NAWAB WAJID ALI SHAH Jr!
All good things tend to grow on us. . Fine food can arouse all the senses and work as the greatest mood elevator and unfailingly enhances libido - a scientific fact!
The famous cuisine from #Awadh (Lucknowi) beckoned me as I went to Café Uno at Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel, New Delhi that was celebrating the ‘Dawat-e-Awadh’, the Nawabi cuisine festival (Jan. 31-Feb.9). I marveled at the thought behind this unique gastronomical tour de force.
The royals of Lucknow – the #Nawabs of Awadh, were blood relations of the Mughals, known for love of good life and also for unparalleled debauchery. However, the dynasty was wiped out by the middle of 1700s and with Lucknow being predominately Muslim, relished meat leading to its fine cooking style.
The dynasty's most famous cooking process was called Dum Pukht or ‘containing the steam’ a cooking style over slow fire that has its origin in Persia (now Iran). It is hearsay that Lucknow’s Nawab Wajid Ali Shah while visiting a construction site of a palace witnessed a large food pot that was being unsealed for the workforce. Its aroma delighted him so much that he instructed his special chefs to perfect the technique.
‘Awadh’ or the modern day Lucknow is known for its finest food-flavours; these age old recipes of the ‘khansamas’, ‘bawarchis’ and ‘rakabdars’ of the Mughal dynasty of Awadh form the foundation of Lucknowi cuisine. Awadh’s cuisine has been largely influenced by Mughals' cooking techniques that has influences to those of Persia, Kashmir, Punjab and Hyderabad.
Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel’s Executive Chef #Darren Conole along with #Chef Anwar visited the city of Lucknow to research, learn and understand the diverse history of the origin of that fine cuisine, in order to offer a traditional Awadhi fare at the festival by demonstrating the authentic style of cooking at live counters such as the use of live sigri, ulta tawa and mahi tawa amongst others to highlight the culinary skills reminiscent of Awadh.
I began my Awadhi journey wafting through the aromatic flowers bedecked lobby. As I stepped inside #Cafe Uno, I was overawed at the fine Lucknowi-Nawabi décor enchanting me all the way as I went straight to the copper chaffers lodged inside the buffet counter. The look and whiff of all that I perused aroused my appetite instantaneously.
At #Café Uno I found the brassy containers laden with Kebab-e-Kalmi, Dal ka Lucknawi Shorba; among other starters were Kacche Aam ki Macchi, Gosht Shammi Kebab, Awadhi Lamb Chops, Paneer Kakori Seekh, Hara Dalcha Kebab, Aloo Nazakat and Paneer Peshawari Tikka.
I came back to my table perplexed and without a serving, wondering that if this was the slightest replication of the cuisine at Awadh’s last ruler Wajid Ali Shah’s court, I must fathom each of the 20 dishes and over 5 desserts of the by-gone era of F&B excellence and extravagance. It was to be my ultimate tryst with the Nawabi history of fine-dining.
The main course comprised #Gosht Biryani, Murgh Shabnami, Gosht Nargisi Kofta, Bharwan Pomfret masala, Jhinga Tak-a-Tak, Shiraji Murgh, Paneer Long Lata, Masaledar Urad Vadi, Kathal Waala Pulao, #Mushroom Roganjosh and #Gulnar Biryani.
There was hardly any belly-room to go for the elaborate traditional desserts, viz. Sabu Dana Phirni, Shehad wala Murgh, Sheer Khurma, #Anjeer aur Badam ka Halwa, Chenna Malai Kheer, Suji aur Makki ka Halwa.
Each preparation that I tried was perfect to the core barring the rice in the biryani that was rather small grains thus the texture was semi-sticky/coarse and was a damper; I conveyed this to the chef without mincing words. Maybe the best/special biryani rice was out of stock for that day! The two recipes that I relished most were #Murgh Samina, chicken chunks usually marinated in hung curd, cooked with cashewnut paste and Awadhi spices and Macchi Shabnami, river sole cooked in curd and cashewnut gravy.
#Awadhi food does not use many spices like Kashmiri #Wazwan does, but only a handful of uncommon spices. The slow-fire cooking lets the juices absorb into the tougher parts. In addition to the major process of cooking food in Awadhi style, other important processes, such as marinating meats, contribute to its taste. This is reinforced with barbecued food that might be cooked in a clay oven or over an open fire. I did feel like a Nawab for the next few days and bragged about it to friends and my neighbours in Nizamuddin East - home to a myriad Mughlai eateries.
Chef Anwar spoke with #fnbworld. His lineage dates back to the master chefs in the kitchen of Wajid Ali Shah!
Fnbworld: Please tell us about your education, HM and work experience?
Chef Anwar: I belong to the family of Qureshi’s and they are known for their culinary style. I started my epicurean journey at an early age and further mastered my culinary skills. I have worked with the ITDC group of hotels, Park Hyatt, Intercontinental, the Sheraton etc. I have over two decades experience in hospitality industry.
Fnbworld: Any family lineage into professional cooking? (Wajid Ali Shah).
Chef Anwar: It is the Qureshi’s, Nawabs of Rampur and Awadh.
Fnbworld: What is your favorite cuisine and personal favorite dish? Chef Anwar: Dum Pukht / North East Frontier and Mughlai dishes/gravies.
Fnbworld: Have you had any food workshops abroad? Chef Anwar: Yes, I attended various food fests at Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and U.A.E.
Fnbworld: What do spices and condiments mean to you? Chef Anwar: The spices and condiments are the flavouring agents, which enhance the taste of the dish and brings enriching aroma to the food.
Fnbworld: How would you differentiate Mughlai food from North Indian food?Chef Anwar: Mughlai cuisine is the cooking style developed by the Imperial kitchens of the Mughal Empire. The tastes of Mughlai cuisine vary from extremely mild to spicy, and are often associated with a distinctive aroma and the various kinds of spices. Saffron, sandalwood, rose petals, kewra, 'mittha itra' are predominantly used in Mughlai cuisine.
Fnbworld: Do you think the Mughlai & North Indian food taste as good without the famous earthen ovens? Chef Anwar: It entirely depends on the dish and the method of preparation or the customs of cooking. To maintain and monitor the hygiene standards, the earthen ovens are generally avoided.
Fnbworld: Please describe the typical Mughlai meal for six. Chef Anwar: Shuruaat is with Khajoor and Sherbet followed with Kebabs, Shorba, Biryani and curry accompanied with breads, Mittha and finish with saunf- mishri / elaichi or paan.
Fnbworld: How did you think of the Awadh food festival? Chef Anwar: Awadhi cuisine is very close to my heart and this is my specialty. I am very happy to conceptualize this festival and brought the authentic flavours from the city of the Nawabs to our All Day Dining restaurant, Café Uno.
Fnbworld: Please share with us a favorite recipe of yours.
RECIPE of MURGH SAMINA
Chicken Leg Boneless 600 gms, Ghee 100 ml, Garlic chopped 3 gms, Ginger chopped 3 gms, Almond paste 50 gms, Cashewnut paste 100 gms, Onion sliced 50 gms, Poppy seeds Paste 30 gms, Butter 20 gms, Fresh Cream 25 gms, Javitri powder 2 gms, Kewra water, Rose Petals powder 0.01 gms, Pan Ki Jad powder 0.01 gms
Green cardamom 0.01 gms, bay Leaves 0.1 gms, cinnamon Stick 0.1 gms, clove 0.1 gms
Egg white beaten 4 nos
METHOD OF PREPARATION:
1. Boil almonds and cashwenuts and make the fine paste. 2. Take ghee and whole spices and temper until it crackles. 3. Add the onions in the ghee and fry until dark but not burnt. 4. Now put the paste and cook until the ghee floats to the top 5. Add the chicken and cook it well whilst adding the freshly pounded spices. 6. At the end finish the dish with fresh cream and butter. 7. Garnish it with poached egg white froth.