Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Gushtaba is a dish of Kashmiri meatballs cooked in a creamy, tangy, almost soupy, yoghurt gravy. It takes pride of place in the legendary Kashmiri Wazwan, and is traditionally served as the last dish of the banquet.
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What is Kashmiri Wazwan?
The Kashmiri Wazwan is a multi course banquet that is synonymous with weddings and large celebrations in Kashmir.
The most famous of these banquets is called the Royal Wazwan, and this would have consisted of a total of 36 dishes, with rice and condiments, served alongside them! Can you imagine that?
However, in 2017, to cut down on the waste that inevitably accompanied such grand festivities, the Kashmiri government decreed that Wazwans could only have a total of 7 meat dishes and 7 vegetarian dishes.
You can read more about the Kashmiri Wazwan, as well as Kashmiri culture and history on the Kahsmiri Cuisine page here on LinsFood.
What is Gushtaba?
As mentioned above, gushtaba is simply meatballs cooked in a lightly spiced yoghurt gravy. Once you have the meatballs ready, it is a pretty easy recipe. But more of that later.
The gravy itself is traditionally pretty light, almost like soup, and there’s lots and lots of it, to accompany the rice that it’s served with as the last course in the Wazwan. This light, soupy gravy is called yakhni in south Asian cooking.
My gushtaba recipe is less “soupy”, I reduce the huge amount of stock that’s typically called for, as well as the amount of yoghurt in the recipe.
Apart from that, gushtaba is very easy to cook, requiring mostly commonplace ingredients.
I discussed Kashmiri meatballs at length over at the Rista recipe post. If you’ve seen that post (and I know some of you have made it), you’ll remember that I ask you to make 3 differently sized meatballs for our various Kashmiri meatball recipes.
Looking at the image above, you can see that the balls for gushtaba are the biggest followed by the Rista ones, and finally, the palak rista. I’ve even given them weights to make it easier for anyone cooking the recipe.
These are the approximate weights in the order you see in the image above: 80g, 40g, 20g. So essentially, make the balls in roughly these weights for the various recipes.
So in today’s recipe, I’m using 1 kg (2.2 lb) lamb meat. At roughly 80 g per meatball, we’ll be making 12 meatballs, giving 3 large meatballs per person.
Now, you can make the Kashmiri meatballs yourself, or you can use shop bought meatballs, I’m not going to judge!
Kashmiri meatballs have a different feel and texture. This is because, traditionally, the meat is pounded for ages with added fat, before being formed into balls.
The extended pounding breaks down the connective tissue, resulting in denser but still bouncy meatballs.
What we’ll do is essentially mimic this pounding by processing fatty lamb meat in a food processor. We still break down the muscle fibres and connective tissue, end up with pretty much the same result.
On the Rista recipe post, you’ll find instructions on how to do it the traditional way, using a mallet. Here, we’ll employ the food processor.
But like I said, make it with store bought meatballs if you prefer, the dish will still be delicious.
Difference between Gushtaba and Rista
Well, that’s easy. Gushtaba is meatballs cooked in a light coloured, yoghurt gravy, while Rista is meatballs cooked in a light, non spicy, red curry.
As we discussed above, Gushtaba meatballs are large, while Rista meatballs resemble more what we expect of meatballs, in terms of size.
How to Make Gushtaba
I promise you, it’s very doable. These are the steps:
- Make a light lamb stock with bones or chops (or use store bought).
- Make the meatballs (or use store bought).
- Cook the curry for an hour. That’s it.
As mentioned above, the ingredients are mostly commonplace. But let’s take a look at the ones that may need a little attention.
Black cardamom have a commanding presence. The have a smoky and woody aroma from being dried on an open fire.
Amomum subulatum, the black cardamom is also known as the Nepal cardamom and Bengal cardamom.
I get mine online at the moment because for the last year, movement has been rather restricted. These are the ones I use.
In many of the Kashmiri recipes I shall be making, we employ a quick, homemade stock for the recipes. This is just a case of dropping some bones into water, sometimes adding aromatics, and simmering for a mere 30 minutes.
You can do so, or you can start with a shop bought one, but it needs to be diluted to half strength.
Traditionally, you’d be using thick, hung yoghurt or what south Asians call curd. This, if you want to make it at home is just a case of straining regular yoghurt over muslin overnight, in the fridge.
The resulting yoghurt will be thick, ensuring maximum flavour.
My Kashmiri teacher’s recipe went a step further. Mrs Ghulam would always cook her yoghurt down to half its original amount. She said that this was how she was taught to make it, and didn’t feel the need to change.
If you want to do this, all you have to do is start with 2 cups of yoghurt, cook it down for about 30 minutes to half the amount. The trick is to stir regularly and to cook over a low flame, otherwise your yoghurt will split. Then use it in the recipe below.
If truth be told, yoghurt often splits when cooked, no matter how diligent you are and what the books, chefs and bloggers tell you. So don’t worry about it. Your curries will still taste fab, like your gushtaba today.
Fried Onion Paste
This is homemade. We fry some onions, using the low and slow method, then we grind it into a paste.
I did a whole post on fried onion paste here, and suggest that you make a nice batch of it and freeze it in ice cube trays. I used 2 ice cube size of it for today’s recipe.
How to Serve Gushtaba
Firstly, a sort of a disclaimer. Over the years, having served Gushtaba to countless friends and customers, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a favourite with the Western palate.
I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the preconceived curry notion that we have. Or perhaps it’s the yoghurt gravy that isn’t particularly spiced or coloured the way popular curries are.
Let me know what you think if you make this.
Gushtaba is served with plain white rice at the end of the Wazwan. And that’s how I tend to serve it too, with a few accompaniments.
When it’s for friends or customers, there is always another curry to go with it, something that fits the common perception and taste, as well as some sort of chutney and a vegetable dish.
Head on over to the South Asian page for ideas.
Ok then, shall we get our aprons on?
More Kashmiri Recipes on LinsFood
More Balls on LinsFood
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- 1 kg lamb bones
- 1 litre water
- 1 kg minced lamb (10% fat)
- 1 Tbsp salt
- ½ tsp ground cardamom seeds
Dried Spices and Herbs
- 4 green cardamoms lightly crushed, to release aroma
- 2 black cardamoms lightly crushed, to release aroma
- 2 cloves
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground fennel
- 2 dried bay leaves (or fresh)
- ¼ tsp dried mint leaves (or small handful, fresh, chopped)
The Rest of the Ingredients
- 1 Tbsp ghee
- 2 garlic cloves pounded, minced or finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp fried onion paste
- 1 litre lamb stock homemade or made with 1 stockpot/cube
- 250 ml thick yoghurt (Greek will do, or Indian style)
- 1 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Lamb Stock (get this going while you get everything else ready)
- Place the bones and water in a large saucepan or stockpot and bring to a low boil. Skim off any scum as necessary.
- Leave to simmer for 30 minutes, then strain and use in the recipe. You could immediately reuse those bones to make another "proper" batch of stock, with some celery, carrots, onions, parsley and garlic – for Western style recipes.
Let's make the Meatballs
- Place the mince into a large food processor, along with the salt and cardamom. Do this in batches if your food processor isn't big enough.
- Process on medium for about 30 seconds, scrape down, then another 30 seconds .Scrape down again, and repeat the process: 30 seconds, scrape down, another 30 seconds. This should do it. At this point, you'll have a fairly homogeneous looking lamb paste.
- Form balls weighing about 80g (2.8 oz) with the meat paste, wetting your hands often to prevent sticking. Set aside until needed. Can also be frozen raw. In the image, the largest ball is for rista. 80 x 12 = 960, so each ball won't need to be exactly 80g.
Let's cook the Gushtaba
- Heat the ghee on medium heat and brown the gushtaba balls slightly for about 2-3 minutes, in one layer. If your pan isn't big enough, do it in 2-3 batches. You won't need much oil as the meatballs are fairly fatty.
- Ad the dried spices and bay leaves, give a quick , 10-second stir, then add the garlic and onion paste. Once again, a quick stir, then add the stock and half the tsp of salt.
- Give everything a stir, and slowly add the yoghurt before the stock has had a chance of coming to a simmer. This can help to prevent the yoghurt from breaking down. Give everything a good stir and leave to come to a simmer on medium heat.
- Then, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, uncovered, until the meatballs are done. Check the seasoning, and add more salt if it needs it. Finish it off with some freshly ground black pepper.
- Then, just before serving, sprinkle the dried mint all over. Can be made the day before, and reheated very gently the next day.