So how has Kashmiri cuisine changed over the ages?
Before the pressure cooker, cooking took hours. My mother used to wake up at dawn to cook a simple lunch—haak (collard greens) and batta (rice). My book is for those who don’t have time, but want to cook Kashmiri dishes.
Low calories and Kashmiri food—isn’t that a contradiction?
That’s just a myth...you can make centuries-old Kashmiri food with less oil and spices.
You have introduced many national celebrities to Kashmiri cooking?
Yes, I’ve had the privilege of cooking Kashmiri food for Atal Behari Vajpayee, Lata Mangeshkar, Sachin Tendulkar and many others.
What makes Kashmiri cuisine so unique?
There’s no onion or garlic in any of the dishes, and the spices are also very different.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever cooked?
The dinner I made for Lata Mangeshkar. She invited herself for dinner in our New York home. I grew up listening to her songs; I was excited.
What are the dishes you made for her?
Her favourite Kashmiri dishes—rogan josh and kabargah and a sweet dish called shufta.
And Sachin wanted your recipes after eating at your home?
It was the first time he was eating Kashmiri food, and he took four recipes from me, including yakhni and kabargah.
Kashmiri Pandits love meat, don’t they?
All the Kashmiri Pandit mutton dishes are Mughlai. They must have started eating meat after coming to work in Mughal courts.
What other food do you enjoy cooking?
I do some Chinese and Continental cooking at home. But my choice is Kashmiri any day.
The secret of being a good cook?
If one enjoys good food, one enjoys cooking, too. For me it’s a source of pleasure.