Kashmiri Rogan Josh, a Vegan Version

Vegan Rogan Josh

There are few dishes that evoke the tempestuous passion of the land they spring from as perfectly as Rogan Josh does.

Rogan Josh, which roughly translates to “red heat,” is a classic meat dish from the belly of Kashmir, an exquisite land infused with both sublime romance and turbulent tragedy. When I was growing up in the hot crush of Bombay, Kashmir was where everyone I knew wanted to go to on a holiday. It was the land of icy blue Himalayan peaks, majestic Chinar trees reaching for the sky, and beautiful women in ornately embroidered wool gowns. The land of houseboats sitting on the glossy, glassy Dal lake and of Bollywood heroes with puffy hair serenading their heroines in equally bouffant hairdos. Of fragrant musk, hot salt tea, and delicious saffron, the tiny red stigma of the saffron crocus flower that is so prized by cooks.

But by the late 1980s, Kashmir, situated along the nation’s border and for long a subject of dispute between India and Pakistan, had morphed into a seething bloodbath. Terrorism turned the idyllic land into a violent one unsafe not only for tourists but for the hundreds of thousands of people who lived in Kashmir. Many fled the valley, setting up makeshift camps in the hardboiled squalor of cities like Delhi, Calcutta and Bombay, far from the heaven that had once been home. In the 1990s, I remember watching with sad horror as many of these camps sprouted up along the harsh, dust-smothered railway tracks of Bombay. Over the years since Kashmir has see-sawed between a nervous calm and sharp outbursts of violence. The terrorism has abated, but not completely so and many Kashmiri refugees remain in other Indian cities, still afraid to go home.

Rogan Josh, a vegan version of the fiery curry from Kashmir

There is one more thing Kashmir has always been known for, apart from its breathtaking beauty and its unfortunate tragedies: its rich and distinctive cuisine. I have shared a few Kashmiri dishes with you in the past, like Dum Aloo, a saucy side dish that takes the humble spud to a whole new level of deliciousness, and these delicious collard greens.

Rogan Josh is just as special as these dishes, if not more so. Traditionally it is made with mutton or goat’s meat–an ingredient Kashmiri cuisine tends to rely heavily on. But this vegan version for which I used tempeh cubes is just as delicious. You could also use vegetables like eggplant or mushroom instead of the tempeh, but I really prefer the chewy texture of tempeh in this dish. The recipe also calls for yogurt and I substitute that with some coconut milk and lemon.

Kashmiri cuisine also makes liberal use of a local chilli that is moderately hot and imbues dishes with a vibrant and appetizing redness. Because I don’t get Kashmiri chillies at my local Indian grocery store, I chose instead to go with a Guajillo pepper, also a moderately hot chili that imparts a wonderful color.

I wanted those of you who have never been to Kashmir to see exactly how wonderful it is, so I racked my brains to choose for you one of hundreds of Indian movie songs shot there. I settled finally on this one from the Tamil movie Roja because the breathtaking cinematography by Santosh Sivan does perfect justice to the splendor of this region. This song is also one of my most favorite compositions of the Indian music director A. R. Rahman who later won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire. Roja, if I remember right, was his debut movie.

After the song comes the recipe. Enjoy, all!

Rogan Josh is a fiery treat from Kashmir. This meatless version uses tempeh.

Vegan Rogan Josh


1 eight-ounce package of tempeh, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 medium onion, finely diced

1-inch knob of ginger, sliced

4 cloves of garlic

1 guajillo chili pepper, lightly toasted on a dry skillet until the color darkens a few shades.

4 green cardamom pods

1 bay leaf

1 half-inch stick of cinnamon

5-8 black peppercorns

1 tsp powdered cumin seeds

2 tsp powdered coriander seeds

1/4 tsp of garam masala

1/2 cup coconut milk mixed with the juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp vegetable oil

Place the garlic, ginger and guajillo chili in a blender with about 1/4 cup of water and process into a smooth paste. Add more water if necessary.

Heat the oil in a nonstick or cast-iron saucepan. Add the tempeh cubes and brown over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes each side. Remove and set aside.

In the same pan, add the cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf and whole peppercorns and stir-fry about a minute or until the bay leaf darkens a couple of shades. Add the onions and saute for about 8-10 minutes over medium heat until they caramelize into a brown color. You can help them along by adding a teaspoon of sugar.

Add the ginger-garlic-guajillo mixture to the saucepan. The add the powdered coriander and cumin. Stir well and fry until the raw smell dissipates, about five minutes.

Add the tempeh cubes and stir them well to coat evenly with the spices.

Add the coconut milk-lemon mixture and stir thoroughly into the tempeh.

Add 1/2 cup of water, more if you want a thinner gravy. Cover and cook about five minutes to let the flavors mingle and merge.

Stir in the garam masala and add salt to taste.

Serve hot with rice or rotis.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Methi Chaman

In our home, methi or fenugreek leaves are one of those vegetables that neither Desi nor I can have enough of. This is a rather pretty vegetable with small leaves and thick stems and a pleasantly bitter taste that mellows when cooked into a nutty deliciousness.

But the flavor, as addictive as it is, is not methi’s greatest or only asset: this is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, prized in Indian homes for its ability to improve digestion, fight cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels, among other benefits.

I love methi in almost anything: I add it to rice, dals, curries, pakoras, and subzis, and when I don’t have fresh methi on hand I add dry, or kasoori methi, which is available at any Indian grocery store, to effortlessly add a healthy and delicious punch to whatever’s cooking.

Today’s recipe, Methi Chaman, has got to be one of my favorite ways of preparing this veggie. For one, it also incorporates spinach, another green powerhouse, that not only adds more flavor and health to the dish but also mellows out the bitterness of the methi, making it an ideal introduction to this veggie for someone new to it.

This is an easy enough dish to put together, and one ideal for weeknights when you don’t have a whole lot of time to get dinner ready. You don’t have to do any chopping, except to get the toughest part of the stems out, because the veggies get pureed. And it goes beautifully with almost any Indian bread– chapatis, naans, rotis or parathas– or with some dal and rice. Traditionally a little paneer is added to the recipe at the end, but I just leave it out, or sometimes I add some pan-fried firm tofu. Potatoes would also be great in here.

Enjoy, all!

Methi Chaman (Fenugreek Leaves with Spinach and Spices)

(Makes 6 servings)


1 bunch methi leaves (about 200 grams)

1 bunch spinach leaves (about 200 grams)

1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard seeds (rai)

1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)

1 tbsp whole spices (about 3 cardamom pods, 3 cloves, and a couple of 1-inch pieces of cinnamon)

1 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan “butter” (optional but recommended for great flavor)

1 onion, minced

3 green chillies (like serrano), minced

1 tbsp ginger, grated

1 tbsp garlic, crushed or grated

1 tbsp coriander powder

1 tsp garam masala

1/4 cup chopped green coriander leaves

Salt to taste

Boil a big pot of water and add the spinach and methi leaves to the boiling water. Leave them in there for about three minutes, then fish out the leaves and, using a little water, grind them into a coarse paste. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the whole garam masala, and the mustard and cumin seeds. When they sputter, add the onions.

Saute until the onion starts to brown. Now add the garlic and ginger and saute for another minute.

Add the green chillies and saute another couple of minutes.

Add the coriander powder, stir to coat with oil and toast lightly, about 30 seconds, and then add the spinach-methi puree.

Cook the puree, stirring frequently to keep it from sticking to the bottom, until all the water has evaporated and the greens start to express the oil. You do have to be a little patient and get to this step because that’s a good sign your greens are cooked and ready.

Now add the powdered garam masala and about 1 cup of water to the skillet. If you want a looser curry, add more water.

Add the vegan butter, if using, and salt to taste. Add coriander leaves, stir in, and turn off the heat.

Serve hot.

(Nutrition estimate per serving: Calories 110; Total fat 3.2 grams (Saturated fat 0.7 grams, polyunsaturated fat 0.9 grams, monounsaturated fat 1.3 grams), Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 5.4 grams, Protein 1.7 grams)

A note to my readers: I’ve started adding nutrition estimates to my recipes which I hope will be helpful to some of you. There are times when I might not have the values for some of the more exotic ingredients I use, in which case I’ll do my best to get as close as possible.

Have a great Thursday, all!

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Kashmiri Dum Aloo

My recipe for the day is a classic from Kashmir, the beautiful state in the north of India: Dum Aloo.

Although potatoes are the chief ingredient in Dum Aloo, it is not usually a vegan dish because it includes cream or yogurt, or sometimes both. While one can easily substitute the yogurt with soy yogurt, which works exactly like yogurt in cooked dishes, I prefer instead to use coconut milk and some lemon juice here. The creaminess of the coconut milk is perfect with the spongily delicious texture of the potatoes.

To achieve that texture, the potatoes are usually deep-fried first. I take a healthier shortcut: I marinate the potatoes in some simple spices and roast them in the oven, in their jackets. The baking cooks them and gives the potato skins a crunchy texture, which emulates the deep-frying without the fat, and works beautifully in the final dish. Perfect.

It’s Monday night, and it’s getting late, so here goes the recipe. Enjoy, everyone, and have a great week!
Kashmiri Dum Aloo

10-15 baby potatoes (If you can’t find these, use the smallest potatoes you can find, and halve or quarter them. Then follow the rest of the recipe instructions). If using whole baby potatoes, poke them all over with a fork.

Mix 2 tsp of canola oil + 1/4 tsp red chilli powder + 1/4 tsp turmeric + salt to taste and toss the potatoes in the mixture. Place in a 400-degree oven and roast 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. (Pierce with a fork to test).

1 cup coconut milk

For the masala, grind together using just enough water to keep the blades moving:

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tbsp coriander powder

15-20 almonds, soaked for about half an hour

1 tbsp grated ginger

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp sugar

Other ingredients:

1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil

1/2 chopped mint or coriander for garnish

1 tbsp lemon juice

Heat the oil in a saucepan.

Add the ground masala and stir for a couple of minutes.

Add half the coconut milk and then the potatoes.

Once the sauce starts to bubble, turn the heat to the lowest setting and place a tight-fitting lid over the saucepan. Let cook 20 minutes. Add some water if the sauce dries up.

Add the remaining coconut milk, more salt if needed, and the mint/coriander leaves. Stir well and turn off the heat.

Serve hot with chapatis or with whole-wheat puris, as I did. This also pairs really well with some South Indian Coconut Rice.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Kashmiri Collard Greens

I had never eaten collard greens before I moved to the United States. When I did start eating them, I’d usually buy them frozen and then saute them with some simple spices like mustard and green chilies. But while I liked them enough, I wasn’t really moved. Also, the fact that they take extra-long to cook put them somewhere at the bottom of my list of green favorites.
Collard Greens Subzi, Indian style Then I found a recipe that intrigued me. It came from Madhur Jaffrey’s fabulous cookbook “World Vegetarian,” and, surprise of surprises, it was a recipe for a Kashmiri-style preparation.

This recipe takes a long time to cook: almost 2 hours. But all the ingredients go into the pot right at the beginning and you don’t have to babysit them. So after I get back from work, I can throw together the ingredients into the pot, slap on a lid, go out and water the garden and then walk my dogs without a care in the world. Meanwhile, the collards cook themselves. The most you might need to do is check a couple of times to make sure not all the water’s evaporated before its time.

The collards are hefty, so although the long cooking tenderizes them, it doesn’t reduce them to a mush. They retain a wonderful texture and bite, and absorb all the myriad flavors of the spices and tomatoes.

I loved this recipe, and I know it’s one I will be making again and again. Here goes!

Kashmiri Collard Greens

(adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian)


5-6 large collard leaves, stems removed, then rolled up and cut into long, skinny ribbons

1 tomato, dunked into boiling water for a minute, then peeled and diced

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1 1/2 cups water

Heat the oil and add the onions. Saute on medium heat until nicely browned.

Add the ginger and garlic and stir for a minute.

Add the tomato and stir for another minute.

Add the collard greens, salt, red chilli powder and water.

When it comes to a boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid, turn the heat to low, and allow the veggies to simmer away for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

If there is still water remaining at the bottom of the pan, turn the heat to medium or high and let it evaporate.

Serve hot as a side dish with rice and dal or with rotis.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.