At first look, The Mughal Feast: Recipes From The Kitchen Of Emperor Shah Jahan seems like a visible treat. The pages are bedecked with Mughal miniatures from the collections of the British Library, London, and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC, even as the hashiyas, or the margins, are splattered with gold and decorated with floral motifs. These images contain pointers of the content material within, about the golden duration of the Mughal reign, whilst cooking turned into considered an artwork shape, on a par with architecture, painting, and literature. The book is a “transcreation” of the Nuskha-e-Shahjahani, an original handwritten Persian recipe e book dating lower back to Shah Jahan’s reign, translated with the aid of food historian and writer Salma Yusuf Husain. She has authored numerous books on diverse factors of Mughal food, inclusive of The Emperor’s Table (2008).
The roots of The Mughal Feast go again to the Nineteen Sixties-70s, while Husain used to paintings at the National Archives of India, Delhi. “I got here across so many books on the Mughals, but not a great deal turned into writing about their food. And yet, nowadays, Mughal meals are savored through all and sundry. I felt that there have to be some thing obtainable,” she says, as we take a seat down for a tête-à-tête at her domestic in Gurugram. This quest, which took her to the British Library, London, and Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad, bore fruit when she determined the Alwan-i-Nemat, a collection of recipes written at some point of emperor Jehangir’s reign.
She also got here across the Nuskha-e-Shahjahani inside the British Library within the early 2000s, however, it changed into only recently that she ought to get right of entry to the whole manuscript, when the founder-writer of Roli Books, Pramod Kapoor, went to London and controlled to get a duplicate. “Unfortunately, bankruptcy 10, on pickles and murabba, is missing from the manuscript,” says Husain. The authentic, even though bearing no trace of the writer or date of compilation, is thought to had been written throughout the early years of Shah Jahan’s reign, when he shifted the capital from Agra to Delhi and named it Shahjahanabad.
The Mughal Feast is divided into seven sections—Naan, Cash, Qaliya And Do-ijazah, Bharta, Zeer Biryani And Pulao, Kabab and Shiriniha. It offers reachable suggestions as soon as observed via mir breakaways (heads of kitchen) and royal cooks, together with approaches to clean fish, put off the scent with the aid of rubbing it with mustard oil, chickpea flour and turmeric, melt its bones, and smoke a filled fowl by way of gradual-cooking it on a cinnamon bed. It even tells you the way to prepare dinner a goose flawlessly.
The book takes you by surprise. The fundamental revelation is just how different the original royal repast is from the “Mughlai food” that we eat nowadays, with its rich, thick, greasy gravies. The recipes comprise minimal use of spices—with simplest garam masala and ginger getting used as aromatics.
Even though the royal feast featured vibrant colors, those came from natural assets inclusive of saffron, spinach, beetroot, and sparkling fruit juices. “Today, you may discover magazines speak me about gradual cooking. But lower back then that was the norm, with the meals being gradual-cooked on an angeethi or wooden fireplace, and the meat and fish have been cooked of their personal juices. I wanted to carry these insights about just how healthy Mughal meals can be to the prevailing technology,” says Husain.