Lucknow Diaries: In Search of the Best Kebabs

 

The Next Best Thing To Eating Food Is Talking About It…Or Perhaps Writing About it…

Well you probably know enough about me  via my recent posts.It’s been almost four years of moving from Dubai to Mumbai and I do hope you have been following my food escapades.The hubs and me are quite the  incorrigible foodies on the hunt for the best eating experiences from street food to fine dining and anything else that fits in between. Our travels within India have been a delightful experience indeed.Having lived out of the country for over two decades now, exploring cities, their cultural influences and food nuances.

Yes and I may have said this before “We will travel to any length of this planet, in search of good food”. A recent sojourn took us to the Northern India, Lucknow quite aptly named the “City Of Nawabs” and well know for it’s traditional cuisine, the delectable and melt in your mouth Kebabs in particular like the Galawati, Shammi & Kakori. The Lucknowi style of cooking is also quintessentially known as the “Awadhi Cuisine”, the rulers being the Nawabs of Awadh whose origin lies in Persia.And hence the cuisine has the influence of various meats, grains, spices, nuts and saffron.

So yes ,in a sense this trip to Lucknow was a quick getaway over a long weekend along with catching up with wonderful friends who promised us a gastronomic experience and well for me it was in search for the best Kebab of sorts.The best part of discovering cuisine in a new city is having a friend that subs as a foodie expert and takes you through the finer aspects of traditional cuisine.

Our friends Nandini & Ravi met with us in Lucknow and very sweetly had put together a list of “must eats”and “must do” in Lucknow. Well 48 hours is all that we could wring out of our crazy lives but such as enjoyable indeed.

1.Dastarkhwan:

Our itinerary is left to our dear friends and we are totally excited as Ravi had planned a good packed few days for us. We both arrived into the city around noon and checked into the Hilton in Lucknow which was a very comfortable stay and in close proximity to all our jaunts. As per the plan we head out straight for lunch. First stop is at a mid range restaurant called Dastarkhwan which is immensely known for it’s Mughlai-Awadhi style of cuisine. The chefs in Lucknow are the creators of the “Dum style of cooking”, which is the style of cooking on a slow fire. We are quite ravenous  and are so looking forward to our lunch. We arrive around 3pm to find this place packed with late -lunchers and can’t wait to order. We left the selection of dishes to our friends and they surely delighted our palettes. This place is famous for its Mutton Korma,Paya Curry and Galawati kebabs and also the Paneer Pasanda with rotis of-course. We ate at the restaurant in Gomti nagar, however they do have several other locations as well.

 

2.Sakhawat’s: I’m not a Glutton…Just an explorer of food.

And the exploration and search was for the best kebabs. My friends knew about the obsession for the best ever Galawati and Shammi kebabs is what got me all the way to Lucknow in the first place. Now they have lived in Lucknow and know the hidden gems around the city and were keen that me make Sakhawat’s our next jaunt and explore this hole in the wall kind of place that serves up some finger licking good  Kebabs,with the right blend of their secret spices and smoky charred flavours.We also sample some of their  tandoori Chicken and hot rotis.

 

 

3. Rahim Ki Nihari in Lucknow:

The next morning we start off from our hotel early in the morning to soak in the historical sights of Bada Imam Barah.Our friends have then planned out a breakfast that cannot be missed in Lucknow. It’s around 10 am in the morning now and our pit stop for the day starts at Rahim’s in Chowk. The breakfast dish which is a must try here is the Ghosht Nihari (which is a mutton dish) served with some hot Shermal. The secret of this iconic dish is the melange of the right amount of ground spices and the gentle and slow cooking of the meat. Nihari originates from the Urdu word Nahar which translates to day break and which is possibly why this dish is most often served at breakfast.

Having satiated every carnivorous desire for the moment its time to cool off the spicy breakfast we decided to stop for a glass of chilled Thandai.

 

4. P. Raja Ki Mashoor Thandai:

This popular chilled Milk based drink is utterly refreshing. It is often mixed with powdered almonds, fennel, cardamom, sugar, saffron strands and crushed petals. Another variety of Thandai also has some cannabis added to it which it gives it an extra punch. This drink is very popular during festivals in India such as Holi and Mahashivrathri.

Now with the bellies full it’s time to burn off those calories and turn to some retail therapy. My mind is set on exploring the old parts of Lucknow especially the Chowk and Hazratganj  neighbourhoods and indulge in some “Chikankari work” This is traditional embroidery work that Lucknow is famous for. Apparently this was started off by “Nur Jehan”, the wife of the Mogul emperor Jehangir.

 


 

The numerous stores have an array of different varieties of “Chickanwok”. Unstitched fabric, blouses, dresses, traditional wear and even saris embroidered with delicately on fabrics such as cotton, silk and chiffon. So much to choose from. We browse through a multitude of stores as the variety is just mind boggoling.I finally settle for a couple of cool cotton blouses and some traditional wear that always comes handy for occasions in India. Quite exhausted by an early start and all the walking for the day we decide to have a light bite and then return back to our hotel for the day.

 

5. Royal Cafe: For Chaat:

 

Street fare is delightful and reasonable here in Lucknow and a great way to absorb the local flavours of a city.Now even though the list of these delicacies and the restaurants are endless, we decide to pop by the Royal Cafe and indulge in some Katori Chaat and pain puri and wash it down with a lemonade.That’s it for today I remark to my friends. It’s been an eventful day and a foodelicious one that too.Tomorrow will be another day I know and will bring in more food adventures I’m sure as its our last day in Lucknow like I said I was on the hunt for the best kebab.

6. Tundaay Kebabi:

 

It’s our last day in Lucknow and we have a relaxed morning  at the hotel.I’m in awe of the city, it’s culture and traditions. We seem to have absorbed a whole lot in our three day trip. Yet, I had started off in search of a delectable and delicious kebab flavour in mind. A flavour that i had very often relished at the Al Afadil kebab place in Sharjah during our stay in the middle east. I had not eaten anything that came even close to the shammi and galouti kebabs I had eaten there. so with that as a point of reference I still was in search.. We arrive at the iconic 100 year old Tundaay Kebabi place in Aminabad lucknow late afternoon. The place is simple and unpretentious and  filled with the mid afternoon diners  feasting on plates full of deliciousness, varieties of kebabs, curries, scrumptious plates of biryani’s, the aromas wafting through the air. I can feel my excitement build as I know I have come to the right place. ad sure enough the kebabs are absolutely delicate and they melt in the mouth. the galouti is essentially finely minced goat meat with and addition of almost 160 spices.

The story behind these juicy and succulent morsels of ground meat is that.  There was once a Nawab  who apparently was very fond of kebabs.As he aged he lost his teeth and was unable to chew and hence waged a contest for his chefs to create the softest kebabs so that he may enjoy them.This  secret recipe of the kebabs was was created by Haji Murad Ali, who in trying to perfect the best kebab fell off the roof and broke his hand. However this did not disuade  him from creating his recipe and he perfected it.When presented to the nawab it was served as Tundaay ke kebab i.e. Kebab made by a single armed person.As a one armed person in India is called Tundaay, that is how the name Tundaay Kebab came about.

I’m at peace with myself and oh so very satiated at having eaten at Tundaay Kebabi. These flavours will linger on for years to come. I hear they have a branch in Mumbai too, all though the flavours from Lucknow are a class apart. I’m happy and all i want is some cream that I had spotted before we came in here. So off we go to nurse that sweet tooth to our final destination…

7. Prakash Kulfi Lucknow:

Apparently yet another must do when in Lucknow I’m told by my friends.again an institution in itself severing up delicious pots and cones of Indian ice-cream called Kulfi made with condensed milk, nuts such as pistachios, almonds and cashews, flavoured with sugar and saffron. Every bite is so refreshing and just delicious. A family run business for the past 50 years, this place is abuzz with ice-cream lovers, beating the heat and digging into various flavours of Malai, Strawberry, Butterscotch and Chocolate.

8. The Taj Vivanta: Oudhyana

We also visited the The Taj Vivanta for a fabulous meal (lots of kebabs of-course). We dined at the Oudhyana which is a fine dining restaurant and an elegant one too serving up some delectable and delightful Awadhi cuisine.

9.Historical Sites:

  • Bara Imambara
  • Chota Imambara
  • Hazratganj market
  • Chowk
  • Husainbad Clock Tower
  • La Matineire school

All in all this trip was a great discovery of the land of Kebabs and Nawabs (royalty). I highly recommend every food enthusiast to take a peek into this foodie haven and trust me you won’t be disappointed. That said, I do hope my Lucknow diaries has lured you into visiting a truly delightful city filled with Culture, history & delectable Cuisine. Huge thanks to our wonderful foodie pals Ravi & Nandini Dayal for making this such a memorable holiday.

Happy Travels & Foodelicious Wishes!

 

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese is quite easily another favourite with the family. The trick to make this into a quick fix meal is to prep up the meat sauce ahead of time. I usually make a large batch and freeze this for a week or so. This way the assembly of  the sauce and the boiled spag is another “Meal in less than 30 minutes”. The meat sauce has really simple ingredients and while you may choose using ground pork or beef, I’ve used some minced goat meat.

This hearty  sauce is made with fresh tomatoes, onions, lots of garlic, carrots and oregano.I like to keep the Bolognese fairly thick so that it coats the spaghetti well. You may use the same sauce with any other variety Pastas or even a Lasagne.While some recipes call for use of some red wine.I’ve skipped this and instead added some balsamic vinegar and brown sugar to make the sauce a tad bit tart and it enhance the colour too.

Well, go ahead and combine your love for pasta and a quick dinner idea and do give  this recipe a go.

This one is sure to give your dinner table a weeknight makeover.

Bon Appetite!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 carrot (small and chopped finely)
  • 5-7 button mushrooms (sliced)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 250 g Goat meat mince (mutton)
  • 4 large tomatoes ( blanched and pureed)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese (grated for the garnish)
  • Fresh basil or parsley (garnish)
  • 250 g Boiled Spaghetti

Method:

  1. Boil the spaghetti for 10 minutes and drain and keep aside.
  2. Brown the mince in some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add water and cook till no more raw.
  3. Add some olive oil to another pan and saute the onions and garlic.
  4. Add in the finely chopped carrots and cook till done. Add in the mushroom and cook.
  5. Now add in the pureed tomatoes and some water and simmer till the sauce is fairly thick.
  6. Add in the balsamic vinegar and the brown sugar.
  7. Season with chilli flakes,salt and pepper.
  8. Once the sauce is ready add in the cooked meat and some more water and simmer further for 10 minutes
  9. Pour over the cooked spaghetti and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and some fresh parsley.

 

Brinjal Pickle: Marking Achaar Din for Indian Food Observance Day


 

Pickling has several  connotations in many parts of the world. Very simply put it means preserving food in brine or a vinegar immersion. We find pickled foods almost everywhere, right from cucumbers, gherkins, kimchi, carrots to even meats and seafood. Now pickles can be quite diverse and can say a lot of one’s culture. For instance in most european countries picking could mean preserving the vegetables in a simple brine solution and hence tend these to be more acidic in flavours. Where as here in the Indian sub continent the process of pickling lends a complexity of flavours quite tart and mingled with sweet and spicy notes.

Pickling is an age old tradition in India, albeit a dying one due to easy availability of ready made pickles off the market shelves.I have very fond memories of my grandmother and my aunts looking forward to the summer months when Mangoes are plenty. The green mangoes especially along with a host of spices, sugar and oil makes up a delicious pickle which serves up as an accompaniment with our meals. There are various varieties of pickle here including Lime, green chillies,mixed vegetables and even meats and sea food.

Well recently we celebrated Achaar Day in India. This translates into Pickle day as a part of Indian Food observance Day here in Mumbai.This is a wonderful initiative by the lovely blogger pal Rushina. She messaged me to come and join her for her AchaarDin potluck last weekend. Unfortunately due to a prior commitment I was  unable to attend this event, However I promised her a Achaar recipe that evokes childhood memories for me and my family.

My Grand mom,Mom and aunts would often make this Brinjal pickle which we would relish as kids.With Anglo- Indian blood from my maternal genes this could well be coined under lost Anglo Indian recipes…This pickle takes me back to my maternal grandmothers kitchen where often the aroma’s of this pickle wafted through the house. I have tweaked it a bit by giving it my own touch. It’s just as good (so I think) Will have to send some across to my mom and my sister  to sample some.I’m nursing some allergies at the moment and all I can do is stare at this wonderful and easy pickle for the moment.
But I would love for you to try this recipe out. This can be eaten hot or cold and stays well for 3-4 when refrigerated.

Brinjal Pickle:

Ingredients:
1/2 kg small brinjals
3-4 pods chopped garlic
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
5-6 curry leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon roasted cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
1 teaspoon chilli powder
5 tablespoons groundnut Oil
3 tablespoons White vinegar
2 tablespoons powdered jaggery (gur) or sugar

Method:

Wash the brinjals and cut into quarters
Add a little oil and fry the brinjals till semi cooked.
Remove them and keep aside
In the same pan add the balance oil and temper with mustard seeds and cumin seeds.
Add the chopped garlic and ginger garlic paste and fry for a bit.
Next add in all the powdered spices. and fry.
Add the fried brinjals and cook till almost done
Add in the vinegar and jaggery powder.
Cool and store in an air tight container.
Must consume within 2-3 days

Classic Lasagne : An All Time Favorite

I have been meaning to put up this recipe for my Classic Lasagne for ever so long.It’s summer at it’s warmest and sunniest best here in Mumbai at the moment.While this is way too heavy a meal for dinner at the moment, it is still a family favourite and my recipe for a Classic lasagna. I agree the task is quite a laborious one but very worth the effort of slaving over it. The result is a creamy, moist and delicious baked dish. While a lot of recipes do not use  Ricotta cheese and egg mixture, I personally feel this gives the Lasagne a great creamy and moist texture and makes for a delicious baked dish.

You could make up the filling a day ahead and that would save a lot of time indeed. Served with a side of a garden fresh salad and a some nice warm herbed bread, this works great for weeknight dinners and while entertaining as well.

Hope you enjoy making this.

Bon Apetite!

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg lean mince (goat or lamb)
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 500 ml fresh tomato puree
  • 2 packets  tomato paste
  • 1 pack tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 250 grams ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 300 grams mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Drizzle some oil in a skillet and add the onions and garlic a and salute for a bit. Next add in the ground meat and cook till well browned.. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  3. Preheat oven 190 degrees C
  4. To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Udaipur: Of Lakes, Palaces & Royalty

Hello Friends,

Here’s hoping the New Year has begun well for everyone!

Our dear son was visiting us over the recent holidays and we decided to take a quick trip within India.Now my travel almost always revolves around Culinary travel wherein essentially,I roundup a list of of best eats, or perhaps rub shoulders with a Chef at the hotel and get him to share a secret or two, or even do a workshop like I did one in Galle,Sri lanka. However this post is perhaps not as food centric and more of a travel post, sharing  the sheer splendour and magnificence of Fatehgarh, a  luxurious and boutique hotel we stayed at on our recent trip to Udaipur in Rajasthan,India.

 

Udaipur is quite aptly named as the City of Lakes or the Venice of the East and a city in Rajasthan, India, makes a perfect getaway  due its proximity of an a hour’s flight from Mumbai.The city has numerous lakes such as Fateh Sagar, Lake Pichola that make it a perfect spot for boating or perhaps even just walking.Besides lakes, Udaipur is also popular for its  historic forts and palaces, museums, galleries,gardens, temples, as well as traditional fairs and cultural festivals.The city founded by Maharana Udai Singh is  quite well know for its lavish and royal residences.

With the dear son visiting us over the Christmas holiday’s, we so wanted a break from our usual routine’s and decided on a quick break to Udaipur. The hubs was travelling and of course I was entrusted with making the vacay plans which meant scouting for a good hotel. Well infact the first hotel I chanced upon was the Fatehgarh property and I must admit was very impressed by the images on their website and of course the various amazing traveller reviews.

Lets say the decision was made to spend our time at this property and so glad that we did.

Hotel Fateh Garh, a Heritage Renaissance Resort – is located   on the perphery of   Udaipur city and surrounded by the magnificent Aravali range with spectacular & panoramic views.The hotel welcomes guests with style and traditional fanfare to a property that is resplendent in modern luxury coupled with old world charm.The hotel has a grand fort like entrance and  is a 48 room property , that offers a tranquil and quiet getaway.

The resort was just the kind of break we were looking for. Nestled away from the main city, it turned out to be luxurious and a dream like experience for us. The interiors are resplendent in style and elegance and the hotel prides itself in the use of  indigenous material, which is most suited for the region such as locally available stone ,marble and wood.The  Royal and Palatial charm is encapsulated in each detail be it their decor,facilities or the hospitality of the staff ,that give  us a glimpse into the glorious Rajasthani tradition and culture. One certainly felt transported to an era of the royal life of the kings of yester years.

 

Now while there’s plenty to do in Udaipur one really wanted to indulge and bathe in the royalty that Fatehgarh promised to offer. So Day 1  we did a quick tour of the city via transport organised by the hotel. This included a visit to the City Palace, Lake Fateh Sagar, Taj Lake Palace and of course a walk down the quaint lanes of old Udaipur for their famous street food.

Street Food Udaipur:

  • Bhole Mistan: Jalebis
  • Poornima Vada: Vada Pav
  • Apni Dhani: Rajasthani Thali
  • Hotel Natraj: Dal Batti Choorma

And of course the numerous street vendors that make the most delicious Kachori’s, Chaat and Gulab jammuns.

 

 Must eats in Udaipur are: (Fine Dining)

  • Upre: (Best for:Dinner) Upre literally means “up” or “upstairs” Located on the terrace of Hotel Lake Pichola, gives you some spectacular views of the City Palace. The restaurants is multi levellled with Gazebos that give a feeling of dinning in a royal tent.of sorts that give a. The individual tables are done up royally like tents and gives you a nice and romantic feel. The fare consists of a North Indian and a Chinese menu.
  • Palki Khana: (Best for: Snacks & Drinks) Situated inside the City Palace, Palki Khana is the best place to unwind after your long walks inside the Palace and the museum. With the lake on one side and the beautiful facade of the City Palace on the other, it offers an amazing view. In case you would just like to relax with a book and a bottle of wine.
  • Ambrai:  at the Amet Haveli is a great place for tourists  for some authentic Rajasthani cuisine.Not only does Ambrai take their guests on a delicious gastronomical ride, but the restaurant is located on the banks of Picholi Lake, giving a delightful view of Sajjangarh Fort, Jagdish Temple and the City Palace.

Places to Visit:

  • Lake Pichola
  • Lake Fateh Sagar
  • City Palace
  • Sajjangarh Palace

The city sights and sounds were a pleasure  to all the senses indeed. But I must admit the best part of our sojourn was sitting back on the idyllic gardens of our stunning hotel Fatehgarh and soaking in it’s breath taking landscapes and sourroundings.

 

 

Become a Maharaja  during  your vacation at Fatehgarh. Dine in magnificent splendour and sample exquisite cuisine, watch local  folk dancers perform the traditional dances of India and stay in rooms furnished in opulent luxury and royal lifestyle indeed.

Our short stay at Fatehgarh turned out to be an unforgettable holiday in royal style. The hotel had excellent facilities and the staff were extremely hospitable. Our stay was a fleeting glimpse into the luxirious  and glamorous lifestyle of Rajasthani culture. I do hope this blog post has captured the essence and beauty of Udaipur in a snap shot, all though nothing can do justice to this city than a short trip and a memorable one too.