When Mughal emperor Aurangzeb deposed his father Shah Jahan and imprisoned him, legend has it that he allowed him simplest one factor of his choice for the rest of his life. And Shah Jahan chose chickpeas. “A extremely good supply of protein, chickpeas can be cooked in lots of one of a kind approaches — in soups, bird, pulao, dal or halwa — that’s how the emperor survived his final years,” says meals historian Salma Yusuf Husain. “But when Shah Jahan changed into the ruler, his dastarkhwan was a revolt of colors and flavours. Paneer was of 7 unique hues, so turned into kofta and pulao. For example, they used to cook dinner half of the rice in clean pomegranate juice and the other 1/2 in water. These two types were later combined and lined with silver warakh. This become for the Yakuti pulao; yakut method ruby in Persian,” she adds.
Recipes of such colorful and flavour-rich dishes make The Mughal Feast (Roli Books, Rs 1,495), that is a transcreation of Nuskha-e-Shahjahani, a Persian recipe ebook dating back to Shah Jahan’s rule. Divided into 8 chapters, it has recipes for an assortment of naans, aash (soups), Aaliyah and do-piyazahs, bharta, zeer biryani, kababs and different sweetmeats. “Unfortunately, the ultimate bankruptcy of the manuscript — on murabbas and pickles — is missing; we tried tough however couldn’t locate it,” says Husain.
Recipes for pulao make the longest bankruptcy, with over 50 types. If for Naranj pulao, orange-flavoured lamb curry is cooked in rice, for Zard pulao, sweetened cinnamon-flavoured rice is garnished with fried raisins. In Koko pulao, lamb koftas, do-piyazah filled-hen and omelette are cooked with rice. “The chefs within the royal kitchen have been aggressive and creative. You’ll locate lots of nuts and dry fruits of their dishes, that is what they got from critical Asia. In India, they found greens, grains and fresh end result. That’s how you could see dishes with elements consisting of falsa, banana, melon, mangoes and oranges,” says Husain, including that the chefs were preparing loads of dishes each day, as one could not expect the emperor’s temper. “The meals turned into cooked within the purest of rainwater mixed with water from Yamuna and Chenab rivers that would be stored inside the kitchens,” says Husain, who’s a postgraduate in Persian language and literature. Her first process concerned translating handwritten Persian manuscripts on the National Archives in 1964.
“One day, I turned into thinking about the legacy and historical past that the Mughals have left us with, however now not tons was written about their food, though Mughlai cuisine is famous even these days. When there are such a lot of books on Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan, why hasn’t all and sundry written approximately their manuscripts on meals?” she says. Sometime later, she discovered Alwan-e-Nemat, a set of recipes written at some point of Emperor Jehangir’s time, which made her award-triumphing book The Emperor’s Table (2008).
She located Nuskhe-e-Shahjahani in London’s British Library in early 2000s and translated most effective recipes for pulao for a book that become posted via Rupa in 2004. Recently, while founder-writer of Roli Books, Pramod Kapoor, went to London, he were given a copy of the whole manuscript. “Even in Ain-i-Akbari, there may be a chapter committed to kitchen management, through which we get to recognize how crucial food become. The emperor had no one much less than the high minister appearance after it. The Mir Bakawal consulted the hakims, who determined the menu according to the king’s temperament, napping pattern and what is right for the intellect,” she says.
The Mughals had a sweet tooth. “In Alwan-e-Nemat, it’s miles written that they used to dip even the shami kababs in sugar syrup,” says Husain. On the spices they used, she provides, “There have been no chillies, no garlic and no turmeric in their food, they’d saffron, which changed into used no longer handiest for colouring but also as an vital factor, along with ginger, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. From ghee, they started out cooking in olive oil and after they have become Indianised, they commenced the use of mustard oil,” she says.
The Mughals additionally tailored the Indian dish of bharta — in which greens are mashed after roasting over an open fireplace. “With every emperor, a new type of cooking turned into introduced. With Akbar came a variety of Indian dishes, Jehangir lived more often than not in Kashmir, so cooking of the birds turned into added as he could hunt plenty near the Dal Lake,” she says, adding that the Portuguese were given with them chillies, potatoes and tomatoes.
During her studies, Husain also travelled throughout central Asia, including Tashkent, Bukhara and Samarkand, and discovered how noodles and pastas have been additionally present in the Mughal kitchen. “We were staying in a homestay in Samarkand with an Afghani circle of relatives, in which we noticed kids rolling and cutting noodles and pasta. The girl of the residence told us that those got here to them thru the silk direction, before going to Italy,” says Husain, who has labored with ITC for over 20 years as a meals representative. She notes how the Mughlai delicacies served now is some distance from true. “Now if you ask for Mughlai meals, they will provide you with a plate full of spices, sauces and oil, but that changed into handiest used to decorate the base flavours. I just don’t want to put in writing the recipes, I want to know the history, how are we the use of the recipes and feature we accomplished justice to them or or ruined them,” says the author.