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Kashmiri Gushtaba, Meatballs in Yogurt Broth
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Kashmiri Gushtaba, Meatballs in Yogurt Broth

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Kashmiri Gushtaba, Meatballs in Yogurt Broth

Kashmiri culture, crafts and cuisine show a distinct influence of the styles of Afghanistan, Persia and Central Asia. The exquisite embroidery, the fine woodcarving and the rich cuisine have become the standout features of the land and its people.

Kashmiris love meat, even the Pandits. The feast prepared for formal occasions is seriously elaborate, rightly called wazwan or cooking shop – a meal consisting of thirty six courses all supervised by the head chef or Vaste Waze. Majority of the dishes consist of meat. The dishes are mostly mild on heat scale but very rich and scrumptious with generous use of yogurt, dry ginger, saffron, cardamom, black pepper, cloves, fennel, cinnamon and dried fruits. The preferred cooking fats are mustard oil and ghee(clarified butter).

Gushtaba is served towards the end of wazwan, right before the dessert. It is made with minced mutton meatballs simmered in spice broth till done. The meatballs have a lovely velvety texture and stay very juicy and tender because of being cooked in the broth. Then they are mixed with a delicious yogurt and caramelised onions sauce, and finally garnished with chopped mint leaves.

The simmering Gushtaba is then served with plain rice or pulao. Simply imagining the deep aroma of all the spices rising and spreading from the steaming bowl makes me hungry and crave for the heartwarming comfort of this dish, truly considered the King of all the dishes in wazwan.

Ingredients:

For Meatballs

1 kg Mutton mince with fat

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, crushed or powdered
1 teaspoon black cardamom seeds, crushed or powdered
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 egg

For spice broth

1 cinnamon stick
2 cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
4-5 green cardamom
2 black cardamoms
5-6 cloves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 inch piece dry ginger
salt to taste

For Yogurt Sauce

4 cups yogurt
2 medium onions
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon dry ginger powder
4 tablespoons ghee(clarified butter) or mustard oil
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves

This Is What You Do:

The minced meat should be 80% meat and 20% fat. You can buy it fine minced together or pound in pestle and mortar at home or chuck in the food processor for quick fix.

Add 1 teaspoon salt(or to taste), black pepper, cardamom powder and one beaten egg to the meat. Mix well, wet your hand and divide the mince into large sized meatballs (almost 12 from 1 kg mince).

For the broth, tie all the whole spices in a cheesecloth or muslin cloth in a little bundle. Add six cups of water to a deep pan. Add the spice bundle and salt. Let it simmer on medium low heat for 5 minutes so that the spices begin to release their flavours.

Add meatballs and keep cooking on a simmer till the meatballs are Cooke and liquid reduced to half.

To make the yogurt sauce, heat oil or ghee in a frying pan, add sliced onions, fry till golden brown. Remove from oil and crush or grind in a food processor. Return to oil. Add yogurt and spices, cook on medium low heat, stirring so that the yogurt doesn’t split. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the yogurt sauce to the meatballs and broth. Continue to cook the dish for another 5 minutes.

Garnish with fresh mint or coriander leaves.

Serve hot with plain rice, pulao or naan.

Serves 6-8

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