Kashmiri gushtaba comes from a rich culture
of crafts and cuisine that showcases a distinct influence of the styles of Afghanistan, Persia and Central Asia. The exquisite embroidery, the fine woodcarving and the decadent cuisine have become the standout features of the land and its people.
Kashmiri Wazwan – a spectacular feast for all senses:
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 – the king of wazwan:
Gushtaba is served towards the end of wazwan, right before the dessert. It is made with minced mutton meatballs simmered in spice broth till cooked through. The meatballs have a lovely velvety texture and stay very juicy and tender for 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. And if it’s only one side dish that you must make from the whole crazy elaborate thirty six dishes spread, I highly recommend that you choose the vegetable side of Dum Aloo that I love to serve with it.
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, rightfully considered the King of all the dishes in wazwan.
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
For spice broth
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4-5 green cardamoms
2 black cardamoms
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 inch piece dry ginger
salt to taste
1 teaspoon cooking oil or ghee
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. Pound the meat in pestle by hand or chuck in the food processor for a quick fix. But the minced meat has to be very smooth, like dough, for that iconic velvety texture of the balls.
Add 1 teaspoon salt(or to taste), black pepper and cardamom powder 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 and 1 teaspoon of oil or ghee to a deep pan. Add the spice bundle and salt. Bring it to a boil for 2-3 minutes so that the spices begin to release their flavours.
Add meatballs and keep cooking on medium high heat for a couple of minutes or till the balls are set. Reduce heat and cook till the meatballs are cooked through 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. Add yogurt, caramelised onions and spices to the oil, 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 15 minutes on low heat.
Garnish with fresh mint or coriander leaves.
Serve hot with plain rice, pulao or naan. Or you can simply enjoy it as a protein rich soup.