The Nizami flavours

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | DOREEN HASSAN
Published Jul 8, 2018, 12:09 am IST
Updated Jul 8, 2018, 12:09 am IST
Discover the age-old hyderabadi recipes that once were served to the royals.
Nawabi Murgh.
 Nawabi Murgh.

As someone who learnt cooking herself by trial and error, I want to reassure you that while some recipes might appear to be difficult, each recipe can be made by anyone. In many ways, our home in Delhi is an old-fashioned household when it comes to the way we cook. I prefer adhering to traditional techniques and use traditional cookware too. However, I am aware that modern kitchens might not be equipped for this, so if you do not own a lagan, and are not keen to buy one, please use a grill pan or any pan of your choice. You can improvise as required. My advice to you would be to read a recipe very carefully before you attempt it, so that you know what to prepare for in advance. For example, marinating meat well ahead of time or grinding certain masalas before you start cooking. The more complex dishes might need some practice.

— An excerpt from the book Saffron and Pearls: A memoir of family, friendship and heirloom Hyderabadi recipes

 

Nawabi Murgh

Ingredients

1 whole chicken
3 tomatoes, pureed
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup thick yogurt
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tbsp garam masala powder
1 tsp chilli powder
Breadcrumbs, to coat
Oil for frying
Salt to taste

For the stuffing

½ kg chicken mince
1 bunch spring onion, chopped
1 bunch coriander leaves, chopped
2 green chillies
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
½ tsp garam masala powder
Salt to taste

Method

To prepare the chicken, wash the chicken and prick it all over using a fork. Then tuck the neck in the breast and keep aside as you prepare the marinade.
Mix together the ginger-garlic paste, garam masala powder, tomato puree, yogurt, red chilli powder and salt. Rub this mixture on the chicken — inside and outside — and allow it to marinate for 30 minutes.
To make the stuffing, mix the mince with ginger-garlic paste, ground garam masala and salt. Heat a pan, add the spiced mince, and cook on a low heat until the meat is dry. Take off the stove, add spring onions and coriander leaves. Keep aside.
To assemble the dish, heat a heavy-bottomed pan. Place the marinated chicken on it, and let cook until the marinade has dried up. Take the chicken off the pan, and let cool.
Stuff the chicken with the prepared mince, once it is cool enough to handle, and bind it with a sturdy thread. Dip the chicken in the beaten eggs, then in the breadcrumbs and again in the eggs. Deep fry until golden brown. 
Serve garnished with tomato slices, onion rings and capsicum rings.

Cooking on dum

There are two types of dum techniques used in Hyderabadi cooking:
Dum dena — This means keeping the dish to cook on a slow fire for a few minutes. Traditionally, such dishes are cooked in a wide, shallow pan called lagan, which is placed on a wood fire, or charcoal fire. This technique makes the oil rise to the surface giving the top layer of the meat or rice a wonderful brown colour. When rice is cooked on dum in this way, each grain is separate.  Dum pe pakana — This means cooking the dish on a slow fire. The lagan is covered and slow-burning pieces of charcoal are placed above and below.

Notes on buying and cooking chicken

Chicken is a healthier meat to choose and earlier, it used to be more expensive than mutton. For a healthy dish, choose to have the skin of the chicken removed, which makes sure there is no fat left in the meat. It has a subtler flavour than mutton, so it is important to flavour a chicken dish with a light hand or the masalas will overpower the meat.

books

Machli Ka Khatta Saalan

In Hyderabad, we would traditionally use Murral for this dish, but you can choose to go with your favourite fish. And if you prefer, use fish fillets, which will be boneless.

Ingredients

1 kg fish
¼ kg onions, finely sliced
¼ kg oil
¼ kg tamarind
¼ kg tomatoes, pureed
5 gm green chillies, slit
5 gm coriander leaves
4 cardamoms
1 cinnamon stick

To be ground together 
in a coarse paste
1 coconut, grated and ground
2 tbsp coriander powder
5 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder

For the baghar
1 sprig curry leaves
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp onion seeds
½ tsp fenugreek seeds

Machli Ka Khatta Saalan
 

Method

Clean fish, drain it and cut into round pieces. Soak the tamarind in warm water and extract its juice. Heat oil in a pan, and add a heaped teaspoon of cumin seed and curry leaves. When these splutter, add the ground masala. Fry well. Add tamarind juice and tomato puree. Cook until all the flavours break down and a gravy begins to form. Now, add the pieces of fish to the gravy. Do not use a ladle or spatula to mix it in. Just bring the dish to boil, and using pieces of cloth or the handle, shake the pan carefully once or twice. Lower the flame, and let the fish cook through. When it does, add in the whole garam masala spices, chopped coriander leaves and green chillies. Serve in a deep, round bowl and garnish with more coriander leaves, if desired.

Baghare Baingan

This is a true iconic Hyderabadi dish and I am requested to make it more often than I can count. If I know that the people I am serving it to can tolerate the heat, I add more green chillies, which brings out the flavours.

Ingredients

1 kg small, round eggplants
¼ kg onions, finely sliced
1½ cups oil
10 green chillies
4 sprigs curry leaves
4 tbsp sesame seeds
4 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
3 tbsp peanuts
3 tbsp coriander powder
2 tbsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp onion seeds
½ tsp red chillies powder
Pulp from a fistful 
of tamarind
Salt to taste

For the baghar

1 sprig curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp onion seeds
½ tsp fenugreek seeds

Baghare Baingan
 

Methods

Roast the coriander powder, peanuts and fenugreek, onion, cumin and sesame seeds together. Grind to a fine paste. Heat oil in a pan, and fry the sliced onion until very brown but not burnt. Or, you can roast the onions, one at a time, directly on the flame. Let each char, and then peel. Grind the fried or charred onions to a fine paste. Slit each eggplant in four quarters, leaving the stem on. Keep a deep bowl of salted, room-temperature water on hand, and drop each eggplant quarter into it as you slit it. Heat oil in a thick-bottomed, large pan. Add curry leaves, cumin, fenugreek and onion seeds. When these splutter, add the masala paste you ground earlier.

Sauté until it is fragrant and well-browned. Now, add the eggplants and green chillies; cover and let cook on low flame until almost soft. Pour the tamarind pulp and cook on a medium flame for another 10 minutes or until the gravy is thick. Sprinkle in the coriander leaves and keep on dum for a few minutes until the oil rises to the surface. You can choose to drain this oil off before you serve the dish.

Tip: If you are planning on serving this dish at a dinner, I highly recommend that you make it a day before. Do not refrigerate that night. Leave it out — this allows the flavours to break down and meld together, making the dish much more layered and flavourful. 

What is baghar and how it’s to be done

Across India, the final seasoning has different names and in Hyderabad, we call it baghar. It adds flavour and flourish to the dish, and must never be skipped.
The baghar is either done right at the start of cooking (as in Mirchi Ka Saalan, Baghare Baingan and Tamatar ki Chutney) or at the end, when the dish is ready, as with most dals. Be careful never to add water when doing your baghar. If the baghar is to be done first, ensure that the pan or dish you are cooking in is wiped clean. For the baghar at the end, you might need to purchase a small handheld pan, which you can find at any good store.

The standard ingredients for baghar are dried red chillies, cumin seeds or mustard seeds, garlic cloves and curry leaves. You must heat oil or ghee, or a mixture of both until smoking, and add the ingredients quickly. Let them splutter and then either add in the other ingredients or pour the baghar over the finished dish. When you do the baghar at the end, make sure you cover the dish as soon as you pour it in. This helps preserve the aroma and the flavours.

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