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A royal meal plan

At Dum Pukht's Jashn-E-Eid-Milap Festival in New Delhi's Maurya Sheraton hotel, you can enjoy a meal fit for a king. Pity it's not open for lunch too, muses SUMITRA SENAPATY.

IF YOU'RE really ravenous when it comes to eating and fancy being treated like Moghul royalty for the night, head straight for Dum Pukht's Jashn-E-Eid-Milap from November 29 onwards. Maurya Sheraton's Executive Chef Sultan Mohideen and Master Chef Ghulam Qureshi recreate refined spice blends of yesteryear's royal kitchens from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Dried rose petals crumbled with ground sweet spices, and lemony cardamoms grazed with pounded mace were considered to be basic seasonings during this era, so if fiery strength is your thing, it's best to look elsewhere. This kind of cooking has earned its fame from judicious spicing and often calls for hard-to-find ingredients.

The Jashn-E-Eid festival presents traditional dishes served on Id day and also during the ensuing festive period that follows. Highlights on the menu include the nahari gosht, dum ke shoulder raan and khichda. This is an absolutely amazing version of cereals, pulses and meat cooked to porridge like consistency together with fresh mint and dhaniya and served in an earthenware container. Just looking at the food as it is brought to you, you can tell that a great deal of effort has gone into perfecting each and every dish in terms of presentation, texture and taste.

There's plenty to tantalize on the menu, including some superb dishes rarely tasted these days - notably the hara moong gosht Mughlai - dill and cloves flavoured dal and mutton prepared the way the Mughals did and served with an assortment of popular Indian breads - sheermal, mande and khamiri roti.

For a one-stop meal, go for the dum deg biryani and boorani raita. This is a good amount of meat and long grained rice cooked on slow fire with aromatic spices and served with thick garlic flavoured curds.

Chefs Sultan and Qureshi are doing some really stunning, traditional royal luxury cooking. There are few chefs who exercise such restraint when it comes to allowing superb produce to star at the table, but these two have a magician's touch undoubtedly - subtly teasing the flavour out of every leaf, fillet and morsel that passes through their domain. And the deserts are every bit as innovative and daring as the main courses.

The shirin lab, an exotic dessert of saffron flavoured rabri spread on slices of syrup soaked home made bread, garnished with dried fruits and nuts seems a perfect balance of richness and lightness, while the baked seviyan with mini gulab jamun is presented with much aplomb. These are the kind of desserts that truly let you know the meal is officially over.

Diners can spend the rest of their evening trying to figure out how it came to pass that the Dum Pukht is open only for dinner and hoping to return soon enough for a second meal.

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