We all have grown up, listening to stories. There would be that one storyteller in the family, who would enthrall you with stories every night. I remember my Badi Maa (Father’s elder brother’s wife) was an avid story teller. We kids would play throughout the evening and when it would get darker, some elder would drag us back to home. At home, we would get restless and urge Badi Maa to finish off her chores, so she could spend more with us. More time would mean more stories.
She would, like a proficient storyteller spin a yarn, and we would listen to every single word coming out of her mouth with rapt attention. Every night, with her stories, our imaginations would wander away into the fancy world of kings and queens, their elephants and horses, rivers and lakes, mountains and hills, magicians and comics that she would spin around us so effortlessly. Those stories would fill us with exuberance.
In all these stories the royalties would be attributed to opulence and grandeur. The royals had a lavish and a fairytale life that often seems surreal to an outsider. I am still intrigued by the royals and often like reading about their lifestyle especially the food practices that they followed. There are many stories that surround the mystical world of kings and their kingdoms. Indian subcontinent was, when British came to India under the garb of trade and formed East India Company, ruled by many different kings. In fact when British started annexing India to make it a British territory, India was divided into provinces and princely states. The Provinces were directly under control of British, whereas princely states had some Indian rulers at helm, but under the patronage of British. These kings would be designated various honorary titles like Maharaja, Nizam etc. These rulers would live the life of opulence and luxuries and would often get indulged in obscene display of extravagance that seems beyond the realm of sanity. Food was an absolute important part of this extravaganza. There are many stories, some true and some awe-inspiring but difficult to believe.
Lately, I have been reading cookbooks that share recipes from kitchen of royalty. One of the best known cookbooks that has emanated from the royalty of Shailana is “Cooking delights of Maharajas”. This book authored by Maharaja Digvijay Singh, houses recipe written by his late father Maharaja Dalip Singh. When most of the kings and rulers were known to appreciate the food prepared by their khansamas, Maharaja Dalip Singh, actually would walk into the royal kitchen and prepare the recipes that he had learnt over the years. He not only documented recipes that were known to him, but also from Nizams of Hyderabad, Kashmir and Begum of Bhopal. He had painstakingly translated recipes written in Sanskrit, Urdu and Persian to ensure that these recipes are preserved (source wiki).
I have decided to share my experiences as I prepare recipes from this cookbook. So to start with, last weekend I experimented with a dessert recipe. The book boasts of numerous dessert recipes all of which are not known to commoners like us. The recipes like ‘Lahsun ki kheer’, ‘Gulab ki kheer’, ‘Dahi ka Halwa’, ‘Makki ka Halwa’ and many more. I decided to be less adventurous and start with Dahi ka Halwa.
This recipe is made with curd and semolina as the two main ingredients. The other usual suspects are sugar, cardamom powder, mace powder, almonds and pistachios. I must admit, while making this dessert, I was filled with same exuberance that I used to feel listening to stories of Badi Maa. Hung curd imparts an amazing degree of smoothness to this halwa, which is difficult to get in other variations of halwa. If you want to know how this halwa tastes, it just melts in your mouth. Sweetness is subtle, not overpowering at all (just as royal would say nazakat (softness) and nafasat (sophistication)). Finally how can a royal dish be complete without aroma? So the dish demands addition of Rose-water and Saffron, which also imparts a beautiful color to the dish. Remember to eat it when it is still warm so that you can experience the rich aftertaste.
All in all, this is a scene stealer dish on your dinner table. Prepare them for your guests, and make them feel like the Maharajas.
- 250 grams hung curd. We have used 650 grams of curd and tied it in a muslin cloth for about 5-6 hours.
- 60 grams Rawa/Suji/Semolina
- 60 gram desi ghee (clarified butter)
- 125 gram granulated sugar
- 30 ml rose water
- 1 tsp mace powder
- 1 tsp cardamom powder
- Some saffron strands
- Soak some almonds and pistachios in water.Peel off the skin and cut them into slices
- Soak saffron strands in warm water(not boiling).
- Melt ghee in a pan. When ghee melts and becomes hot, add rawa. Fry until it turns golden brown. Keep stirring every few mins.
- When rawa turns golden brown (6-7 mins on low flame) turn off the flame.
- After taking rawa off the flame, add whisked curd to the pan. Now mix it nicely to avoid formation of lumps.
- Texture should be smooth without any lumps.
- Now add sugar and mix it well.
- Put the pan back on flame (low flame).
- After 8 mins of cooking,halwa should be almost done and traces of ghee should be seen at the sides of pan.
- Now add cardamom powder, mace powder, saffron soaked in water, rose water and mix them all nicely.
- Cook Halwa for about 5 mins.Keep stirring to avoid the halwa from sticking to the bottom of the pan.Turn off the flame after 5 mins.
- Garnish Dahi ka Halwa with Almonds and Pistachios.
Find some more desserts
Click to watch recipe video