The winds of winter carry the local flavor of Kashmiri dishes.

“Winters are coming!”
Got reminded of Game of Thrones? Well I bet this blog will not be any less exciting than your favorite American TV series! Winter hits ‘Winterfell’ the hardest but our ‘Kashmir’ is also very well known for its harsh winters and nothing can keep you toasty this winter than the warmth and pleasing aroma of delicious food cooked in our very own ‘Koshur Kitchen’. Let the winds of winter carry the local flavor of Kashmiri dishes.

So get set to tickle your taste buds with these favorite winter dishes of Kashmir

Its Harissa time again in the vale.
We, Kashmiris welcome the winter chills with this traditionally prepared delicacy. It is a true experience to relish the age old local recipe. It is originally served as a winter breakfast in Kashmir. The sizzler crackle of the hot oil over the Harissa topped with a tender Kebab and served with a hot Kander Czoth (traditional Tandoori bread) is enough explanation of the delectable dish. The dish will offer you the smoothness of the mutton with an amazing kick of fennel, cardamom and other spices. The making of the perfect Harissa requires tough cooking skills that might put you off. But since we Indians love our meat we will put every effort to nail the Kashmiri Harissa.
Would you like to make an attempt? Thank us later: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/kashmiri-harissa-authentic-recipe-zubair-kirmani-lifefd/1/692564.html

The sun-dried variety
Hokhegad (Koshur Dry fish)
As the time has arrived when the NH1A would get snapped because of heavy snowfall, locals in Kashmir would be ultra-carefully sun-dry their vegetables and fishes and store them for the time when the availability becomes scanty. Hokhegad which is sun-dried fish finds a special place in this variety. Hokhegad has a shelf life of several years just like other dried foods. These dried fishes can be found in market during winter and runs well into mid-summer month (March-April).
If you have asthma, Hokhegad is a good source of protein and acts as a medicine.

Hokh Syun a boon from our Nains – Wangan-Hachi, Al Hachi & Ruwangan Hachi 
And to save all you vegetarians out there, here we are with a lot of options! These recipes are enough to convert all carnivores to vegetarians. Wangan Hachi is actually dried brinjal which is split into 4 sections that are not separated. The sectioned brinjals are then tied on a rope set up like a clothesline and dried in sun. Wangan-hachi is mostly cooked with Moong Dal or Green Gram. Choki Wangan Hachi (Tamarind flavored dried brinjals) is also a favourite dish of ours.
Al Hachi is dried long and slightly thick strands of bottle gourd whose drying method is similar as that of Wangan Hachi. Later these are either cooked with light spices of with tender mutton.
Ruwangan Hachi is dried tomatoes. It can be powdered and used in curries or dishes. This spice mixture is prevalent in most of India.

 

Make a garland of turnips – Gogji Aar
Looking for more vegetarian meal? Here’s one more from our winter menu – Gogji Aar or dried turnips.
We have a very particular way of drying turnips in Kashmir. The turnips are peeled, washed and thickly sliced and a little hole is carved out in the middle of the slice and then they are added to a string which is then tied and sun-dried. Gogji aar is then cooked with cottage cheese, mutton etc.

Handh
Kashmir is a treasure of herbs that has several medicinal uses, let’s end this list with one such sun-dried Handh or spinach green that grows in the wild and can be cooked with chicken in winters as well. These are cooked, famously in the house of a new mother, because it is believed to cause heat in the body and thus benefit both mother and newborn. The feast is called handhbaata.
It also possesses medicinal value and is helpful in treating back-pain, common cold and chest infections. It is also given to anemic patients.

The Kitchen is truly the heart of any Kashmiri home and cooking is love made visible. Our food has the ultimate love and warmth to bring everyone together. To beat the blues this winter try menus from our Kashmiri Kitchen where meals and memories are made together.

The Forgotten Floor Mat of Kashmir – WAGU

If you imagine a real traditional Kashmiri room, chances are you have visualised a clear mental image of a warm and well heated room made of wood /stone masonry wall, traditional thick mud roof on timber structure and traditional ‘Wagu’ flooring which provides excellent protection against a harsh environment.

A few decades back the much valued reed mat, ‘Wagu’, which was a reflection of comfort, versatility, biodegradability and affordability, has now lost its sheen.

This unique reed mat of Kashmir, the environmental friendly ‘Wagu’ was part of our heritage but in course of time the synthetic mats started to flood markets and took over this floor matting technique.

Traditional matting of Kashmir also includes ‘patej’ and ‘gabba’ (Kashmiri names for different kinds of floor matting) were once very common and popular seen in both rural as well as the urban households. Matting in rural areas mostly entailed use of ‘patej’, while urban areas, with no access to the paddy straw saw higher use of ‘wagu’ matting prepared of ‘pechi’.

Originally the material that makes ‘wagu’, a soft and spongy mat, was made of a grass growing in wetland and lakes commonly known as ‘Peich’. After it reaches a height of 6 feet it can be harvested to make these mats. Traditionally after plastering the floors by a thin layer of clay mixture, dried, these floors are covered by the ‘wagu’ mat. It acts as an insulation material to beat the harsh winters.
In mosques, residences and shrines the mat was used and due to its economical nature it was accessible to most households. But now the story is different. Modern Kashmiri homes have become concrete and the concept of floor matting has disappeared.

The art of ’wagu’ mat weaving was not easy as it required a great deal of expertise to shape up a mat out of the raw ingredients and no electrical power was used. Over time ‘wagu’ matting emerged as an art form and a section of people adopted it as their profession. The ‘wagu’ makers gradually took their product to the rural Kashmir and established commerce in villages.

Interestingly enough 53 families residing in Khoon Mohallah in Hazratbal, Srinagar used to be weave the mat by hand. It used to be a hub of ‘wagu’ weavers and all the in the area were involved. But as of today, only handful women across Kashmir practice the art, or profession.

We buy the grass from Bandipora and transport the same to this place on Tongas (horse-driven carts). It consumes too much time and hard word to weave a Wagu and in return, we get just peanuts that too if some Showkeen (man of taste) wants to buy one” quoted Ghulam, ‘wagu’ weaver.
Bashir Ahmad, who still weaves Wagu says that two to three decades back it was the mainstay of income generation for the young, old, men and women. According to the erstwhile weavers the demand for ‘Wagu’ has petered away and customers are hard to come by.

However, with the demand even in rural areas fading, they have started abandoning the trade and are shifting to vegetable farming, paper machie and embroidery work.

It is not the question of a few people losing jobs but of a people losing their heritage,” said a University teacher.
And even though this proverb ‘Old is Gold’ is short, it is most valuable. Sometimes in order to make way for new things letting go of the past is harmful. Losing the heritage of a state is more than just material damage.