This wonderful dish of winter vegetables was the centerpiece of a dinner cooked for me by Anita Tikoo. If you're lucky enough to have access to sour green plums, do use them. If you're outside of India it's unlikely that you'll have access to carondey, but if you do, count yourself lucky! The veri masala that Tikoo mentions here is a spice blend widely used in Kashmiri cooking. Here's what she has to say about its use here:
"There is no substitute for the veri masala, which is a sundried spice cake made by mixing together hing, red chilies, and other spices in mustard oil, patting them into cakes and drying them in the sun. This process adds an interesting umami layer to the spices that is irreplaceable. The spice cakes are available online but are usually not worth the money. Find a Kashmiri friend!"
Alternately, if you're up for a project, there are recipes for veri masala online.
I've left the recipe in Tikoo's voice, to give readers a better sense of her wonderful way around ingredients and cooking.—Rohan
KASHMIRI-STYLE WINTER-VEGETABLE MIX
1 potato, peeled and sliced into rough uneven slices
4–5 sour green plums (commonly used in Kashmir) or a handful of natal plums (carondey), left whole
One 8-inch length of lotus root, skin scraped off, rinsed, and sliced thinly on the bias 1 mooli (with the greens), sliced thinly on the bias, and greens coarsely chopped
2–3 tsp Kashmiri mirch powder
1/2 tsp saunth (dry ginger) powder 3 tsp veri masala (Kashmiri dried spice cake)
1/4 tsp Kashmiri garam masala
2 tbsp mustard oil
1 tejpatta (cassia leaf)
a pinch of strong hing (asafetida)
1–2 cups water
You may also use turnips along with their greens, or any other winter vegetables. Keep them rustic—chop them in what I call a haphazard way, which we do by holding the "knob" of the veggies in one hand and slicing with a knife in the other hand, turning the vegetable every now and then to get slices that are uneven in thickness and shape—it's an art!
1. Prep the veggies as noted.
2. Heat mustard oil in a heavy-bottomed pan or pressure cooker till it shimmers. Turn heat down.
3. Add hing.
4. Add cloves and tejpatta and allow to become fragrant.
5. Add in the prepped veggies and sauté on medium heat till their edges are beginning to brown.
6. Add red chili powder to the mix. Give it a minute of stirring to let the chili powder cook and coat the vegetables with its deep red colour.
7. Add salt and mix well.
8. Now add enough water to just cover the vegetables.
9. Add the fennel and ginger powders along with the veri masala, and bring the contents of the pot to a boil.
10. Cover and simmer till the vegetables are tender. For the pressure cooker method, let cook for two whistles or five minutes under full pressure.
11. When the vegetables are fork-tender turn the heat off.
12. Finish the dish with a sprinkle of Kashmiri (or Punjabi) garam masala just before serving.
13. Serve warm with rice.