Cuisine of Uttar Pradesh
Kaliya is a mutton preparation with gravy along with the compulsory inclusion of turmeric or saffron. It is a preparation commonly served at lunch or dinner or both. To create novelty in this popular dish some variations have been devised by the cooks of Awadh, for instance Mahi Kaliya, Chandi Kaliya and the unbeatable Kundan Kaliya. The latter is a delicacy designed by the bawarchis and rakabdars to please their Nawabs. The use of gold leaf in this dish lends a touch of luxury to it. The carefully carved mutton pieces wrapped in gold leaf, placed on a bed of rich gravy shimmering with gold amalgamated in it, is a stimulant for jaded appetites.
A formal spread in any Nawabi banquet of a nawab in Awadh was considered incomplete without the inclusion of the Shami Kabab, an important constituent of the "Tora" (presentation of food). It would be no exaggeration to say that it was the `National' kabab of Awadh. Made from mince meat, the kababs are round patties filled with spicy surprises and the tangy `kairi' or raw green mango. The texture of the kabab is extremely soft and simply melts in the mouth.
The seekh has long been considered a piece de resistance in the Awadhi dastarkhwan. The beautifully executed kabab is what every Lucknowi is proud of. The seekh kabab, introduced in this region by the Mughals, was originally prepared from beef mince on skewers and cooked on charcoal fire. But later influences and innovations led to the use of lamb mince which was preferred for its soft texture. The Seekh Kababs of Kakori is very famous by word of mouth and even today, though cooked elsewhere, are known as `Kakori Kababs'.
The Gulnaar Kabab is a gourmet's delight. The blending of tomatoes with spices and chicken, with a garnish of red rose petals is one of the most aesthetic dishes of the bawarchis of Awadh.
The Nehari is invariably cooked in mustard oil and is a hot favorite of all the princes and paupers, the high and low, the rich and poor. The word `Nehari' is derived from `Nehar' or fasting and is a popular breakfast item with the Muslim populace. It is generally had after the first namaz of the day. Nehari originally, is beef, braised and then stewed overnight, further prepared in the morning and eaten with kulchas.
The Nargisi Kofta is essentially a hard boiled egg, wrapped in mince and deep fried, when halved lengthwise it resembles the eye! Purists go to the length of selecting eggs which are slimmer than round to get the perfect shape!
This particular kabab is prepared especially well by Begum of Kurki who still maintains high standards of gastronomy. This kabab is served as one whole mass on the plate and no in several individual pieces. The cooking of mince on slow fire with ghee and spices infuses the meat with a subtle aroma, and the superbly soft texture of the kabab makes partaking of it a pleasurable experience!
The raan or mutton offers numerous possibilities for the daskarkhwan. The Pasanda Kabab is one such mouth watering preparation. The pasanda is a two inch square boneless cut flattened out by beating with the blunt side of knife. It can either be skewered or cooked in a vessel. The latter method is more common in Lucknow.
Kashmiri families came down the mountain valley and they brought with them, the scent of saffron, the cups of kahwa and their celestial cuisine. Truly, the cooking of "Shab Deg" in winter, for the Nawab in Awadh, became not only a celebration of winter, but a reminder of the bond with that land which is oft referred to as heaven on earth:
An old recipe for cooking fish is the `Zamin Doz Machhli' wherein a whole fish is stuffed with spices, sealed in an earthenware case, buried in the ground and cooked by placing cow dung cake fire on the ground above. The final product would have an extraordinary earthy flavour.
The method of cooking the Biryani is the `Dum Pukht' method which imparts a typical Awadh flavour to this rice preparation. Biryani literally means fried or `bhuna', and in this preparation, the rice is lightly fried before being cooked in the mutton stock. Hence, it has the name, differentiating it from the pulao where the rice is parboiled.
The `Zarda' is a celebration of spring though its popularity transcends the seasons, even cooked during marriages or auspicious occasions, this sweet rice preparation is like a spring song!
The `Roomali Roti' is suggestive of the scarf or handkerchief like appearance of this bread. Shaped without rolling on a board and cooked on a convex iron griddle, this bread is very special to Awadh. The fine texture of the bread makes it an excellent accompaniment for delicate kebabs and kormas.
The `Sheermal' is rich bread consisting mainly of flour, milk, fat and saffron. Though traditionally cooked in an iron tandoor, it can be cooked in a mahi tawa also by covering with a lid and applying heat from the top and bottom.
The Kulcha is a favorite accompaniment to the Nehari. The soft texture of this bread is good with curries.
The `Murg Mussallam' (literally, means whole chicken) is one such delicacy perfected by the cooks of Awadh. The preparation of Murg Mussallam requires a good command over the blending of spices and knowledge of heat control.
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