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Yakhni: A timeless dish for all ages from Kashmir

Yakhni
Yakhni is a Kashmiri yogurt based gravy dish, which is usually made with mutton. But there are vegetarian versions too using ‘nadru’ (lotus stem) or even bottle gourd. It has no tomatoes, turmeric or chillies. Kashmiri Pandits (Brahmins) also don’t use onions and garlic.
Kashmiris believe that Yakhni originally came from Persia, and probably reached Kashmir through the three successive Moghul emperors, viz. Akbar, Jahangir, and Shahjahan, who were all so very fond of Kashmir. The earliest documented recipe is found in Ain-I-Akbari (the biography of Akbar) and is made with mutton. 
Yakhni may be a corruption of Akhni, which means broth or shorba. I have tasted its Turkish version in Istanbul and was surprised to learn that it is the Turks’ favourite comfort food. They call it ‘Yayla Çorbası’ or meadow soup. Some also call it the White soup (aks corbası), or yogurt soup (yoğhurt corbası). All three versions are made with rice, chicken stock, egg, flour etc. which the Kashmiris don’t use.
The only similarity with the Kashmiri version then is the use of yoghurt and mint.
I present here the Kashmiri version which I believe is tastier too.
Yakhni (Mutton cooked in a Yoghurt curry)
Ingredients
Mutton pieces-1 Kg (2 lbs) (4 cups)
Thickly Chopped Onions large-3
Finely Sliced Onions large-2
Chopped Ginger-2 inch
Chopped Garlic-6 cloves
Brown Cardamom (Badi elaichi)-4
Cinnamon (Dalchinni)-3 one inch sticks
Yoghurt-1/2 kg (18oz)
Chick pea flour-2 tablespoon
Fennel (Saunf) powder-1/2 teaspoon
Dried Ginger powder-1/2 teaspoon
Bay Leaf (Tej patta)-4
Mint Leaves (Pudina)-15 or 20 leaves
Clarified Butter (ghee)-1 tablespoon
Salt to taste
Water-1 + ½ glass
Method
If using a pressure cooker
In a pressure cooker, put the mutton pieces, salt, thickly chopped onions, garlic, ginger, brown cardamom, cinnamon and water. Close the lid and place on the fire.
When the pressure cooker comes to full pressure, reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a wok, beat the yoghurt and chick pea flour well with the fennel powder and dried ginger powder. Add the bay leaves.
Now place the wok on the fire and stir till the mixture becomes almost dry.
Switch off the heat flame.
Once the mutton cooks, remove the pieces to a separate plate. Take out the onion, ginger and garlic and make into a fine paste.
Add the paste and water to the yoghurt mixture in the wok. Place the wok on fire.
Add the mutton pieces and the mint leaves and slow cook in the wok for about 15 minutes.
Separately in a pan, fry the finely sliced onions in the clarified butter till it takes on a nice brown colour.  Pour the onions along with the clarified butter on to the mutton dish.
Your Yakhni is ready and tastes excellent with plain rice.
If using a thick bottomed pan
In a thick bottomed pan, put the mutton pieces, salt, thickly chopped onions, garlic, ginger, brown cardamom, cinnamon and water. Close the lid and place on the fire.
When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for 45 minutes or till the mutton becomes soft.
Meanwhile, in a wok, beat the yoghurt and chick pea flour well with the fennel powder and dried ginger powder. Add the bay leaves.
Now place the wok on the fire and stir till the mixture becomes almost dry.
Switch off the heat flame.
Once the mutton cooks, remove the pieces to a separate plate. Take out the onion, ginger and garlic and Make into a fine paste.
Add the paste and water to the yoghurt mixture in the wok. Place the wok on fire.
Add the mutton pieces and the mint leaves and slow cook in the wok for about 10 minutes.
Separately in a pan, fry the finely sliced onions in the clarified butter till it takes on a nice brown colour.  Pour the onions along with the clarified butter on to the mutton dish.
Your Yakhni is ready and tastes excellent with plain rice.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes with pressure cooker, 55 minutes with deep pan
Total time: 30 minutes with pressure cooker, 60 minutes with deep pan.

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