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Sep 292015
Tsunth Monji - Green Apple Fritters

Tsunth Monji - Green Apple Fritters

I have been waiting for this month’s Progressive Eats party day to arrive with bated breath! And it’s because I am sharing a dish from Kashmir that is virtually unknown to those who did not grow up there. It’s not a main stream dish in the sense that when I was growing up this was saved for and served on a very special occasion – Lord Krishna’s Birthday. In most Hindu families this was a dish served on the day of fasting (feasting). Although you abstain from eating grains, meats, and most vegetables – fruits are allowed and why not! The festival arrives in peak summer, so fruits are in abundance and hence during a fast, one could eat copious amounts of fruits. Interestingly the only cooked foods allowed on those fasting days are foods that have been fried. One may not eat anything boiled if they are observing a fast. Hence the Tsunth Monji – Green Apple Fritters were a big deal on those fasting days.

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Apples are Kashmir’s pride and joy. Any Kashmiri worth her salt knows her apples. Though an indigenous Kashmiri loves her Ambri apples which are native to Kashmir, we have grown used to our Benoni, Irish Peach, Ambri, White dotted Red, American Apirouge, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and the Maharaji. And now in my adopted country I love my Granny Smith, Gala, Honey Crisp, Braeburn and everything in between.

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So pardon me my extreme enthusiasm to share this recipe with you. The recipe requires tart apples – so granny smith are a perfect fit, but if you are in India and can get hold of Maharaji apples – there is nothing better for this dish than those. The medium heat cooking brings out a nice tartness to the apples. Paired with spices and chestnut flour batter the combination of crisp, hot, warm, sweet, sour, salty is a taste you won’t forget easily.

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And if that was not enough to entice you  with apples, we at the Progressive Eats have a mouth watering line up of “apples”. Fall is here and it’s all about the apples because this month, our host is Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake and she chose apples! I do love her for choosing apples this month. Thank you, Liz for hosting.


These Sweet and Savory Apple dishes are

Savory Dishes:

Sweet Dishes:

Tsunth Monji – Green Apple Fritters

Tsunth Monji – Green Apple Fritters


  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples
  • a medium bowl filled with water to soak sliced apples in
  • 3/4 C chestnut flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds ( 1/2 tsp ground cumin)
  • 1 tsp Hungarian paprika ( or kashmiri chilli )
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper ( for heat - use as per your taste)
  • 1/2 C to 3/4 C water
  • 1/4 C chestnut flour for dredging
  • Oil for frying
  • Chaat masala and Chutney for serving ( optional )


  1. Core the apples. Slice each apple into 8 to 9 slices.
  2. Keep the apple slices in the bowl of water to prevent discoloration while you get the oil hot and mix the batter.
  3. Heat oil in a medium kadai ( preferably ) or any heavy bottom deep saute pan. ( use medium heat)
  4. while the oil is heating, mix the 3/4 C chestnut flour, cumin, salt, paprika, cayenne and half cup of water to make a batter. The batter should look like a pan cake batter. Add more water if needed.
  5. Put the flour for dredging on a plate.
  6. Now make an assembly line - take the Apple slices out of the water, on to the four for a quick dredge, then into the batter and then into the pan for frying. Fry until brown and crisp on both sides. Remove and drain excess oil before serving.
  7. Serve with chutney or a dash of chaat masala.


Ensure the temperature of the oil is between 325 and 360. No thermometer? Check if Oil is ready for frying by inserting a DRY wooden spoon into it. If it is ready, bubbles will form around it.Maintain the oil temperature to avoid soggy fritters. Do not let oil smoke.. Bad juju for flavor and safety. Do not overcrowd the pan.


If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.

We have a core group of 12 bloggers, but we will always need substitutes and if there is enough interest would consider additional groups. To see our upcoming themes and how you can participate, please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information.

Sep 192014

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

Mar 032014


Chaaman Kaliya

Chaman Kaliya – Cardamom and fennel scented paneer cooked in a whole milk. Rich, creamy and with the right notes of spice. A dish that is so very easy to put together that you might like to make it more often. And often it is made in Kashmiri homes, especially when there is a Vegetarian feast. Kashmiri Wazwaan cuisine is fabled for it’s meat dishes, but the vegetarian cuisine when done right, is in fact quite amazing as well.


A couple of days ago, it was the festival of Shivratri. This is the most important of festivals for Kashmiri Pandits. Called Herath in the local language, the festival of Shivratri marks the beginning of the spring season in the valley. Kashmiri Pandits have been followers of Shaivism for eons. Back in the days, it used to be a fortnight of celebration starting with ‘Hur okdoh’ which was the day that homes would be cleaned and prepped for the upcoming festivities.

Chaaman Kaliya

On the thirteenth day of the festival, a fast is observed and the “Vatak Pooza” begins. Along with flowers, fruits, milk, yogurt an offering of rice flour bread and food is offered to the ‘Vatuk’.

When I was a kid, the most important part of the festival was the day after after the Puja. It was the day when the morning started with my Grandpa giving us fresh currency notes as a “Herath Kharach” ( Money to spend ) You can compare this to opening the presents on Christmas morning. All elders gave money to kids on this day. All we had to do was go from one elder to the other and say, “Herath Mubarak” ( May your Herath be blessed) The elders would in return give us the money and bless us.

We would count and recount the money and keep a tab on if any of the siblings got more. Then we would sit and play a game with sea shells. We all had our own small bags of “haar” or sea shells and we would sit in a circle and play. When it was time for lunch, we all would quickly gather our winnings and sit for lunch. Food was another highlight for me on Herath. My mom made at least a dozen dishes and on that first meal she served them all. The leftovers were eaten on subsequent days one at a time, but this one meal was when we got to eat it all together – just like in a feast.

This Chaman Kaliya was my mom’s signature dish. I made it for Shivratri this year along with some Dum Aaloo, Nadir Yakhin and few other dishes. Dinner was good. The leftovers were finished the next day. We leave no trace 🙂

Chaman Kaliya – Cardamom and fennel scented Paneer

Chaman Kaliya – Cardamom and fennel scented Paneer


  • 400 gms Paneer (home made)
  • 2 C Milk
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 Green cardamoms
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 Tbs Ghee
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel powder (saunf)
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 1/8th tsp ginger powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Kashmiri Garam Masala ( Or use your favorite brand)


  1. If you have freshly made Paneer cut it into squares or rectangles.
  2. If you have store bought paneer, Soak it in hot milk for at least 30 minutes before cooking the dish. (this milk is in addition to the two cups you need to make the dish)
  3. Heat ghee and add the cumin, cloves and the cardamom. It helps if you slightly whack the cardamom with a pestle or a heavy spoon.
  4. Add in the milk, bring it to a boil add in the rest of the spices, except saffron and garam masala.
  5. Simmer this for about 2- 3 minutes , then add the paneer and bring to a rolling boil.
  6. Bring to a simmer again and let it cook undisturbed for 10 - 15 minutes or until the paneer looks creamy, yellow and soft.
  7. Finish off with Garam masala and saffron and let it stand for 30 minutes before serving. Reheat gently and serve with rice.



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


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.