Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fennel in the rains: Kashmiri lamb chops again!

Kashmiri lamb chop

Of what I know of it, I love Kashmiri cuisine. I love the use of fennel in everything and to my mind, the Kashmiris are highly accomplished users of this wonderfully aromatic spice. There is something infinitely malleable about fennel, don't you think? It is fresh in summers and lends warmth in winters, but I think it is the rains when I love fennel the most. Then I want to eat pakoras spiced with fennel, chicken cooked in fennel, and fish grilled with fresh fennel leaves! In Delhi, the rains have arrived. They have come without reservation - determined to quench these parched lands. And from what it seems, they are here to stay. My terrace has been washed cleaned, and the roads below are flooded: I hear people cursing as they wade through ankle-deep water, but I don't really mind it all that much. Living in the tropics I have perfected the art of loving the rains, despite the obvious inconveniences they bring along. Honestly speaking, I didn't really mind it all that much when I went to buy the lamb chops from the neighbourhood market, plodding through muck and all that dirty water. I remember as a kid, we would do that almost always deliberately, jumping into puddles, floating along a paper boat, and on the whole enjoying the rains. Why is it that as we grow up these simple pleasures begin to appear as impediments?

Oops, I did not mean to digress! Coming back to my love for fennel-infused food, I must confess that it has been a decade or more since I cooked lamb chops in Kashmiri style. This is an old recipe from my scrapbook that I had penned down when I was in my teens. I recall the one time that my father and I had made it together. I think it is the best dish we ever cooked together, but somehow we never did it again. So, as I was flipping through the pages, and surfing the web for an easy-to-prepare mutton appetizer, my gaze stopped at the sight of the recipe for Kashmiri lamb chops. It took me less than 10 seconds to zero in on this one! It is utterly delicious, crisp on the outside, and tender on the inside, mildly spiced with the evergreen fennel and a host of other seasonings.

As I cooked, I could hear the gentle pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof of my kitchen, and the leaves on the mango tree outside were glistening in the rain. The temperature is down to a mere 22 degrees! It really does not get better than this - the perfect weekend to dig into crisp lamb chops.

What you need:


How to:
  • Take a pressure cooker with about 150 ml of milk; throw in a bay leaf and the spices listed under bouquet garni along with some salt. I did not actually  make a bouquet garni, I simply added everything to the milk - fennel, cardamom, black pepper, and cinnamon. 
  • Once the milk is warm, gently drop the clean lamb chops into the cooker. Let it simmer for five minutes or so, then cover the pressure cooker with its lid, and give it a whistle or two. 

Making the batter
While cooker cools down, prepare the batter: mix all ingredients and ensure the batter is of a coating consistency. Keep aside. Open the cooker, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add this point add the khoya* and more salt if needed. The milk should have evaporated entirely and the lamp chops should be coated in the khoya gravy.

Now you are ready to fry away! Heat sufficient oil in a deep pan. I used a heavy-bottomed kadhai. Dip each of the chops in the batter, and drop them in hot oil. Fry till they are golden-brown on the outside. 

* My ingredients list does not mention the quantity of khoya needed! I used about two tablespoons heaped this time around.

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