culinary legacy of the Salar Jungs is kept bubbling by a favourite
stereotypical begum: a woman bedecked in a choker and long strands of
pearls, draped in a khadda dupatta and smelling of roses.
Rani Kulsum: all of the above and also juggling with ladle and
griddle and stirring pots and pans.
niece of Salar Jung III, Kulsum has drawn on her nawabi lineage to
bring foodies a festival of Hyderabadi delicacies, being held at
Delhiís Maurya Sheraton hotel. ìMy family was very
secretive about recipes. They never allowed girls into the kitchen
because they would pass them on to their in-laws when they got
married. Only daughters-in-law interested in cooking were taught,î
she says. The culinary legacy of the Salar Jung family attained new
heights with Nawab Yusuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III. He built a separate
bawarchi khana where experiments with food were quite common.
did Kulsum come by these recipes? I was my nani jaanís
favourite. After my marriage to Kunwar Amir Naqui Khan of
Memoodabad, I came to Lucknow, this is when I started missing ghar ka
khana and I implored nani to teach me our traditional cuisine. She
gave me some 300 recipes that took me over six years to learn.
Kulsum remembers that on her first day in the kitchen, she watched as
her grandmother picked a little bit of this and that, mixing and
pouringóall the while her hand hidden behind her pallu. Says
Kulsum: ìWhen I complained, she curtly said: ìDekh
lena tha (you should have observed me). Youíll tarnish the
reputation of our family cuisine.î I then determined that I
wouldnít leave the kitchen until I had not just learnt but
perfected the art.
about the bawarchis? How did the begums keep their recipes a secret
from the cooks? According to Kulsum: ìThey werenít
shown any of the spices. One would grind the masalas mixed by the
begum, another would prepare the marinade and a third would cook,
while the begum added the ingredients.î
sets the Salar Jung recipes apart from other cooking styles is their
focus on health. ìBegums would sit with hakims to understand
the correlation between food and health, and what should be eaten in
which season. Then they would make up recipes, let the hakim savour
it and incorporate his suggestions. Only when it was approved by him
was the dish served to the family,î says Kulsum. Foods were
also season specific: breakfast in summer would always include rokni
roti and aam ras. Winter mornings were reserved for soul satisfying
nahari, a broth cooked over a slow fire through the night, because it
would keep the body warm.
different is Hyderabadi cuisine from, say, Awadhi? Married for 24
years into an Awadhi family, Kulsum smiles knowingly. ìA potli
of khara garam masala (whole spices tied in a muslin cloth) and dry
fruits are commonly used in Awadhi cuisine. While Salar Jung cuisine
uses a souring agent in every dish and relies on fresh ingredients,
we use 21 varieties of chillies alone, season-specific souring agents
and fresh fruits,î she says.
points out that in the Awadhi biriyani, the meat is first cooked and
then layers of rice and mutton are alternately arranged in the handi
with a sprinkling of saffron and put on dum (sealed and cooked on a
low fire). But in kachchi gosht ki biriyani of Hyderabad, raw meat is
stir fried with masala for a couple of minutes and then covered with
rice and put on dum. It cooks in its own steam and absorbs all the
flavours. Similarly, the pathar kebab has a mild smoked flavour and
tastes tangy instead of the usual strong onion-garlic or saffron
flavour. Tender meat is marinated in simple spices like chilli paste,
salt and raw mango or tamarind and then cooked slowly on a heated
stone using a unique technique,î says Kulsum.
Biriyani (serves 8)
kg mutton (a mix of chops, marrow bones and cubes from the shoulder)
onions, finely sliced
tsp ginger paste
tsp garlic paste
tsp red chilli powder
bunch of green coriander, washed and chopped
small bunch of fresh green mint, chopped
of 3 lemons
pinch of saffron
inch cinnamon stick
tsp caraway seeds
small piece of nutmeg
few flakes mace
oil. Fry onions till golden brown. Crush when cool. Rub the ginger,
garlic into the meat. Add 3 cups of yoghurt, salt, red chilli powder,
coriander, mint, green chillies, ground spices, lemon juice, crushed
onions and the oil in which the onions were fried. Mix well and
marinate for about 3-4 hours.
the rice and mix with 1 cup well-beaten yoghurt. Add saffron and half
a cup of milk. Set aside.
a heavy bottomed pan with a tight covering lid. Transfer the
marinated meat with the marinade to the pan. Place the rice over the
meat. Sprinkle the saffron milk over the rice. Dot it with ghee.
Cover and cook, first over high, then over medium low heat till the
meat is tender, the liquids are absorbed and the rice cooked.
out gently and serve steaming hot.
Kebab (serves 8)
kg boneless mutton, cut into flat pieces of approximately 3/4 inch
thickness, 3-inch length and 2 inches breadth
green chillies ground to a paste
tsp cassia buds (kebab chini), powdered
tsp peppercorn, ground
tsp ginger paste
tsp garlic paste
tsp green raw papaya skin, ground into a paste (or a dash of
or ghee for brushing
medium onions sliced in rings
few mint leaves
a mallet and gently flatten the meat. Mix above ingredients, except
onions, lemons and mint leaves, and marinate meat in it for 3 hours.
a flattish piece of rough granite that is not too thick. Wash the
stone and rest it on bricks and heat this stone with live charcoals
underneath. Sprinkle a little oil or ghee on the surface of the stone
and place the marinated meat pieces. Turn them a few times brushing
them occasionally with oil. Remove when cooked through.
hot with onions, wedges of lemon and fresh mint.