The inviting aroma of kebabs, the crunch of batashe, and nawabi air bring alive the first floor of Edesia, Crowne Plaza Okhla, in Delhi in their ongoing ‘Jashn E Lucknow’ food festival. The festival pays a tribute to the ‘city of nawabs’ through a feast to remember. From the ‘Rumi Darwaza’ to the vintage posters of Pearl Cinema, or the Chattar Manzil or Umbrella Palace, and the décor, in its own sweet way, help elevate the experience for gourmands.  

The buffet was a delightful mix of crowd pullers and hidden gems. We were told that some of the dishes from the royal ‘dastarkhwans’ were only meant to be prepared for nawabs and their begums, and not for the commoners. Some of the highlights of the events were, Galauti Kebabs with Ulta Tawa Paratha, Kathal Shami Kebab,Rajma Ke Galauti, Lucknowi Aatishi Khumb, Peshawari Boti Kebab, Murgh  Durbari Meat, Dingari Dolma, Navratan Qorma, Awadhi Murgh Biryani, Warqi Parantha, Taftan, Sheermal, Dhungar Kakori Kebab, Zaffrani Malai Kofta, Paneer Begum Bahar, Paneer Begum Bahaar,Shah Jahan Nalli Nihari, Murgh Mumtaaz, Shahi Gosht, Khubanee ka Meetha, Seviyo ka Muzzafar, Pani Ke Batashe, and the Lucknow Ki Basket Chaat.

Pradipt Sinha - Director of Food and Beverage, Crowne Plaza New Delhi Okhla - said, “Awadhi cuisine is known for dum-style of cooking, which will be a unique selling proposition for the food festival. We have collaborated with local chefs from Lucknow to capture the secret behind these mouthwatering aromatic delicacies. While Mughlai cuisine which is extremely popular in Delhi focuses on grilling and roasting over tandoor with high quotient of ghee and spices, Awadhi cuisine has subtler flavours with a blend of selective yet exotic spices and thus retains the taste of main ingredients.”  

We also got hold of their special Lucknowi Gosht Biryani from head chef Sachin Kumar. Turns out, it were the Mughals who popularised the very idea of biryani in India, and the region of Awadh was where it got its refined treatment. The Lucknowi biryani is not as spicy as the Hyderabadi Biryani, even the rice used in this Biryani is long-grained, fragrant. The Lucknowi Biryani is also touted to be the inspiration of Kolkata Biryani. It was the exiled Nawab of Lucknow, Wajid Shah, who asked his cooks to cook him Biryani. It is said that somewhere down the line, to make up for the lack of meat, potatoes and boiled eggs were added and this gave way to Kolkata Biryani.  

Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:  

  • 250 gms mutton 
  • 250 gm basmati rice  
  • 3 tbsps ghee 
  • 2 finely chopped onions 
  • 2 black cardamoms 
  • 2 green cardamoms 
  • 3 black peppercorns 
  • 3 to 4 cloves 
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds  
  • ½ tsp kewra essence 
  • ½ cup milk  
  • 4-5 saffron strands 
  • Salt, to taste   

For marination:  

  • 1 finely chopped onion 
  • 1 and ½ tsp ginger garlic paste 
  • ½ tsp coriander powder 
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder  
  • ½ tsp garam masala powder  
  • ½ lemon lime juice 
  • ½ cup yoghurt 
  • Salt, to taste  

Method:  

  • Take a bowl, add mutton pieces followed by finely chopped onions, coriander powder, red chilli powder, lime juice, yoghurt, garam masala, ginger garlic. paste, salt to taste and mix it well. Set it aside for marination for 6-8 hours.  
  • Soak the basmati rice in water for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour and further drain them to remove excess water.  
  • In a pan, add 5 cups of water and boil the whole spices for 5 minutes. 
  • Let it rest for 20 minutes so that the flavours are properly infused in the water. Strain it and retain the flavoured water.  
  • In a large pan, add ghee followed by rice. 
  • Cook the rice for a few minutes followed by saffron strands and flavoured water.  
  • Once the rice comes to a boil, simmer it for 5 minutes. 
  • Switch off the flame and let the rice rest for some time to absorb the moisture.  
  • In a heavy-bottomed pan, add ghee followed by finely chopped onions and let it sauté for a few minutes. Add minced marinated minced meat. 
  • Cover it with a lid and cook for around 30 minutes.  
  • Take a pot, layer it with rice followed by mutton and repeat the process until the filling reaches the top. 
  • The last layer must be that of rice during the alternate layering.  
  • Finish the top layer of Biryani with crushed cardamom pops, warm milk and saffron. 
  • Pour in some drops of Kewra water and cover the seal of the lid by applying whole wheat flour dough.  
  • Slow cook it for approximately 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the flame and break the seal.  
  • Serve it with salan and burani raita.