At a time when the Nawabs ruled the state of Awadh (present-day Lucknow), the cuisine of the region was marked by the tastes of these rulers. Nawab Asad-Ud-Daulah is believed to be quite a gourmet and demanded special dishes to be cooked in the royal kitchens by his bawarchis. The Awadhi cuisine draws a lot from Mughal and Persian flavours, giving shape to another distinct royal cuisine. Since the Persians and Mughals travelled to this part of the country, they brought with them the unique spices and cooking techniques that went on to be become hallmarks of Awadhi food. Take dum phukt for instance. While dum biryani or slow-cooked biryani was a part of Mughlai cuisine, it has now become an intrinsic feature of Awadhi cuisine today. 

Bringing together these royal and rustic flavours on a plate, Café Central hosted a lavish Awadhi food festival recently. A two-week long festival hosted inside the Raddisson Hotel in Gurugram, the fine dining in-house restaurant boasted of all kinds Awadhi delicacies and Lucknowi dum biryani was one of them. A blend of the finest ingredients and spices, Lucknowi biryani owes its specialty to the slow-cooking process and use of certain spices. It is believed that Lucknowi biryani was a favourite of the last Nawab, Wajed Ali Shah, who loved elaborated meals. Incorporating the fragrance of cloves, bay leaves and green cardamom, the succulent pieces of chicken fared well with the long-grain rice. 

Source: Shutterstock, Lucknowi Dum Biryani

Curries are also a huge part of Awadhi cuisine but they shouldn’t be confused with Mughlai dishes which are heavier and spicier. The subtle blend of spices, releasing delicate flavours is the essence of Awadhi fare which translates well into the Murg Mussallam we tried there. While some would call it a Mughlai dish which it originally is, the idea of whole chicken cooked with eggs stuffed into it has been well-adapted by Awadh too. Given the history of Mughal rule in the region, the classic chicken curry forms an important part of Awadhi cuisine today. 

 The soft, flaky and melt-in-your-mouth warqi paratha, when dipped into a bowl of navratan korma or murg mussallam, tasted heavenly. For those untouched by the phenomenon, warqi paratha derives its name from the Awadhi word meaning layers. The multiple delicate layers of the paratha are formed after a lot of patience and effort, with continuous setting of the dough. Still reminiscing the flavours of royal Awadhi kitchens, we’ve fetched a chef-special recipe of Murg Mussallam that can be paired with all kinds of breads, especially warqi paratha. 

Murg Mussallam 

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 10 flakes garlic
  • Salt To Taste
  • 1 cup curd 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 kilogram chicken
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 3/4th cup shelled peas
  • 6 bay leaves 
  • 1 cup ghee
  • 2 large onions (finely chopped)
  • 225 grams tomatoes 
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 3 tablespoon chopped coriander 
  • Spices
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 8 cloves 
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 brown cardamom 
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon roasted coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron strands

Source: Shutterstock

Method

  1. Mix three-quarter of garlic with half the ginger, half the garam masala, 1 tablespoon salt, one-third of turmeric , half of curd and lemon juice. Mix to form a paste.
  2. Make small cuts in the chicken flesh and rub the paste all over and in the cavity.
  3. Keep aside for 2 hours.
  4. Half cook the rice with peas, remaining garlic, 4 cloves , peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon salt, brown cardamom, 4 bay leaves and water and use to stuff chicken.
  5. Heat ghee in a saucepan and fry the chicken until brown. Be careful not to let the stuffing out.
  6. Drain the chicken.
  7. In another pan, fry half onions in the remaining ghee with 2 bay leaves, remaining cloves and green cardamom, until golden.
  8. Add the remaining turmeric and chilli powder.
  9. Make a paste with ground coriander and cumin seeds and the remaining onion and grated ginger.
  10. Stir for 5-10 minutes, until the ghee starts to separate.
  11. Add the remaining curd, tomato and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  12. Add the chicken to the pan and baste with the spice mixture.
  13. Pour 300ml water, cover and cook in a moderately-hot oven (200 degree centigrade, 400 degree Fahrenheit, gas mark 6) for 1 hour.
  14. Steep the saffron in the remaining garam masala powder and coriander leaves before serving Murg Musallam.