chatBesides teaching generations of young women to cook, BegumMumtaz Khan played a key role in popularising Hyderabadi cuisine in London
l Mumtaz Khan's catering classes date back to the late '60s. Dearth of catering schools and continuous requests from friends and family made her continue the classes.
l Jiggs Kalra and Nagesh Kukunoor have featured her and her food in their shows.
l Mumtaz's sufiani, narangi and rangeen biryanis are popular with the students. She also conducts baking classes.
l She has assisted Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and Chef Harpal Singh with cookbooks on Hyderabadi Cuisine.
l Chefs from The Park group, Oberoi in Mumbai have come to her learn the nuances of Hyderabadi cuisine.
l Namita and Camillia Panjabi, high priestesses of Indian cuisine in London, have both been to Mumtaz Khan for their restaurants Chutney Mary and Veeraswamy.
Tucked away in a lane, away from the hustle-bustle of the traffic on Begumpet flyover in Hyderabad is a quiet, cosy house. It was once visited mostly by young girls on the verge of matrimony, seeking Begum Mumtaz Khan's lessons in cooking. Granddaughter of Shahzoor Jung (a close friend of the Nizam), Begum Mumtaz Khan's is no ordinary cookery class, and that's what turned her into a mentor for three generations of aspiring homemakers.
“Earlier this house was buzzing with people. Girls would come and learn the dishes. And once the dishes were done, we would all sit together, eat, discuss and the girls would give their feedback,” says Mumtaz, leafing through a file whose pages have turned brown over the years. In it are recipes passed on to her by her aunts, grandmother, mother and mother-in-law.
Speaking of her classes, Mumtaz says, “The numbers have come down. Now almost everyone works and it is easier to order than cook.”
However, Mumtaz's classes aren't only about cooking, “I teach them to pair dishes, to plan lunch and dinner, and most importantly tell them not to get hassled about cooking.” It is not just nervous brides who have benefitted from her advice. Mumtaz has assisted several leading chefs nationally and internationally with cookbooks on Hyderabadi cuisine and is also a visiting chef at restaurants such as Chutney Mary and Amaya in London. She has assisted Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and Chef Harpal Singh with cookbooks on Hyderabadi specialities. She was introduced to organising signature Hyderabadi food festivals in star hotels by Jiggs Kalra .
Now, however, Mumtaz, who is 70 plus, is going slow. She was unwell for a few months but says only work can keep her happy.
“We belonged to a family ofjagirdars. I was only 14 when I got married. Seeing the keen interest I took in the affairs of the kitchen, my aunts and mother-in-law encouraged me. We had access to the cooks at the Paigah Palace, thanks to our grandfather, and all of us learnt a lot from them. My mother-in-law counted me as her daughter and allowed me to be the way I wanted to. I appeared for my junior Cambridge after my wedding,” she recalls.
Mumtaz says her mother and aunts appreciated her interest in cooking but when she took to chopping and grinding, they were stunned.
“Women from affluent families only instructed and supervised. I was different. I liked to do certain things on my own.”
And what does she do when she feels like eating out? “I opt for cheesy pasta and pizzas,” she laughs.
PRABALIKA M. BORAH