Mughlai Cuisine

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‘Our Mughlai cuisine is not Mughlai’

Sonam Joshi, Dec 1, 2019 Times of India

The 2019 edition of Times Litfest kicked off with a discussion on the culinary history of Delhi, titled Zaika e Dilli. “The most fascinating thing about pre-medieval Delhi is that it’s the food of different communities,” food historian Pushpesh Pant said. “It is the food of the Turko-Afghan people, as well as the different communities who live around NCR such as Yadavs, Gujjars and Jats, and the traders who settled here.” Pant said “the premedieval past” was still full of riddles, and is talked about in terms of the ingredients being used rather than recipes, such as honey from Nepal, saffron from Kashmir, bamboo shoots from Assam, sweeteners like jaggery. There was, however, a reference to a recipe called ‘palao’ in an Ayurvedic text, which was described as rice cooked with condiments and meat.

While pulao may have existed in India, it was the Mughals who brought refinement and sophistication to cooking, pointed out Salma Husain, the author of The Emperor’s Table. Husain spoke of how the Mughlai khana of today is far removed from Mughlai food of the past. “What we eat today is masala and oil, while the old Mughal manuscripts only refer to five spices being used,” she said. “It isn’t spices that make the food, but how they are balanced.” The five spices were cumin, onion, garam masala, saffron and coriander. Mughals brought with them new techniques from Central Asia, but Indian cooks adapted them, for example, by adding spices to minced meat to create kababs, chilli to meat to make nehari, cooking grain with meat to create haleem, and meat with yoghurt and spices to make mutton do pyaza.

Delhi’s food culture changed again with the coming of the British, who introduced cutlets, soup, pies, sandwiches and tea, and later with the Partition and the introduction of the tandoor and dhaba culture. “Delhi’s cuisine is a contribution of several civilisations, it is like one continuously bubbling pot, to which many people have added their expertise,” Husain added.

Mughlai Cuisine

chicken biryani

The Times of India

Eid cuisine

Healthy Eid hogging for everyone


1 kilo chicken

2 & 1/2 cup rice (here's the trick, use brown rice instead of long basmati rice and to get the 'original' touch just boil a half a cup of long basmati rice (to garnish your Biryani)

2 medium onion

2 table spoon ginger paste

2 table spoon garlic paste

6 cloves

4 green cardamoms

2 black cardamoms

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves


Low fat Yogurt

1 tbsp turmeric powder

2 tbsp chilli powder

Salt to taste

Refined oil or ghee

Put saffron in little water let it sock.


Chop onions and saute till light brown, add a pinch of salt to it so it cooks quickly and drinks less oil/ghee

Add chicken ,garlic and ginger paste, roast it for 4-5 minutes.

Put all the ingredients mix it very well, stir it.

Add the curd let it cook for a while

Add one cup water

Cook till chicken get ready ,add water if needed, donot let it burn at the bottom ( the burnt smell lingers in the Biryani, may get you minus points, so stand there do not leave the Kitchen premise) ,let dry all the water in the chicken.

Mean while boil rice with a clove,bay leaves and cardomom, drain, donot throw broth away.

Take a big mouth aluminium utensil (avoid steel vessels),make one layer of rice sprinkle saffron water than put all the cooked chicken,make another layer of rice & sprinkle saffron water.

With the help of a spoon make dents on the rice and pour the left over rice broth. Avoid the step of adding fried onions on the top. Cover it with a lid and place a heavy weight over it. Let it steam for 5-10 minutes.

Shahi Tukda

Or Double ka Meetha as it is popularly called, is a famous Hyderabadi desert. It is a Mughlai dish and one of my favoruties (may be beacuse I share the same surname!). Now the original dish is a ghee and condensed milk drowned bread flooded with dry fruits (now writing that makes one salivate), but with a variation you can still have the tukda the shahi way!


6 slices brown bread (air dried for 3 to 4 hours or pan toasted till crisp)

1/2 cup ghee (I did say there would be some indulgence)

3 ½ + ¼ cups whole milk ( to replace the condensed milk)

3 tsps sugar

½ tsp green cardamom powder

Almonds paste (15 almonds soaked for 8 hrs)

Pinch of saffron

Handful of dry fruits of your choice


Soak saffron in 2 tbsps milk and add this to the 3 ½ cups milk and boil on a low flame till it reduces to almost 2 cups.

Grind soaked almonds with sugar, cardamom powder and ¼ cup milk to a very smooth paste.

Pour this to the condensed milk and continue to boil for 10 mins on a low flame. Keep stirring ( the almond mix tends to get burnt quickly). Set aside to cool. That's Rabdi!

Remove the brown edges and cut the bread diagonally, each slice into 2

On a tawa toast bread by spreading ghee on the bread till they are crispy.Set aside.

Place the breads in a serving plate and pour the rabri over the bread slices and garnish with dry fruits ( you can also pour sugar syrup over it, but then I thought we were being calorieconsious!)

Mughlai Chicken

Murgh Qorma

The Times of India Dish up some delicious Murgh Qorma


Chicken drumsticks: 1 kg

Ginger garlic paste: 50 gms

Chopped onions: 200 gms

Red chili powder: 10 gms

Turmeric powder: 5 gms

Coriander powder: 15 gms

Green coriander: 5 gms Ginger juliennes: 5 gms

Curd: 20 gms Lemon juice: 5 ml

Desi ghee: 100 ml Garam masala: 5 gms

Salt to taste For the paste

Cashewnuts: 100 gms Chironji: 50 gms Dry coconut (Khopra): 50 gms

Brown onions: 50 gms


Step 1: Heat ghee in a kadai, add chopped onions and saute till golden brown, then add ginger garlic paste and cook well.

Step 2: Add chicken drumsticks along with curd and cook well till it leaves oil, then add red chili, salt, turmeric and coriander powder.

Step 3: Add the paste of the nuts and saute well, then cover with water and cook till chicken is well done.

Step 4: Finish with garam masala, lemon juice, chopped coriander and ginger juliennes. Serve hot.

Recipe: Shahjahani Chicken with pulao

Shahjahani Chicken with pulao

The Times of India


Chicken: 1 kg Ghee: 1 cup Cashew: 1 cup (soaked and grounded) Clove: 10 Green Cardamom: 10 Onion: 3 (chopped, fried and grounded to make the paste) Garlic: 2 tablespoon Ginger: 1 teaspoon Saffron: 1/2 teaspoon dissolved in water Mace (javitri): 1/2 teaspoon Salt: 2 1/2 teaspoons Chilli: As per taste


Heat the ghee in a small pan. Add cloves and fry until they are crackling. Add green cardamoms. Sprinkle water and cover the utensil and allow it to simmer for one minute. Add salt, garlic, chillies, ginger and meat. Cook the meat till it is half-done. Take the meat out of the stock and keep it aside. Save the stock. Now simmer the stock. Add more green cardamoms, ghee and fried onions. Add the meat and start cooking on low heat. Add mace, saffron and cashew paste. Mix well and bring it to a rapid boil. Put off the flame and when it is ready, take a piece of red hot charcoal in a small katori. Place this katori inside the pan and cover it. The smoke will add a special flavour to the dish. After five minutes, serve with Khamiri Tandoori Roti.

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan's Yakhni Pulao (Serves four)


Basmati rice: 1 kg Meat: 2 kg Onion: 5 Cardamom: 1 tablespoon Clove: 10 Cinnamon stick: 6 pieces Shah Jeera: 1 1/2 teaspoon Ginger: 2 pieces Garlic: 4 pods Whole Kali Mirch: One tablespoon Red Chilli: As per taste Coriander Seeds: 1 1/2 tablespoon Ghee: 250 gms Salt: To taste


Fry the onions. Keep them aside. Cook the meat in water along with all the ingredients. Use whole spices only. Once the meat is tender, remove the stock. Crush the spices in a mixer and keep them aside. Immerse the rice in water, 10 minutes before cooking. Fry the crushed spices in ghee. Mix the rice with the meat. Stir and fry it along with the spices. Add the stock. Mash the fried onions and place it on top. Cover the utensil. Once the pulao is ready, serve with coriander, almonds and cashew.

Park Circus Khichdi


Basmati Rice: 1 cup Masoor Dal: 1/3 cup Moong Dal: 1/3 cup Medium-sized Onion: 1 chopped Grated Ginger: 2 tablespoon Minced Garlic: 1 tablespoon Ground Red Chilli: 1/4 teaspoon Salt: 1 teaspoon Grounded Cumin Seeds: 1 teaspoon Coriander: 1/2 teaspoon Peeled and Crushed Cardamom: 2 Cinnamon: 1/4 teaspoon Water


Wash and rinse rice and dal and soak for at least 1 hour, then drain. In five quarter pot, heat ¼ cup vegetable oil and add one chopped onion until golden brown. Add rice and dal to browned onion and stir for one-two minutes on medium heat until any residual water is dried. Add double measure of water and let rice and dal come to boil when partially covered. When the steam comes out, close the pot completely and turn down heat to low simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare Bhagar by browning onion in ghee/butter with whole jeera and red chilli. For preparing Bhagar, you need one medium onion chopped, ¼ tsp whole jeera, twothree whole red chillies and two-three tablespoon butter/ghee. Finally, pour Bhagar of brown onion, jeera and red chilli over cooked khichdi.

Turkey Mussalam recipe

The Times of India

Turkey Mussalam


1 big turkey

4 medium onions

8 green cardamoms

5 cinnamon sticks

8 black cardamoms

10 cloves

3 bay leaves

2 litres clear chicken stock

40 gms butter

For marinating

250 gms yoghurt

60 gms garlic paste

60 gms ginger Paste

15 gms red chilly powder

15 gms salt

The filling

500 gms chicken mince

5 gms black cardamom powder (coarsely ground)

50 gms clarified butter

16 flakes garlic

15gms ginger

2 gms green chilly

2 gms red chilly (fresh)

20 gms roasted pistachio

20 gms almonds

10 gms royal or black cumin seeds

5 gms black pepper powder

5 gms green cardamom powder

5 gms mace powder

10 gms salt

The gravy

75 gms clarified butter

30 gms garlic paste

20 gms ginger paste

250 gms yoghurt

6 gms coriander powder

3 gms red chilly powder

3 gms turmeric powder

10 gms salt

60 gms almond paste

30 gms char magaz/ Melon Seed Paste

60 gms fried onion paste

1.5 gms green cardamom powder

1 gm mace powder

1gm saffron

10 ml rose water

The garnish

3 Eggs, boiled and shelled.

12 Toasted pistachios

12 Cashewnut (halves)

16 Toasted almonds

0.25 gm Saffron


The turkey: Clean, remove the neck and the skin. Make small gashes on the entire surface.

The marination: Whisk yoghurt in a bowl, add the remaining ingredients, mix well. Evenly rub the turkey with this marinade and set aside for at least an hour ( preferably overnight).

The filling: Wash green and red chillies. Slit, deseed and finely chop. Heat ghee in a kadhai/wok; add the garlic and ginger pastes and bhunno/stir-fry over medium heat until the moisture evaporates. Add the mince and saute for 2-3 minutes. Remove, cool, add the remaining ingredients, mix well.

The stuffing: Stuff the abdominal cavity of the turkey with the filling and the eggs from the tail end, then double up the legs, ensuring that drumsticks cover the opening through which the filling was stuffed and tie firmly with string. Gently twist the winglet bones to make the bird more stable when placed on its back.

The mire poix: Peel, wash and slice onions.

The gravy: Whisk yoghurt in a bowl, add coriander, red chillies and turmeric and salt, mix well and keep aside. Crush the saffron threads with a pestle or the back of a spoon, soak in rosewater and then make a paste.

The garnish: Dissolve saffron flakes in lukewarm water and when the water turns saffron, put almond flakes to enable them to acquire a saffron hue.

The oven: Pre-heat to 375oF.


Spread the onions in a large handi/pot. Sprinkle both the cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves, arrange the stuffed turkey on top. Pour the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce tolow heat. Cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Remove and arrange the turkey on a greased roasting tray and reserve the jus for the gravy.

To prepare the gravy, heat ghee in a handi/pan, add the garlic and ginger pastes, bhunno/stir-fry until the moisture evaporates. Remove handi/pan from heat, stir-in the yoghurt mixture, return handi/pan to heat, bhunno/stir-fry over medium heat until specs of fat leaves the sides. Then add the almond and char magaz pastes, bhunno/stir-fry until the fat leaves the sides, add the fried onion paste and bhunno/stir-fry until the fat leaves the sides. Add the reserved jus. Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes. Remove and pass the gravy through a fine-mesh soup strainer into a separate handi/pan. Return gravy to heat, bring to a boil, reduce to low heat and simmer until of sauce consistency. Sprinkle the cardamom and mace powders, stir, add the saffron, stir, remove and adjust the seasoning.

Mughlai Desserts

The Times of India


Healthy dessert recipe: Zarda


For the Rice

Basmati rice -300 gms

Green cardamoms, crushed-5 Cinnamon-1 Cloves -4 Water-1 ½ litres Ghee-1 tbsp To Mix Sugar free-500 gm Khoya-100 gm Beaten curd-100 gm Saffron -½ gm Kewra water-2 tbsp

Metha ittar-a drop

For the Garnish

Almond-25 gm

Khoya, grated-15 gm

Pista-10 gm

Sliver leaf-1


To prepare rice

- Wash and soaked rice, drain and keep aside.

- Bring water to a boil, add green cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon and ghee.

- Add the drained rice in this water. Half cook the rice upto 50%.

- Remove all the whole spices, drain the rice and keep it aside.

To assemble the Zarda

- Dry roast saffron and ground it nicely, heat ghee.

- Mix curd, khoya, saffron ghee, and kewra and metha ittar in a bowl.

- Now, mix the cooked rice with the khoya thoroughly.

- Cover it with a lid and seal with flour dough.

Ramzan dessert recipe: Delicious Phirni

The Times of India


The holy month of Ramzan is known for fasting as well as feasting. While a delicious spread of yummy snacks and desserts invite you to take a bite, you can also try preparing some of these treats in the comfort of your home. You can start with the traditional dessert of Phirni.


1 litre milk

100 gms basmati rice

1 tbsp cashewnut, badam /almond, pistachio paste

6 – cardamoms

3-4 strands of saffron

400 gms sweetened condensed milk

170 gms condensed milk cream

Sugar to taste

For garnishin

4 almonds (julienne)

4 pistachio (julienne)

1 pinch of saffron

4-8 - raisins, optional


Soak and wash rice and drain in a cloth (blend to a coarse powder in a blender pretty much like semolina). Boil milk, add whole cardamom and remove it from the milk after some time. Add rice and boil, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Add water if necessary and cook till done. Reduce heat, then add condensed milk and cream. Add pistachio, badam, cashew paste stirring constantly (even better can use a hand blender). Add sugar for taste; garnish with julienne almonds, pistachios and saffron. Chill for five to six hours and serve cold.

Mughlai Haleem

The Times of India

DIY haleem

DIY haleem recipe for Ramzan


1 kg boneless meat- mutton or lamb

3 cups cracked wheat

4 tsp ginger-garlic paste

3 green chillies

5 teaspoons fresh grated coconut

1 cup each urad, tur and chana daal

1 cup long grain basmati rice

1 tsp red chilli powder

¼ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp black pepper corns

1 tsp chironji

1 teaspoon zafran

1 teaspoon jeera and shahijeera

1 teaspoon kebab chini

1 cinnamon stick,

2-3 cloves,

2-3 cardamom

1/2 cup ghee

1 cup fresh coriander leaves,

¼ cup fresh mint and

5-6 green chillies

Salt to taste

Oil and ghee as required

For the garnish

1 cup crispy golden fried onions

½ cup cashew nuts

5 teaspoons of onion flavored oil

1 lemon juliennes


Step 1: First wash and soak the cracked wheat for at least half an hour. Then wash and clean the mutton thoroughly. Do not trim away any excess fat.

Step 2: Mix the mutton with

ginger-garlic paste, ½ tsp salt, red chilli powder and turmeric powder.

Step 3: Pressure cook the

mutton on high flame for 8-10 minutes and then simmer for another 15-20 minutes. After it cools down, shred and keep aside.

Step 4: Boil the cracked wheat along with basmati rice, urad, tur and chana dal. Add ginger-garlic paste, pinch of turmeric powder, 2-3 green chillies, ½ tsp black pepper corns in 8-10 cups of water until it's cooked completely and the water is almost absorbed by the wheat.

Step5: Put this wheat in a blender and puree it in batches. Remove and keep aside.

Step 6: Heat the oil in another container adding all the whole spices and shredded meat, ½ cup fresh coriander and saute for a 2-3 min.

Step 7: Add 3 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Add the cooked wheat and mix well. Keep adding a little bit of ghee from time to time so that the mixture doesn't stick to the pan. Add zafraan. Do check the salt and add if needed.

Step 8: Let it simmer for half an hour. Ideally, it should simmer for 9-10 hours. Keep stirring in between. Serve hot with garnishing of fried onions, cashew nuts and freshly chopped coriander.

Note: Curd and garam masala don't go into the making of haleem.

Mughlai Kebab

The Times of India

Mutton sulamani kebab

Recipe: Mutton sulamani kebab


Mutton Mince 1 kg

Mutton fat 100 gms

Red chilli flake 2 tbs

Crush Cumin 1 tbs

Crush Coriander seed 1tbs

Ginger Garlic paste 2 tbs

Ajwani Powder 1/2 tsp

Green Chilli 30 gms

Fresh Coriander 20 gms

Butter (melted) 75 gms

Khova 20 gms

Salt to taste

For garnish

1 tomato

1 onion

2 green chillies


- In a vessel, rub the lamb mince and mutton fat till it becomes soft. Add the red chilli flakes, crushed cumin, crushed coriander seed, ginger garlic paste, ajwani powder, green chilli, fresh coriander, melted butter and salt.

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