Friday, April 29, 2011

Al Yakhni

Being married into a Kashmiri family does have its perks - the cuisine is famous the world over though somehow, I find myself appreciating only a handful of dishes. Sadly for me, I don't like the glorious roganjosh and I definitely don't like eating rice every day but I still cook Kashmiri food for my husband occasionally.

Traditional Kashmiri Pandit food does not use onions, tomatoes, or garlic but outside the valley, most families have incorporated these basics. The meals get their flavor from Kashmiri red chilli powder, saunf (fennel) powder, saunth (dry ginger) powder and whole spices like green cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.

Al Yakhni - 'Al' meaning ghiya (calabash/bottle gourd) and 'Yakhni' meaning a yogurt based gravy- is comfort food at its best, a very simple dish served with rice. It does not have ANY chilli so if you find it too bland for your taste, feel free to combine it with any dal or sabzi.

Al Yakhni - serves two

1 medium sized ghiya (calabash/bottle gourd)
3-4 tbsp smooth yogurt
1 black cardamom
2 cloves
2 split green cardamoms
1/2 cup water
2 tsp saunf/fennel powder
1/2 tsp saunth/dry ginger powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 tbsp mustard oil
Salt to taste

Peel and cut the ghiya in roundels. In a deep pan or a kadhai, heat the mustard oil (on high flame) to smoking point. Shallow fry the ghiya in oil till it turns slightly brown. Remove and soak excess oil with a kitchen towel.

In the remaining oil, add all the whole spices, powdered spices. Add water after a minute. Add the fried ghiya once the water starts boiling. Let boil on high flame for about five minutes before adding yogurt.

Mix well, reduce flame to medium low and let boil till the gravy reduces to half. Serve hot with rice.


1. Ensure that you remove excess oil with a kitchen towel because the ghiya will absorb most of the oil.

2. Fennel powder is readily available in most stores. If you want to make your own, keep about half cup fennel seeds (saunf) to dry in the sun for two days, grind and store in an airtight container. Adding fennel powder aids digestion and is a key element for thickening gravy in Kashmiri food.

3. Traditional Kashmiri cooking involves the use of a lot of mustard oil although I prefer using a lesser amount. It is also served in steel thalis.

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