Rogan Josh is one of the signature dishes from the magnificent state of Kashmir. Brimming with flavors of fennel, ginger and marked by the sriking red hue, it is indeed a celebration of all senses.
Popular it might be in Kashmir, but this had never been an everyday dish in our home. In fact, in my life the delights of Rogan Josh were observed only occasionally in restaurants. I did not care to know about the intricacies of it then, nor the complications of flavors or how it happened. I did not know what made a Do Pyaza different from a Rogan Josh except that they were both extremely delicious even with their different taste and flavors.
Now that I juggle with spices almost every hour of the day, I have found what makes the flavors of Rogan Josh so distinct, and so special.
It is believed that the roots of this dish originated in Persia. The flavors and style have been brought in to India during the innumerable invasions it went through in the past. Traditional Kashmiri Rogan Josh has a thin sauce layered with a slick of oil on the top. The dish gets its color from a rare spice called Ratanjot and Kashmiri red chili powder. Rajanjot is not easily available, and since there is a good chance that the one you find might be fake with artificial color, it is better not to buy it unless you know it is a trusted source.
Rogan Josh has been adapted to be made in various ways around the country, but the traditional recipe comes in two kinds. One rendition is without the use of onion or garlic as I have done it today. This is the way it used to be cooked by the Kashmiri Pandits, and is probably the original version. This is very similar to the Kashmiri Dum Aloo I had posted earlier.
The other translation of Rogan Josh uses onion and garlic along with the same spices that we have today. The signature spices for this dish are hing/asafoetida, fennel seeds and the dried ginger powder, along with a variation of combination of cinnamon, cardamom, and clove. Yogurt is added to add the slight tang and texture to the sauce. There are no tomatoes added to the traditional dish; not even to enhance color.
The meat used for this recipe should not be lean. The fat in the meat enriches the dish and also allows you to cook with less amount of oil.
If you see a version of which has onion, garlic, ginger, tomato and everything else like any usual Indian curry, it is not Rogan Josh. It is not the tomatoes that make this curry, red. It is Ratanjot. And if you do not get Ratanjot, use Kashmiri Red Chili Powder or even paprika. But no tomatoes, my friends, no tomatoes. It is not Rogan Josh without the intense flavors of dried ginger powder, fennel and asafoetida. These are the three main spices that define the flavors of this regional dish as I have mentioned above.
The biggest religious festival that is celebrated all over India just went by. Diwali marks the victory of good over evil and is also beginning of a new year for many. However in the state I belong to, it is a festival dedicated to Goddess Kali, and is known as the Kali or Shyama Puja. After an evening of lighting up the home with Diyas and candles and a riot of fire crackers, there comes a time when everyone flocks for the very late night worship of Goddess Kali or Shakti, associated with empowerment or the redeemer of the Universe. There used to be time when animals were sacrificed and is still done in some places. This sacrificial goat would then be cooked as Prasad or offering to the Goddess. Onion or garlic is never used while cooking the sacrificial goat. I would assume that it is the same religious reason, that the Kashmiri Pandits cook their Rogan Josh without onion and garlic.
We never ate any meat on Kali Puja or Diwali. There was no sacrificial meat brought in our home, not even as offering. Instead we had Khichuri, and if possible my favorite Bhuna Khichuri. I would accompany my grandma with her plateful of offerings of flowers and sweets for the worship. Then I would accompany her back laden with the smell of flowers, and of dhoop/incense sticks, maybe taking bites of the sandesh on her plate while trying to keep ourselves away from the fireworks on the streets which the boys pranked on us.
It seems like a different time, so long ago…
Rogan Josh: Kashmiri Mutton Curry with Yogurt and Spices
Ingredients: (serves 2)
- 3/4 lb meat (mutton/goat meat/lamb), preferably meat with lot of fat - cut in 2 inch pieces
- scant 3/4 cup yogurt + 2 tablespoon yogurt (yogurt should be well drained or use Greek yogurt)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 4 green cardamom – powdered (peel the cardamom and grind the seeds to a fine powder either with a mortar & pestle or spice grinder)
- 2 black cardamom – powdered (peel the cardamom and grind the seeds to a fine powder either with a mortar & pestle or spice grinder)
- 1 inch stick of cinnamon
- 2 tejpatta/Indian bay leaf
- 6 cloves, powdered
- 3/4 tablespoon saunf/fennel seeds, powdered – divided
- 1/2 tablespoon sooth/dried ginger powder
- a few grinds of fresh black peppercorn
- 1/2 teaspoon hing/asafoetida powder (a generous pinch if using pure hing)
- 3 tablespoon Kashmiri red chilli powder or 10 whole red Kashmiri Chilis ground to a paste
- 4-5 tablespoon pure mustard oil + 1 tablespoon mustard oil
- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala (homemade or store bought)
- fresh cilantro/coriander or fresh mint
Wash the meat and pat dry. Drizzle the lemon juice, and some salt and toss and allow it sit for about an hour. Add the 2 tablespoon yogurt and 1 tablespoon mustard oil to the meat and marinate it for at least 3 hours. Overnight works better.
If you are not using Greek yogurt, drain the rest of the yogurt until thick and creamy. Whisk yogurt with red chili powder, half the amount of the green cardamom powder and half amount of the black cardamom powder , all of the ginger powder, half the amount of the fennel seed powder. Set aside.
Heat the mustard oil, or any other oil you are using. Traditionally mustard oil is used and it gives an extra edge to the flavor of the dish, but if you are not used to and do not like it, then just use any cooking oil.
Add the hing/asafoetida to the hot oil. Add the cinnamon, tejpatta/Indian Bay Leaf and the fresh grind of black peppercorn and saute until aromatic, only a few seconds. When the spices sizzle add the meat to the pan and cook at medium heat, while tossing them occasionally until they start to brown. This will take anywhere between 10-20 minutes.
Now add the powdered clove, rest of the cardamom, and the rest of the fennel powder . Toss well for the spice mix to coat the meat and cook on low for another 10-15 minutes while scraping the bottom of the pan.
Remove pan from heat. Add a few splashes of water to the oil to cool down the content of the pan.
Wait for a minute and then add the whisked and spiced yogurt a little at a time to the pan and keep stirring it. Keep doing this until you have added the entire yogurt. Put the pan back on the stove in very low heat. Add 1.5 – 2 cups of water ( more if you want more sauce), give it a good stir and tightly cover the pan. Cook until the meat is cooked through and is tender and the oil has separated on the sides. This might take even 2 hours depending on the kind of meat you are using.
Uncover, stir in the Garam Masala. Add and adjust salt. Gently stir everything in and cover it back again until ready to serve.
Add the fresh cilantro or fresh mint if you want just before serving. It is best served over hot steamed white rice.
Serve over hot steamed rice or with flat breads. Enjoy!
Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking Time: 1.5-2 hours
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
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