A month back, when tomatoes were selling for the same price as apples—upwards of ₹250 per kilogram—I picked two one morning while buying vegetables. I let out a silent shriek. The price for the two: ₹25.
I rarely use tomatoes in everyday cooking; like most Kashmiri Pandits (KPs), I add curd to make the gravy. There is always a bowl or two of curd in my fridge—nothing is more stressful then not having a starter culture for the next batch. The one big plus of KP cuisine is that it uses no onion, garlic, ginger or tomatoes—not even in mutton dishes. So, no sweat, if onion or tomato prices are running amok.
Recently, I spoke to chef Sanjay Raina, who runs the Gurugram, Haryana, based catering company Mealability the Flavour of Kashmir and a restaurant of the same name at J&K House on Delhi’s Prithviraj Road, both centred on KP cuisine. He shared the recipe for matsch, or minced meat kofta. The dish is made on celebratory occasions and at weddings. In the drama series Made In Heaven, Season 2, streaming on Amazon Prime, you will espy this dish in Episode 3.
In the hierarchy of Kashmiri Pandit wedding dishes, I would place it third after roganjosh and dumaloo. All three use curd and more or less the same spices, but still taste different. Matsch is a rich dish and needs delicate handling. Make it on a weekend or if you are having guests over. Serve it hot with rice or parathas/naan/bakirkhanis. If you plan on serving another dish, make it light so that it does not interfere with the flavour of the matsch.
Raina's tip: Use raan (leg of the lamb) meat to make the mince.
Makes 20-24 pieces
1 kg minced meat (twice minced and without fat)
300g mustard oil
Two pinches heeng (asafoetida)
2 tbsp saunf (fennel powder)
One-fourth tbsp saunth (dry ginger powder)
1 tbsp + half tbsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
Half tbsp +half tbsp garam masala
2 tbsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
4 Laung (cloves)
2 Black cardamom, bruised
3 bay leaves
A pinch of whole white zeera (cumin)
4 tbsp curd
Salt to taste
1 tbsp ghee
Step 1. Take the mince in a vessel and make a cavity/crater in the centre, pushing the mince to the sides. Add the following to it: 200g of mustard oil (unsmoked); a pinch of heeng; one-fourth tbsp ginger powder; 1 tbsp fennel powder; 1 tbsp kasoori methi; half tbsp garam masala powder; and salt. Mix well and rest the mixture for 45 minutes.
Step 2: Take a tray or platter and brush the surface with mustard oil. Shape the mince into koftas and place them in the tray.
Step 3: Heat the remaining mustard oil in a vessel to smoking point. Add cloves, black cardamom, bay leaves, white cumin, red chilli powder and a pinch of hing. Take off the heat for 30 seconds so that the chilli powder does not burn. Add a dash of water and return to the heat. Add curd. Stir well. Add a little more water. Boil the mixture well. Add the koftas.
Now add more water, just enough to cover the koftas. Cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes. Don't stir the koftas as they will break.
Step 4: Add the remaining fennel powder, garam masala powder and kasoori methi. Cook for another 10 minutes, let the water reduce and wait till the oil starts surfacing.
Top it up with a bit of ghee.