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Shab deg or stew of meat and turnips

Shab deg can be literally translated from the Urdu to "night" and "copper vessel". The dish gets its name from the fact that traditionally the meat, turnips, and spices were cooked over a fire in a sealed pot overnight. Thi is a very traditional Kashmiri dish, this dish is a variation of recipes brought by the Islamic conquest of India and can be traced back to ancient Persia. This dish can also be found in a variation, though not as complex, in Hyderabad.

Shab deg is a dish used primarily for celebrations, it was both very expensive for the region, and labour intensive to make. However, whenever it was made, usually once in the deepest of winter, the village would come together and celebrate the special event.

Today this dish is almost lost to history. This is due to the conflict in the Kashmir region, and poor economic conditions. The development of modern of kitchens and loss of old traditions also contributed to having this recipe almost disappear. Today you will find this dish in peoples homes, those that cling to old traditions, almost never in a restaurant.

As mentioned above this is not a simple recipe to make. But the results are phenomenal. The rich and creamy sauce (from the cream and yogurt) is spiced perfectly with the host of spices including saffron and mace. Shab deg is an epitome of slow-cooking, the process allows to the flavors to come together over time in a beautiful palate. The combination of meatballs, meat on the bone, and turnips slow cooked are a wonderful combinations of textures. This is a very rich dish, something I stay away from generally, but I will admit this dish is absolutely fantastic.

This is the bible of Indian cooking with flavors and dishes from across India, The recipes are always fabulous, and maintain their authenticity. This is the Indian cookbook you want on you kitchen shelf.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


For the turnips:

1 lb turnips, peeled and cut into wedges

Vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon ginger paste

1/2 teaspoon garlic paste

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon pepper,

Salt, to taste

For the yakhni:

6 large onions, finely sliced

4-5 tablespoons ghee

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons garlic paste

2 tablespoons ginger paste

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 lb mutton leg meat with bone

1 teaspoon pepper

salt, to taste

8 cups water

For the ground meatballs:

1 lb ground mutton

1 teaspoon ground green cardamom

1/2 teaspoon garlic paste

1/2 teaspoon ginger paste

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Salt, to taste

Oil, to shallow fry

To finish:

1 tablespoon ghee

1 teaspoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon garlic paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground black cumin (shah jeera)

2 teaspoons chili powder, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

3 tablespoons almond paste, I usually grind a few almonds in a coffee mill or spice grinder

1 cup cream

1 cup yogurt, whisked smooth

1 teaspoon Kashmiri garam masala (See recipe below)

Lime juice, to taste

1 teaspoon kewra water

Salt, to taste

For the turnips:

Mix the turnips with a drizzle of oil and the ginger, garlic, turmeric, pepper and salt. Mix well to coat the turmeric with the paste. Lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet and brouil in the oven till charred on top, about 15-20 minutes. Flip the pieces over to char the other side, about 10 minutes. Don't worry of the turnips are not evenly charred, as long as they have some color they are fine. Remove and set aside.

Traditionally, the turnips are first roasted and then deep fried. But I avoid this step for health reasons. I think that the end result in flavor is about the same.

For the yakhni:

Heat a very large frying pan with the ghee. Add the onions and fry on medium heat till the onions have taken on lots of color and are a deep brown. Remove and set aside.

In a large pot, add half the fried onions, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, turmeric, meat, pepper, salt and 8 cups water and bring to a boil. Simmer with the pot closed for 1 hour, stirring the stew ever so often.

To make the meatballs:

Meanwhile mix the ground mutton with the cardamom powder, garlic, ginger, garam masala and salt. Make small meatballs, about the size of a golf ball.

Shallow fry the meatballs in about 2-3 tablespoons of oil till browned all over. Set aside.

To finish:

Bring the yakhni back to a simmer, if cooled. Add the meatballs, garam masala, cream, yogurt, and almond paste and mix well. Set to simmer.

Heat the ghee in a small frying pan. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté till well cooked and aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the ground cumin, ground black cumin, and chili powder and mix for 30 seconds. Turn the pan out into the stew and mix in well.

Add the remaining fried onions to the stew. Simmer the stew for 6 hours, stirring occasionally so that the spices do not settle to the bottom and burn. Add water if needed to make a thick curry.

When ready to serve, add the lime juice and kewra water and mix in. Bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust salt. Serve in a deep bowl sprinkled with the Kashmiri garam masala. Serve with naan, bread or rice.

Kashmiri garam masala (makes 1 lb):

1 1/4 cups cumin seeds

2 2-inch pieces cinnamon sticks

1 1/3 cups black cardamom pods

2/3 cups fenugreek seeds

3 tablespoons green cardamom pods

4 oz anise seeds

10 bay leaves

3 tablespoons cloves

6 large flakes mace

1 tablespoon nutmeg

Roast all ingredients individually till lightly toasted and aromatic. Cool and grind to a fine powder in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Store in an airtight container.

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