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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Kashmiri Yakhni for Eid

....and My First Work of Fiction :)....

''I want to have Yakhni tonight'',  spat Balwant. He sounded miserable and angry. He was being unbelievably selfish when he knew that there wasn't even a grain of rice at home to cook. Radhika sat and wept silently. She wished she could make at least something to feed her 5 year old boy who has cried himself to sleep. She wished she could run away from the constant nagging of her husband who has been redundant lately and was always at home. She wished there wasn't so much violence in her homeland, that once used to be known as the Heaven on Earth. 

She started cleaning the already cleaned house in order to forget about the hunger pangs. The old ancestral house is falling apart due to lack of repair and maintenance. The pantry has started stinking as if a rodent has died inside and rotten. So Radhika decided to investigate and clean the empty pantry at the same time. Taking a candle light inside she took out the empty jars and bottles one by one, scrutinizing with squinted eyes in the hope of finding something edible in them. She dipped the piece of cloth in a bucket of warm water and started wiping the shelves one by one. 

Slowly she emptied and wiped all the bottom shelves till her arms started aching and she felt light headed. But she did not give up. Finally she reached the top shelf. With great effort she stood erect with her petite frame's weight solely on her toes. She bit her lips to stop herself from screaming as she feared she might wake up her son who would start the monotonous sobbing again. She kept on going till her fingers reached the end of the shelf and they touched something soft. She shrieked and recoiled thinking it to be a spider or something equally deadly like that. After a few breaths she decided to try again, this time with a little bit more confidence. She dragged an old rickety iron bucket to the shelf and stood on it to get a better view. She was surprised to see a brown special delivery envelope instead of a dead rodent or a hairy creepy crawly!

With great anticipation she got off the bucket and sat on it. Wiping her sweaty hands on the sides of her saree she opened the envelope, praying to God for a miracle, a map to some hidden treasure, a few currency notes...anything! She wasn't prepared for what came out of the envelope. She didn't understand whether she should laugh or cry of the disappointment she felt because inside the envelope there wasn't money or a map. Out came an old, aged and browned photograph. 

Radhika hid the photograph under the drape of her saree and came out into the light. She sneaked inside the kitchen and stood next to the window and looked at the photograph once again. She looked at the little girl, the smiling lady and the young boy in the photo, each one looking as happy as the other. As she kept on looking at the photograph her mind and soul flew back to that day when the photo was taken. The boy in the photo was Balwant, the little girl his sister who was killed by one of the blasts while buying vegetables one day and the lady his mother who has lost the will to live ever since. They are all sitting in the kitchen while his mother-in-law had something cooking on the tandoor (stove). Looking at the glint in her husband's eyes Radhika could say that the things that was cooking was none other that ''Yakhni'', Balwant and Kusum's favourite dish. His smile made her wistful as she suddenly realised it's been ages since Balwant had smiled at her like that. 

Her eyes moistened as she remembered how beautiful Balwant had looked on the day of their wedding. And how ill and weak he looked now with dark circles around his eyes and the constant coughing. Slowly she took out the ragged velvet jewellery pouch she hides inside the jar of rice. She counts the few last coins she has kept for Balwant's medicine, the one that soothes his throat for a few hours at night when he sleeps. The money is enough to buy her some sheep meat and yogurt. She will borrow some spices from the neighbour. She hurries out of the door to reach the market before it closes for the day. Today she will see the smile on Balwant's face again. 

Yahni or Yakhni (Urdu: يخن, Hindi: यख़नी) is a class of foods found from Greece to the Indian subcontinent. In South Asian cuisine, it is a kind of soup or stock, often served over pilaf (Pulao). In Greek (γιαχνί), Turkish, and Persian cuisine, it is a stew of meat, fish or vegetables in a browned-onion base with tomatoes and olive oil. -Wiki

Ingredients : 

Sheep/Goat/Lamb Meat - 1 kg
Yogurt (Greek style or Hung) - 400 gms
Fennel - 1tsp
Cinnamon - 1 inch stick
Cloves - 4-5
Large Black Cardamoms - 3-4
Bay Leaves - 2
Saffron - a generous pinch
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Kashmiri Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp
Corriander Powder - 1tsp
Salt to taste
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Mustard Oil - 2 tbsp
Milk - 2tbsp
Fresh Mint Leaves (optional) - a few leaves

Method : 

1. Put the meat along with 2-3 cups of water, bay leaves, cloves, cardamoms and salt in a pressure cooker and cook till the meat is tender(follow your pressure cooker manufacturer's guidebook). Take out the meat pieces and reserve the stock.

2. Dry roast the fennel and half of the cinnamon. Grind them to a fine powder. Soak the saffron in warm milk. 

3. Mix the yogurt with the meat stock with a whisk. Add the Fennel-Cinnamon powder, corriander powder, turmeric powder, chilli powder and sugar to it. Taste and season with salt if needed. 

4. Heat mustard oil in a pan/wok. Add rest of the cinnamon and cloves and fry for a few seconds. Add the meat pieces and cook on a high flame till they start browning. Remove from heat and slowly pour in the yogurt-stock mix(it tends to curdle on heat so make sure you remove the pan from heat before doing so).

5. Put the wok back on flame and cook on high. Bring it to boil. Add the saffron soaked milk. Lower the flame and simmer the soup for 5-10 minutes. Traditionally mint leaves are added at this point. Serve hot with freshly steamed/boiled rice.

This recipe is my Sister-In-Law's. She is married to a Kashmiri man and hence we all got introduced to this lovely dish. You can even use the stock to make a lovely warming drink for your kids during those wintry days. Just season with pepper and ground cinnamon! 

A belated Happy Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi to all my readers :).


Ashmita said...

An Amazing read followed by the mouth watering recipe, am sure to try it this weekend. You are marvelous with words indeed.

Cassia Bark said...

Thanks Polaris :)...yeah the recipe is quite'll be great for the little one at ur home too :)