The ancient ‘Kashmiri masala Tikki’ or ‘Marzcwangen verr’ is still an important part of the appetizing cuisine prepared in the Kashmir Valley today.
In Kashmir’s years past, it was a common scene to see women grinding various spices in motars with pestles in their courtyards.
Back then, women would make a sufficient amount of Marzwangan Ver, a traditional spice blend used to add flavor and aroma to various dishes and dishes.
Marzwagan is the Kashmiri word for red chilli and ver for cake.
The women gathered various spices, including garlic, red chili, mustard oil, shallots, cumin, coriander, ginger, cloves and cardamom.
The mixture was placed in a mortar and ground with a pestle to obtain a fine paste.
The paste was cut into ball shapes with a hole in the middle. These spherical cakes were locally referred to as ver. Since chilli powder was mainly used, it was referred to as Marzwangan Ver. The cakes were dried in the sun on roofs or attics for a few days.
The crispy and brittle cakes were stored at home. Small amounts were pinched off as needed, crumbled, and then sprinkled over many foods to add Kashmiri flavor.
Over the years, the tradition of making marzwangan at home has somehow deteriorated.
However, many families still make them with great zeal.
As in any other Kashmiri household, Irshad Ahmad Dar, a progressive farmer from the village of Patalbagh in Pampore, is one of those who have been making the Ver in his home for the last three years and are supported by other family members including mother and wife.
He makes around 300 cakes to sell to an elite clientele.
“I sell these spice cakes both locally and to customers from outside Kashmir,” he said, adding that the majority of his customers are administrators, agronomists and bureaucrats.
Irshad uses modern gadgets like blenders and grinders to create a paste of various spices alongside traditional churners like mortars and pestles.
“The ingredients I use are pure and organically grown in our fields,” regrets Irshad, adding that the ver adds flavor to various vegetable dishes and is specifically used in Wazwaan dishes like marzwangan korma and kebab.
He said that Ver can also be eaten as a chop after frying.
Irshad not only keeps up with the tradition of Ver-crafting, but also makes it more attractive to customers.
This year he added a touch of locally grown saffron to Ver to give it its flavor.
“Saffron enhances its flavor and can be used as a remedy for a runny nose,” he said.
Making ver was a traditional way of preserving garlic during winter in Kashmiri. Garlic bulbs begin to sprout in February, reducing their usefulness as a spice.
However, germination is also avoided after processing in deformed form. The Ver lasts until the end of June.
Irshad said he sells a 50 gram ver for 80 to 100 rupees.