The secrets of Awadhi cuisine

Chef Mohsin Qureshi is an expert in Awadhi cuisine. The 31-year-old chef can boast of an enviable work experience at some of the leading hotel chains in India. He attributes the finesse of his cooking style to his lineage, ustaads and khansaamas from whom he “learnt the secrets of this cuisine”.

Hailing from the Qureshi family, Mohsin’s early years were spent at his uncle’s restaurant, Shahid (in Lucknow’s Lal Bagh). This is where he “learnt the nuances of Awadhi fare. Almost all the Qureshis worked or trained at this family-owned restaurant, including the celebrated chef Imtiaz Qureshi,” he shares.

Mohsin spent two years at the restaurant and accompanied his uncle who catered for high-profile weddings and events, “learning on the job”.

The secrets of Awadhi cuisine

Mohsin’s professional journey with hotels began with the Taj group in 2007, following which he worked at restaurants such as Masala Art at Taj Palace (New Delhi), Paatra at Jaypee Siddharth, Fire at The Park, Caraway at The Grand New Delhi and Dhaba by Claridges.

Currently, the executive sous chef at Lebua Lucknow, Mohsin claims his forte lies in perfecting the delicate flavours and specialised techniques of Awadhi cuisine. He is on a mission to revive forgotten recipes, “especially those that are on the verge of dying”. One dish he is particularly proud of recreating is the majlisi kebab. “Also known as ghutwaan kebab, this was a special delicacy that was served during long hours of majlis or social gatherings, where people sat together for hours discussing issues ranging from religion and culture to politics,” he explains.

“The kebabs were made with finely-minced mutton cooked on dum using the slow-cooking technique. Today, chicken tikka, galawat kebabs and sheermal are served at such events as ‘ghutwaan’ kebabs require lengthy marination as well as a long cooking time,” adds the chef.

He explains how he has recreated the signature kebab. “It has marinated minced meat, which is sealed with sheermal roti instead of plain dough, and is cooked in a small earthen container on a wood fire. As we dig in, we are treated to perfectly-spiced kebabs that melt in our mouth, leaving behind a lingering flavour of fine meat and a mélange of spices. There is another version with bone marrow to make it even more succulent, says Mohsin, who is also known for his baghaare baingan, kheema stuffed karelas and singhaare ki subzi.

According to him, “If the chef is not experienced in slow cooking, dishes can be undercooked or overcooked, spoiling the entire preparation.”

As he serves us samples of these, we are left asking for more. Achieving these skills is no easy feat, says Mohsin, who decided to become a chef when he was 14, following the footsteps of his father and grandfather. “I wanted to take the family legacy forward,” he states.

His grandfather was a khansaama, honoured by Queen Elizabeth II. His father cooked and travelled with some of the top Indian political leaders. Mohsin too has followed suit, and has today’s politicians and Bollywood stars eating out of his hand.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2022 8:06:03 PM |

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