Carefree clouds, a gorgeous crimson sky and a gaggle of geese, pristine white against a backdrop of violent red, flying back to the warmth of their nests welcome me as my flight from Delhi, delayed by over three hours, touches down on the Srinagar tarmac.
I have heard loads about this sylvan valley cradled in the lap of the invincible Himalayas and her allure, one that stays with you for life as my father-in-law had mused, and need I re-iterate, I am all excited to spend the next week soaking in her ravishing beauty, surrendering my senses to her charm and taking in the sights and smells of this ancient city and beyond.
I fish out my notebook and go through my scribbles yet one more time.
The Dal lake. Oh, those mystic mornings, the lake riddled in mist, the floating market just coming to life. My husband had reminisced. Surreal.
The orchards of apple.
The fields of saffron extending to the horizons. Those flaming orange stamens cocooned lovingly within pompous violet flowers.
The manicured gardens, reminiscent of the Mughals and their undying love for the valley.
The boulevards of chinars. You are so lucky, a friend had exclaimed, its the onset of autumn and the chinars shall be aglow, a manic riot of russet and gold, every shade that a master’s brushstroke could have ever conjured.
The list, compiled conscientiously over weeks, runs into pages.
I gaze listlessly through the window of the taxi, all set to submit to the seductress that is this valley.
But while family and friends had waxed eloquent on the bewitching appeal of the valley, no one had prepared me for the assault on my taste buds.
I am no foreigner to Kashmiri cuisine – I adore my Yakhnis, relish my Roganjosh and savour my Gushtaba and Rista.
But the Wazwan lunch that the hotel kindly lays out for us the next morning, on a sun-blessed terrace overlooking the Dal Lake, is a feast, a feast befitting an emperor, a procession of delectable dishes, each one leaving me mesmerized and yearning for even more.
It feels like yesterday, but it has now been almost a year since my travel to the valley and I have only myself to blame for not having shared recipes of these delightful Kashmiri dishes earlier.
Procrastination, as the wise man reminds, is indeed sin.
But guess it’s never too late to mend, is it not ?
This fortnight sees me whipping up Kashmiri delicacies, dipping into that veritable treasure-trove of recipes I had meticulously collected throughout my stay in Srinagar. Yakhnis and Kalias. Kormas and RoganJosh.
And how better to start the sojourn than with a stunning Dhaniwal Korma ?
Dhaniwal Korma. Tender mutton. The earthy warmth of ginger powder. The mellow heat of peppercorn. The fragrance of whole spices. The sweet aroma of saffron. An overload of fresh coriander leaves.
This is food heaven !!!!
So the next time you crave for mutton, I reckon you give my Dhaniwal Korma a try !!! You won’t be disappointed, I can guarantee !!