Chillai Kalan, or the 40-day extreme cold spell in winter, is currently underway in the Kashmir region of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) with freezing temperatures. This harshest winter period, which begins on December 21, will end on January 30. The Jammu region of the Union Territory also experiences extreme cold spells and the local Dogra people of the region have traditional recipes adapted to the harsh climate.
Above all, when we talk about J&K cuisine, the Kashmiri cuisine of dum aluminum, rogan josh, yakhni and wazwan comes to mind. However, there is a rich heritage of Dogra recipes and traditional flavors from the royal kitchens of the Dogra rulers that failed to reach the kitchens of restaurants and hotels in cities across the country. These recipes are in keeping with the local climate and the region’s highly nutritious agricultural products. There are foods that must be eaten alone in the summer, then there is a long list of foods to eat in the winter.
J&K winters can be cruel and unforgiving. January in North India witnesses biting cold weather, so a traditional “Heaty Sweetdish” Dogra is appropriate for the season. ‘Meetha Saluna’ or ‘Meetha Madra’ is a sweet dish, which is a combination of dried fruits and milk. No, it’s not kheer or phirni.
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Meetha Saluna is cooked during festivals and I recently prepared it for Lohri, our harvest festival.
It is definitely prepared for Diwali, which rightly coincides with the start of the winter season.
Meetha Saluna can be eaten as a sweet dish on its own or eaten as a side dish with ‘babru’, which is naturally fermented and fried wheat dough (like puris). Dried fruits are roasted in ghee and then boiled with milk and sugar. Due to its “tangy nature”, this sweet dish can provide instant relief from the cold during J&K’s harsh winters.
Recipe: Meetha Saluna or Meetha Madra
Almonds (coarsely ground) – 10 to 12
Cashews (coarsely ground) – 10 to 12
Dried dates (soaked overnight and roughly crushed) – 6 to 7
Dried coconut (grated) – 1/4th
Raisins / kishmish – a handful
Sooji (semolina) – 1/2 teaspoon
Haldi – a pinch
Ghee – 2 tbsp or a little more
Milk – more than half a liter
Sugar – to taste
Coarsely chop the almonds, cashew nuts and dried dates (chhuaara in the local language) in a mortar and pestle (each separately). Grate the dry coconut and set aside.
In one kadhai (wok) or a heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in the ghee and roast the raisins until they puff up. Be careful not to burn them. Take them out. In the same ghee, add the sooji and lightly roast it. Add the almonds and cashews and toast them lightly before adding the dried coconut.
Stir the mixture for a minute or two, then add the crushed dry dates. Mix everything well. Add a pinch of Haldi powder for that beautiful earthy golden color (not everyone could afford expensive saffron strands, so Haldi was and remains a good substitute). Add milk to this ghee dried fruit mix.
Remember to keep the heat on medium and let the milk boil. Once it begins to boil, add the raisins and saffron strands. The idea behind adding raisins afterwards is that sometimes raisins can curdle the milk if added sooner. Simmer the mixture for a good 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add sugar once you reach your desired consistency before turning off the gas. Remember to use little sugar first and taste it because raisins also release their natural sugar into the milk. I like my Madra a bit thick, you can either have it in liquid form in a glass and nibble on the softened nuts in between, or have it in the consistency of kheer, which I like.
The dish – Meetha Madra – indeed belonged to the royal kitchens of the Dogra rulers but infiltrated the kitchens of the commoners of the Jammu region.
Much of the country is currently experiencing a severe cold snap. So take a handful of dried fruits and prepare the delicious Meetha Madra.
Read also : Lots of Beans: Healthy Winter Food in Uttarakhand
Pahadi kulth dal
Kulth or horse gram is the highest protein lentil found on our planet, say nutritionists. It is full of energy and is therefore used as feed for horses before races, perhaps that is why it is called horse gram.
Kulth dal has remained a part of the winter foods of Jammu region for centuries. While people in other parts of the country consume this lentil year-round, at J&K we make sure to bring this “powerful lentil” into our kitchens only during the winter season and discontinue its use. once it starts to warm up.
Our grandmothers and mothers have always warned us of its “heat-generating nature” and asked us not to cook it in the summer.
Apart from its benefits as a “high protein lentil”, other wellness incentives for getting kulth into our diets range from treating conditions such as asthma, urinary problems, jaundice and even menstrual. It also helps control diabetes, treat kidney stones and protect the liver. That’s why now this humble staple of the J&K region is called a “superfood.”
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Unlike kulth found in south or west India, kulth or “desi kulth” as we call it at J&K, is larger in size, cannot be stored for more than one or two months and its color begins to change over time. The dark color is the warning signal that the lens is no longer good to use.
In Dogra households of Jammu region, it is either eaten as dal with rice or used in making the delicious”kulth ki khichadi“.
Recipe: Kulth Dal
Desi kulth- 1 cup
Tamarind pulp – 1 tablespoon soaked in one and a half cups of water
Dry red pepper – 2
Jeera (cumin seeds)- half a teaspoon
Red chili powder – 1 tsp or to taste
Coriander powder – 1.5 tsp
Turmeric powder – half teaspoon
Ghi – For tadka
Take the lens and clean it thoroughly. Once thoroughly cleaned, be sure to wash it four to five times under running tap water before soaking it in fresh water overnight.
The next morning, in a pressure cooker, boil water, add the turmeric powder, salt, a pinch of hing followed by the soaked kulth dal. Pressure cook it for 4-5 whistles (cooking time varies by region) until done. Meanwhile, soak the tamarind for some time. Boil the pulp and mash it properly before discarding the seeds. Save the tamarind water for later use.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan (parthi pateela as it is called locally) or kadhai, add 2-3 tablespoons of ghee. Add dry red chili peppers, jeera and hing and let them crackle. Keep the heat low and add the red chilli powder immediately followed by a little water. This will ensure you get a bright colored sauce afterwards. Add the coriander powder then add the boiled dal without water. Save the water the dal was boiled in as we will use it later. The sauce becomes homogeneous if the dal is cooked like this.
Continue mashing the dal with a ladle while mixing it with other masalas. Once the ghee starts to appear on the sides, add tamarind water and boil for 5-7 minutes. Add a little salt if necessary. Now add water in which the dal was boiled. Let everything boil and then simmer. Keep the lid on top but don’t cover it completely.
Let the kulth boil for another 10 minutes over medium-low heat. I always cover the lid and bring the dal to a boil at the end for two minutes. Our humble “superfood” dal is ready. Always serve it hot on a bed of hot steamed rice. And remember, the consistency of this dal is never kept thick.
So how about enjoying Dogra cuisine this weekend? Kulti-rice followed by Meetha Madra?