Monday, November 13, 2006

Mughal flavor in Indian food,curpg-2.cms

12 Nov, 2006, 0125 hrs IST,Vikram Doctor, TNN

Dalrymple’s ‘The Last Mughal’ has been acclaimed for its depiction of the 1857 Rising including rarely used Indian sources. Almost as noteworthy is his use of the same sources to paint a vivid picture of the twilight years of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s court.

Beset by British demands on one side, by fundamentalist Sunni mullahs on the other, Zafar presided over a shrinking world that maintained the tolerant, syncretic aspects of Mughal rule. Zafar’s mother was Hindu, he celebrated Holi and watched the Ram-Lila at Diwali, drank only Ganges water and in his own faith was a Sufi rather than orthodox Muslim.

Delhi’s food reflected this as well. Dalrymple shows how the British and Mughal worlds, once close in the era of the Anglo-Mughals like Begum Sumru and the Skinner and Gardner families, were now diverging by contrasting their dining habits. The British woke at dawn for a huge breakfast that was heavy on meat: “brain cutlets, beef rissoles, mutton hashes, brawns of sheep’s head and trotters.”

And that was just to start with. By the time the court rose, near noon, for a light breakfast of fruits or a mutton shorba, the British had almost finished their day’s work and were settling down to a light (for them) lunch of grilled chicken.

Nobody did much during Delhi afternoons, but by evening the British were settling down to another vast meat heavy dinner, while the court was preparing for its main meal of the day. Dalrymple writes that Zafar himself rarely had dinner before 10.30 p.m. by when the British were asleep.

His favourite dishes were “quail stew, venison, lamb kidneys on sweet nan called shir mal, yakhni, fish kebabs, and meat stewed with oranges,” though the royal kitchens could also produce a Mughlai feast of 25 types of bread, 25 pulaos and birianis, 35 curries and 50 different puddings.

Zafar liked his food well-spiced, including with the chillies that had only relatively recently become a common ingredient in the Indian kitchen.

Today Mughlai refers to a rich, rather restaurant style of cooking, but this does little justice to the role the Mughals played in the evolution of Indian food. Major shifts in a country’s cooking have always been driven by invasion, as with the Normans in Britain, or by royal marriages, as when Catherine de Medici took her Italian cooks to the then unsophisticated French court of her husband Henri II.

The Mughals did both. When Babur invaded India he brought not just the simple grilled meats of Central Asia, but also a love of fruits and sophisticated food habits picked up in his conquests of great cities like Samarkand.

His son Humayun, while exiled to Persia by Sher Shah Suri, picked up cooking traditions such as carefully constructed rice-based pilaus and the use of fruits and nuts in meat stews. Marriage to Rajput princesses added Indian vegetarian traditions:

Akbar started abstaining from meat twice a week, then for months at a time, and the use of beef was discouraged to allow him to eat with his Rajput allies. Jehangir famously fell for a rich dried fruit and nut enriched khichidi of Gujarat called lazizan, which became one of his favourite foods. The wealth of the Mughals attracted traders from across the Islamic world, then the Portuguese and English, all bringing new foods and ingredients such as the chillies that Zafar liked.

Less often realised is the Mughal influence on the use of onions in Indian food. Onions were well known to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, but find no mention in the Vedas and Upanishads.

By the 7th century AD a Chinese traveller noted that onions were known in India, but not favoured much. Yet today a rise in their prices shakes governments. The change seems to have happened with the Mughals, with the ‘Ain-i-Akbari’ noting much use of onions with meat dishes, such as dopiaza with its onions used twice.

This might reflect the influence of the larger Islamic world. In Ziryab, Farouk Mardam-Bey’s excellent collection of essays on Arab cuisine, he refers to Morocco and India as the great “onion heavens”. Many Moroccan tagines (stews) start with a base of caramelised onions; add ginger and garlic and you have the standard Mughlai base.

The fall of Delhi ended the Mughal influence, but not that of Mughlai food. Where the Mughals at their height gathered together traditions, in their decline they dispersed them. Breakaway kingdoms developed Mughlai traditions in new directions, most notably in Avadh and Hyderabad, but also places like Bhopal and Calcutta.

Meanwhile the core cooking remained intact in Delhi, both in its Mughlai essence and its Kayasth Hindu vegetarian variant. In his exile in Rangoon, Zafar and his family had to survive on Rs 11 a day doled out by the British (with a magnanimous extra rupee on Sunday). Perhaps it might have been some comfort for him to know how the richness of the cooking of his court would long outlive him.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Some Egyptian Dishes

Courtesy my moving to Egypt, (For more info, click on this link) here are some Egyptian Recipes :

Although some dishes are similar to Middle East Cuisine, Egypt is famous for its typical, local specialities such as "Foul" (Egyptian dry beans), "Molokhia" (a soup made of molokhia leaves and chicken), or "Mahshi" (an assortment of different vegetables usually stuffed with rice and minced meat). You can try some of the following recipes :

Drinks Hibiscus (Karkade)
- 1 cup hibiscus petals
- 2 cups sugar

- Remove any stems and leaves from the dried hibiscus petals.
- Soak the petals in cold water for 1-2 hours.
- Boil the soaked petals in the same water.
- Strain water from petals immediately.
- Keep straining until the petals loose their reddish color.
- Discard the strained petals.
- Sweeten with sugar while hot.
- Can be served hot or cold.

Soups : Green Soup (Molokhia)
- 1 pound fresh molokhia leaves (or frozen and thawed)
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- black pepper, to taste
- several garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp salt
- juice of one lemon
- cardamom or cinnamon, to taste
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 5 pound chicken
- cooked rice

- Bring the chicken stock to a near boil.
- Chop the molokhia leaves as finely as possible (frozen molokhia is usually cleaned and chopped).
- Add the molokhia, stirring well.
- Stir in the bay leaf, onion and black pepper.
- Reduce heat and leave to simmer for about twenty minutes.
- Meanwhile, grind the garlic, ground coriander and the salt together into a paste and fry in oil until browned (the mixture is known as Ta'liya).
- Add the Ta'liya to the simmering molokhia with any remaining ingredients and stir well.
- Continue simmering for a few minutes and stir occasionally.
- Serve immediately with boiled rice and boiled chicken.

Creamy Risotto with onions (Keshk)
- 1 cup of yoghurt
- ½ cup of flour
- 1 cup of milk
- 2 tsp of cornflour
- 6 cups of chicken stock
- pinch of salt
- 1 onion, peeled
- 1 tsp of butter

- Mix the salt with the yoghurt and then stir in the flour.
- Let the mixture sit for thirty minutes.
- Add milk and corn, stirring constantly.
- Then, add the chicken stock.
- Cook on a low heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce is very thick.
- Fry onion on a low heat heat until browned.
- Sprinkle onion over the Kesh.
- Serve hot or cold.

Egyptian Dry Beans (Foul)
- 1 can dried, small, fava beans
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
- coriander leaves

- Soak fava beans in cold water overnight.
- Drain fava beans the following day.
- Cook in water on a medium heat for 45 minutes.
- Strain beans then mix with olive oil, salt, pepper, ground coriander, cumin, lemon juice and garlic.
- Serve beans in ramekins and put hard-boiled egg in middle of each one.
- Decorate with coriander leaves.

Vegetables Stuffed cabbage with rice (Mahshy)

- 1 cabbage
- 2 tbsp butter or oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1kg tomatoes, chopped
- chopped parsley
- 4 cups short-grain rice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 cup chicken or beef broth

- Preheat oven (200°C/400°F).
- Trim outer leaves from cabbage.
- Wash and pat dry.
- Prick leaves with fork.
- Sprinkle with salt.
- Fry the onion in butter or oil.
- Sauté the onion with the diced tomatoes and parsley.
- Stir in the short-grain rice.
- Stuff the cabbage leaves with the mixed rice.
- Place in a deep oven dish or casserole.
- Pour the broth over the stuffed leaves.
- Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven until rice is done.

Bread : Pitta Bread stuffed with figs and dates
- A Pre-fasting savory ( Eish Bel Balah wel teen)

- 1 cup seedless dates, chopped
- 1 cup chopped dried figs
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1.1/2 tsps baking soda
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt

- Preheat oven (200°C/400°F).
- Mix the dates, figs and butter together with the baking soda.
- Add to boiling water and stir constantly for 15 minutes.
- Beat the eggs and sugar together.
- Add the salt and baking powder.
- Beat in the all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour.
- Stir in walnuts with date and figue mixture.
- Pour mixture into greased baking tin.
- Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.
- Serve warm.

Dessert : Baklava (Baklawa)
- 2 cups walnuts, finely chopped
- 2 cups melted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup melted butter, to brush on dough
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 3 tbsp orange blossom water (mazahar)
- 1 packet phyllo dough (1lb)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice

- Preheat oven (200°C/400°F).
- Beat the sugar and butter together.
- Add walnuts, cinnamon and 1 tbsp orange blossom water.
- Grease a baking tin.
- Brush each layer of phyllo dough with the melted butter.
- Put several layers of phyllo dough in the baking tin. (use about half of the packet)
- Pour all of the walnut mixture over the layers of phyllo dough.
- Continue adding the rest of the phyllo dough in layers.
- Don't forget to brush each one with butter.
- Pour any remaining butter over the last layer of phyllo dough.
- Cut the phyllo dough into little squares.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, lower heat and cook for another 30 to 45 minutes.
- While the Baklwa is baking, prepare the syrup.
- Heat the water with the sugar and stir until sugar dissolves.
- Stir in lemon juice and bring to the boil.
- Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the orange blossom water.
- Leave to cool.

Stuffed Pigeons (Hamam Mahshy)

- 4 pigeons (1 lb each)
- pigeon giblets, chopped
- onion, chopped
- butter
- salt
- pepper
- cornmeal
- mint
- cooked rice

- Preheat oven (200°C/400°F).
- Heat the butter and add the onion, salt, pepper and giblets.
- Then, toss the giblets in cornmeal and mint until golden brown.
- Clean the pigeons and rub them inside and out with salt and pepper.
- Stuff each pigeon with the giblets and the previously cooked rice.
- Place the pigeons in a casserole.
- Add enough hot water to cover the bottom of the casserole.
- Pour the remaining butter over the pigeons.
- Roast in preheated oven for 50 minutes.
- Add additional water when needed.
- Put some of the pigeon stock in a saucepan with the remaining cornmeal.
- Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Serve with the roast pigeons.

Grilled minced chicken rolls (Koftet Ferakh)
Left over chicken or a whole boiled chicken

- Knead the chicken well to make a smooth mixture.
- Form the chicken mixture into small balls.
- Flatten into circles.
- Put the meat in the fridge for 15 minutes.
- Fry or roast.


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