Winter may not have a bite any more in most parts of the country, but that does not mean one cannot enjoy the delicacies associated with the season.
Winter may not have a bite any more in most parts of the country, but that does not mean one cannot enjoy the delicacies associated with the season. Rich curries and sizzling kebabs sound appetising this time of the year, which brings to mind the bylanes of purani Dilli and the streets of Lucknow. Think the softest of kebabs that break in your hands, biryanis rich in delicate flavours of spices and meat and velvety kormas that are a fusion of spices.
But if you thought it’s all about the meat, think again. At The Imperial in the capital, chef Mirza Munnawar Baig has a beetroot and quinoa tikki that gives any meat kebab a run for its money. Silky soft with boiled beetroot and potato, with a crumb of quinoa for the crunch, the earthy beetroot gets a glamorous and delicious avatar. Ditto for the dahi ke kebab, where he achieves a perfect balance of hung curd, diced figs, potato and spices. The result is simply outstanding. A fourth-generation khansama from Lucknow, chef Mirza’s forefathers worked in the kitchens of the nawabs of Awadh. Carrying on the traditions of his ancestors, he makes his own spice blends for that authentic touch, but admits that oil and spice levels are now drastically reduced to cater to the modern palate, more so in a luxury hotel.
But there’s no compromising on other fronts. Chef Ved Prakash fries up a mean shahi tukra, dipping the fried bread in milk and syrup, and topping it with thick rabri and nuts for an indulgent dessert. Having learned the tricks of the trade from his grandfather, who owned an eatery famous for its curries in old Delhi at the time of independence, he transforms the humble tomato by stuffing it with mushroom and serving it on a bed of rich gravy with strong notes of sharp ginger. Fresh peas and carrots come together in a perfectly cooked dish and the vegetable and almond shorba is just what you want on a winter evening—light, fragrant and flavourful.
When even the most prestigious restaurants offer a repeated dose of mushrooms and cheese course after course in the name of vegetarian fare, encountering an array of vegetables in cuisines normally associated with meat is laudable.