system of medicines , Yoghurt is believed to have many Curative Properties especially for stomach and Intestinal Ailments .Many Hakeems in Kashmir Would prescribe liberal consumption of Curd / yoghurt to their patients .
Many doctors have told me about some health benefits of Curd as it contains , calcium , Vitamin D , Vitamin E , Zinc , and Riboflavin . It is also believed to be useful for Colon infections , skin Infections , ulcers and Growth of hair .
Every morning one can see buyers crowding on Curd / Yoghurt selling shops in Kashmir . Kashmiris consume Curd / Yoghurt generously .They Consume it during Hot summer season and Freezing winter season . They consume it with Lunch , dinner and as Lassi . Every Feast has Curd / Yoghurt . The Muslim Wazwaan or the Pandit Saal has Yakhni that is prepared with Curd / Yoghurt. Apart from Chutneys , Curd / Yoghurt is separately served to Guests in every feast. Thick Curd / Yoghurt is diluted with water to make it Lassi. Lassi is believed to remove” Fires “ ( Naar ) that kashmiris believe to be raging within once they consume spicy dishes in a feast . Quite often, one would see a Curd seller churning a glass of Lassi for a customer who wanted to douse the" fires" created by some spicy feast that he had consumed.
“ Me Zun Chhu Naar or Me Zun Chhu Andhraa Tchtaan hue . Talaa me Dhi Zaamut Dodhaa Laeiss “ meaning “ I have fires raging within or something is rubbing my Digestive track in a wrong way. Just Give me Curd lassi Only “ .
This is a common dialogue heard after a kashmiri ( Both Pandit or Muslim ) enjoys a heavy spicy Feast .
Kashmiri women are breaking the male monopoly on making the labour-intensive mutton breakfast dish, Harissa, this winter, powered by online sales both within and beyond the Valley
For centuries, it was men who monopolised the culinary skills required to make harissa, a mutton dish which is a sought-after winter breakfast delicacy in Kashmir, copied from a popular Armenian dish. Prepared overnight using the slow heat of firewood in a utensil buried in a tandoor or clay oven, the dish required muscle power, night-long patience and knowledge of spices.
However, women in Kashmir are giving a tough competition to the harissa-goaer or special harissa cooks this winter, with online platforms emerging as a game changer.
Sheikh Hirra is an engineering graduate and a mother from Srinagar’s Hyderpora area. She started the trend of capturing the otherwise male-dominated market for harissa. “Earlier, people would stand outside harissa shops in queues very early in the morning in the old city. My idea was to make harissa available just a click away. The idea did pick up and the sales are going up,” said Ms. Hirra, who now sells in all major districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
Using the internet power of online platforms such as Gatoes and FastBettle, Ms. Hirra has even been able to ship harissa beyond J&K. “It’s getting popular outside. I receive orders from all corners of the country. In Kashmir, harissa is also an emotion. Many Non-Resident Indians place orders for their old parents in Srinagar, so that they don’t have to come out early in the cold mornings to buy. Customer reviews have helped a lot,” said Ms. Hirra, who owns the Fall Winter Harissa brand.
Harissa is a breakfast dish only available in the peak winter months of November to February in Kashmir. People queue up at the crack of dawn to buy harissa in the city, as it finishes fast due to growing demand. This high-protein diet keeps people warm and helps them brave the sub-zero temperatures of Valley winters. Until a few years ago, only men dominated the cooking of harissa at a small number of outlets in the city as it required overnight cooking and constant grinding with a huge wooden pestle.
Armed with technology, women are equal competitors now. Shahida Fazili, 58, a former school principal from the Pampore area, said that her annual shipments of home-made harissa to her two sons in Dubai became a runaway hit among their friends and colleagues.
“Earlier only relatives and friends would approach me. This year, I received an order for 15 kg of harissa from Delhi. People are liking it outside. I am energetic and ensure that my harissa has all the qualities of a professional harissa-maker,” Ms. Fazili said.
Blurring class distinctions
She sees the harissa market fast expanding in Kashmir. “It was a dish meant for upper classes earlier. However, Kashmir is witnessing affluence and harissa demand has also gone up. People want authentic and hygienic harissa, as all in the family eat it. We ensure that the texture is not lost. The grind has to be by a pestle and not a machine. People prefer home-made harissa now over harissa outlets for their meat quality also,” Ms. Fazili said.
Harissa requires at least four to six hours of oversight by the cook. Being laborious to make, Ms. Fazili believes that most working women prefer to buy the home-made dish rather than cook it at home themselves.
Ms. Fazili, who owns the Kashmir Temptations brand, aims to widen her customer base. “So far, I was popular in WhatsApp groups. I plan to move to social media like Facebook and Instagram. I have already prepared 40 kg of harissa this winter,” said Ms. Fazili, who has partnered with her cousin.
Harissa is fast turning into a cottage industry in Kashmir’s upmarket colonies. As it does not require women to come out or be a face of the enterprise, they find it comfortable to take up cooking dishes, especially harissa, as online startups.
Rehana Khan, a housewife from Srinagar’s Bemina area, only delivers harissa in her own locality and among relatives. “My home-made harissa was popular among my relatives. The word spread and people came for harissa. I take orders only from the neighbourhood. I have already prepared 15 orders this winter,” she said.
In the coming days, harissa sales are likely to go up further for Ms. Khan. With the day temperature dipping fast in Kashmir and night temperature already below zero degrees Celsius, harissa remains a sought-after dish to battle the freezing weather in the Valley.
Seekh Kebab, Kashmiri
Kashmiri recipes: Seekh Kebab, Tujji Chicken
Lamb bone less 1kg
Turmeric powder 5gm
Kashmiri mirch powder 20gm
Aniseed powder 10gm
Black cumin 10gm
Green coriander 10gm
Eggs 2 nos
Mustard oil 30ml
Garam masala 10gm
Salt to taste
Cut mutton boneless into small pieces after washing it
Add saffron and the remainder of the spices and herb, except eggs, salt and chilli powder
Mix well and pass through meat mince machine, twice
Add eggs and mix well
Add salt and chilli powder as per taste
Put it on BBQ skewer evenly with wet hands
Cook it properly on low heat for 8-10 minutes
Serve with mint sauce and sliced onion
Tujji Chicken (serves 4)
Chicken leg boneless 1kg
Mustard oil 30ml
Ginger paste 10gm
Garlic paste 10gm
Black cumin pounded 10gm
Lemon juice 10ml
Kashmiri mirch 15gm
Garam masala 10gm
Turmeric powder 10gm
Salt to taste
- Wash and clean the boneless chicken
- Cut into dices by 2 x 2.5
- Add ginger and garlic paste
- Add salt, lemon juice, turmeric and keep aside for 15 minutes
- Remove water from marinated chicken and add rest of the spices and oil
- Keep it aside for at least 2 hours
- Meanwhile set fire in tandoor or BBQ
- Take BBQ skewers and place chicken tikka in it and cook properly for 10-12 minutes
- Keep basting and rotating till the chicken is cooked
- Serve hot with mint sauce and sliced onion
...and you might start taking to Kashmiri food after this.