The cuisine of Jammu and Kashmir has evolved over the years. Various invaders and rulers influenced it when they brought their own chefs to cook for them. Many of these chefs stayed on and passed their culinary skills on to the next generation. Their knowledge, skill and hard work is evident in their style of preparing food. A popular dish of Persian origin is Roganjosh or rich lamb curry.
When the Persians landed in India they brought with them their refined culinary palate and food preparing techniques. On settling down in the Kashmir valley,the Persian chefs or 'Wazas' began using Kashmiri spices and ingredients to prepare food. To make the korma (curry) for Roganjosh, wazas used cream, saffron, dried fruits and nuts. This gave it a yellow color. Gradually, they improved on it to give it a more reddish color and creamier texture. They added a few ingredients and subtracted the cream and nuts. Finally, Roganjosh was born. The world today knows this delicious meat curry as a rich and spicy dish.
Preparation of Roganjosh
In Persian, Roganjosh means to cook in hot oil or clarified butter. The Mughals used to cook or braise meat in searing oil on low heat for a long time. Saffron, cumin and cardamom seeds were added to the curry. Its authentic red color came from Ratan Jot or Cockscomb flowers and Kashmiri chilies. These chilies didn't make the curry too spicy. Along with the spices, other important ingredients were onions, garlic, ginger and yoghurt. It was garnished with fresh coriander and served with rice or bread made of wheat.
When the Mughals began preparing this lamb dish, there was no Hindu influence. Later, Kashmiri Hindus acquired the recipe and tweaked it according to their taste. They used more yoghurt and avoided onions and garlic. A safetida, fennel seeds, turmeric and tomatoes were added to the curry. This Hindu Roganjosh is also delicious, though it tastes different from the Muslim version.
Interestingly Roganjosh tastes different everywhere in the world.
You can use mutton, beef or even chicken to make the dish. Cut the meat in cubes and deep fry them in medium heat until brown. For the curry, saute the onions with bay leaves, peppercorn, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon in hot oil. Add a paste of ginger and garlic and stir for a few seconds. You can also add tomatoes to reduce the braising time. Add the remaining spices - coriander, Kashmiri chilies and cumin - and stir for a few minutes. Finally, add the meat, blended yoghurt and water. Now, cook the meat until it is tender on low heat. Garnish with black pepper, garam masala and coriander leaves.