Takeaways fit for a king from Kashmir-deliciously Indian
IN The Before Time, restaurants were bustling places where you could meet up with friends, enjoy good food and exchange views on the state of the nation and the future of gastronomy.
With the arrival of Covid-19, things changed, and as cases of the virus are spiralling, business premises, essential services excluded, can now operate only between eight am and 3pm.
A recently-introduced 12-hour curfew ensures that we’re all safely at home by 6 pm with little else to do but watch a re-run of The Sopranos on TV, or to plan the evening meal.
Restaurants being obliged to close by 3 pm, the alternative to heating up the remains of yesterday’s cottage pie, or opening a packet of Pot Noodles for supper, is to order a take-away. Among a recent proliferation of Instagram sponsored ads for catering and take-away meals, a posting for Kashmir-deliciously Indian stood out above all the rest. So last week, George and I headed for Kashmir in Alexandra Park to collect an order for lamb Rogan Josh, Kashmir chicken curry and two rotis (Indian flat breads). With the neatly-packaged meals on board we sped home, arriving minutes before the 6 pm deadline and curfew.
As I decanted the Rogan Josh from its plastic container and gently heated it up on the stove, the aroma of skilfully blended cinnamon, green and black cardamoms, cloves, fennel, and black pepper filled the kitchen. This slow-cooked curry of lamb in a dark, rich sauce is a dish fit for a king. A few seconds in the microwave restored the roti to soft flakiness, the perfect accompaniment to the Rogan Josh.
The portions were generous, so we kept the Kashmir chicken curry for the following day. Chicken thighs (the best part of the chicken to use in a curry) were simmered in a rich sauce fragrant with saffron. Paired with white basmati rice, the flavour was both exotic and delicious.
Among the other North Indian dishes on Kashmir’s menu are butter chicken, mattar paneer (fresh cottage cheese in a creamy cashew sauce with peas), and daal (slow-cooked lentils in spicy tomato gravy). A recent addition to the menu is chilli chicken in a sweet and sour sauce. Side dishes and sambals include basmati rice and roti.
Chef Kajal Arora, the inspiration behind the exceptional cuisine at Kashmir-deliciously Indian, is one of Zimbabwe’s best kept secrets. Recently graduated with a BA (Hons) in Professional Culinary Arts from the University of Derby (Buxton campus), Kajal and her family had intended to open a restaurant in Chisipite. Confusion caused by coronavirus having obliged these plans to be put on the back burner, she’s now concentrating on a take away menu featuring a small selection from the finest North Indian cuisine.
Later this year, Chef Kajal plans to study at the University of Glasgow for an MSc in Food Security and Development, tackling the global issues of sustainable agriculture and public health.
Kajal’s interest in cookery began at an early age. Although born in Zimbabwe, she spent holidays with her grandmother in India, spending long hours in the kitchen and familiarising herself with traditional Kashmiri spices. High quality saffron from the crocus flower growing in vast fields in Kashmir, and mildly hot Kashmiri chilli powder with its distinctive flavour and bright red colour, are among the best known.
Always very particular about quality, Kajal makes her own garam masala, an important addition to many Indian dishes. While many commercial brands can contain an excess of turmeric, home made garam masala includes a selection of numerous spices such as cumin, bay leaves, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon. These are dry roasted, cooled, and ground into a fine powder to be stored for future use in an airtight container.
Studying abroad and extensive work experience have exposed Chef Kajal to many different cuisines, and she’s particularly excited by the rich food culture of Japan. Her intention, when she finally returns to run her own restaurant, will be to embrace traditional methods, while ‘moving forward in a gastronomical way’. Loving the artistry of sushi, Kajal is planning a modern approach to presentation, creating delicious food that is also ‘art on a plate’.
As lockdown intensifies and take away meals become part of the new normal, there are more north Indian specialities from Kashmir-deliciously Indian to look forward to tasting. A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff
Kashmir-deliciously Indian tel: 0771411946