This is the famous staple dish of Kashmir called haak maaz. Haak refers to the unique variety of collards grown in Kashmir. Maaz is the Kashmiri word for the meat of either a sheep or goat. Simply served in a clear broth, the collard greens are braised with mutton and traditional spices until tender. Not something you'd typically think of as a "curry" or even as Indian perhaps. It is more like a soup or stew in Western terms. Ground fennel, smoky black cardamom, rich Kashmiri mirch, peppery cassia bark, and fiery dry ginger provide the warm aromatic notes that perfectly compliment the gamy mutton in this recipe. Traditionally served with heaps of the short grained rice raised in Kashmir, this rustic dish would be excellent served as a hearty meal with a crusty loaf of French bread too.
As it is a cold weather sort of dish it would've probably been more appropriate to post this in the Fall or Winter. I am posting this now as the haak or Kashmiri collards will soon bolt in the heat and fall prey to the caterpillars of Spring. Most of Kashmir lies above 5,000 feet in altitude and has a cooler climate than my subtropical valley here in Nepal at 3,000 feet. This year's haak will just be coming up in the warming spring weather of Kashmir after the snows have recently melted. I can only grow haak in my subtropical valley October through March. So here's what Kashmiri haak looks like in both it's cooked and uncooked states. If you'd like to grow a similar variety of haak in western countries I'd recommend "Georgia Southern" collards.
First, the haak is cleaned and rid of any fibrous stems by tearing. Then you basically start making a stock for the dish. Save all your bony, cartilaginous, and or sinewy pieces of mutton for this dish, those are the parts that make the most delicious broth. The mutton pieces are fried to add flavor by caramelization. Kashmiris would add just garlic or asafoetida but I also add a little onion for a richer stock. Remember this has to be a clear broth so the garlic cloves are left whole. The spices are added but not tempered, the mutton is then combined with the haak and left to braise until tender. A pressure cooker makes short work of this and a slow cooker would probably work well too.
1/2 kg or 1lb mutton cut into 3-4 inch pieces, bone in preferred
1/2 kg or 1lb collard greens
2 TBS cooking oil (mustard oil if you wish to be authentic)
2 tsp salt
1/4 C onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic/lahsun, whole or 1/2 tsp asafoetida/hing
2 tsp Kashmiri mirch ( or 1 tsp paprika plus 1 tsp cayenne powder)
2 tsp ground fennel/saunf seeds
1 tsp dry ginger/adrak
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
3 black cardamoms/kali elaichi, bruised in a mortar and pestle
12 black peppercorns/kali mirch, ground coarsely
Here's what to do:
1) Strip collards/haak by tearing the leaves away from the stems and woody bits. I cheat and use a kitchen shears.
2) Clean collards/haak of any debris or insects by immersing it in salt water for about 30 minutes.
4) Add onion, garlic, and all spices to fried mutton pieces. Add enough water so that mutton is covered by at least 1/4 of an inch.
5) Add cleaned collards/haak and 2 teaspoons salt to mutton and spice mixture in pot.
6) If using pressure cooker seal lid in place and allow to cook for 5-6 steams for a Nepali goat or 3-4 whistles for a Kashmiri sheep. If using stock pot add 3 cups water and simmer covered for 3 to 4 hours until meat is tender adding water a 1/2 cup at a time as necessary to prevent drying out. If using slow cooker make sure the meat is covered by at least a 1/2 inch of water and allow to cook covered for 4-5 hours until meat is tender. Salt to taste and serve warm.
This dish can also be made with lamb or venison, adjust cooking time accordingly.
This dish can also be made with baby bok choy or kohlrabi leaves instead of collards. In the late Spring and Summer when we can't grow haak I make this dish with baby bok choy, as Summer ends I make it with kohlrabi greens.
Do not make this with turnip greens. I made this with turnip greens once and it was met with resounding disapproval from my Kashmiri family. I know, their neighbors the Punjabis eat turnip greens in their delicious "saag" but for whatever reason Kashmiris will not eat turnip greens unless they are cooked with turnips. Who knew?