Food

From the Royal Kitchens of Jodhpur

The moon, throwing silver beams, made a lovely backdrop to the Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, which gleamed in all its grandeur. Recently crowned the World’s Best Hotel (Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award 2016), we waited to taste the celebrated Jodhpur cuisine, after the awards ceremony. Dinner was the royal thali, a rich and sumptuous multi-course Rajasthani meal, with an array of desserts fit for crowned heads. The spread included lasooni methi jhinga, murgh Jodhpuri, kair sangri dhak, aloo dahiwala, subzi miloni saagwala, chakki ka saag, choka hing dal tadka, kabuli pulao, makai ki roti and bajra ka sogra. The pièce de résistance of the meal, however, was certainly the super-succulent laal maans, which prompted me to ask Executive Chef Sujoy Gupta for the recipe.



The next morning, Sujoy led me to the Chef’s Studio, where we were greeted by Mod Singh, the master chef, who served the royal family even before the palace was turned into a hotel. He explained that laal maans, a signature dish of Rajput cuisine, literally translates to red meat, and was a favourite of the gallant Rajput clan. The Rajput kings were known to be fierce hunters and lovers of meat, and they had amazing culinary skills too. Lamb that was caught during hunting expeditions was cooked with dry red chillies and whole spices, that simmered in huge ‘handis’ for hours. Tomatoes and other vegetables were not native to the land, so chillies and spices were all they had to cook the meat. It was then served to the kings in beautiful bronzeware; traditionally, it was not garnished.



Laal maans is made from kid lamb (between eight and nine months), using only the leg that weighs not more than 1.25 kg. The meat is soft, tender, and pinkish, with no fat content. In fact, Rajasthan is famed for its meat — as grass is scarce, the herd roam long distances in search of food; this enforced exercise doesn’t let the fat accumulate on their bodies. They feed on bajra kernels, bushes, shrubs and desert berries. Mathania chilli is used in the region of Marwar for cooking, as it gives a rich red colour, fine flavour and is not too hot. An important spice in Rajasthani cooking, this pungent, red chilli is grown near Jodhpur.



Pure ghee is used in this region, along with yoghurt and chillies, as this combination is supposed to produce heat and trigger the metabolism of the body, thus preventing weight gain.



A copper lagan (lacquered pure copper vessel) is used for cooking, as it is supposed to transmit energy to the food, and also lend a more mature flavour. The finished product is served in the ‘Kaans’ (bronze) vessel, as its gold-like glimmer gives this delicacy a royal look.



Mod Singh heated a copper vessel and poured in ladlefuls of pure ghee. Bay leaf, cloves, cardamom and other spices were added as the flavour of ghee filled the studio, before sliced onions were thrown in. When the onions were browned, chunks of lamb too were added, followed by two versions of the famous Mathania chilli, both coarse and finely ground. The chef stirred in some tomato puree and sautéed it for a few minutes, before adding lamb stock.



As the lamb was well-marinated overnight, just after 35-40 minutes of simmering, the richly-hued laal maans was ready. Served on a gleaming bronze platter, laal maans sat with an imperial air, as its aroma filled the room.



The captivating visual made me wonder if the fiery red stood for Rajput valour and the coriander sprig filled the missing green in their landscape.I quietly picked a chunk of meat. One bite and I knew it was certainly food fit for the valiant!



RECIPE:

Here’s how you make laal maans

Ingredients:

Mutton leg – 800 gm

Onions (sliced) – 800 gm

Ginger-garlic paste – 50 gm

Tomato puree or

yoghurt – 150 ml

Mathania chilli powder

– 50 gm (both coarse and fine)

Coriander powder – 50 gm

Cloves – 3 nos

Cinnamon stick – 1 no

Bay leaves – 2 nos

Black cardamom – 3 nos

Black peppers – 5 nos

Ghee

(clarified butter) – 200 ml

Salt to taste

Lamb stock/water as required

Preparation:

Marinate lamb with ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder and a little salt overnight. In a pan, heat ghee and add whole garam masala, chopped onions and fry till golden-brown.

Add garlic and ginger paste, and cook for two minutes. Add cut portions of mutton and let it cook for 30 minutes.

Now, add red chilli powder, coriander powder and salt.

Mix and cook the spices well.

Add lamb stock and cook on low fire for 30-35 minutes (check if it is cooked).

Add tomato puree (or yoghurt) and stir well; cook for another 5-10 minutes.

When ready, remove from fire and serve.

(Traditionally, this dish is not garnished, as the rich red colour of the chillies gives the dish a mysterious aura. But in the modern version, green coriander leaves are juxtaposed with the redness of the dish for visual appeal.)



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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 4:43:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/from-the-royal-kitchens-of-jodhpur/article8253457.ece

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