THE MOVEABLE FEAST: Courtly kebabs and regal repasts
Chef Reddy and Radisson had reason to be delighted, their food got them appointed as Official Caterers and Hotel to two embassies, one of them knows its sub continental food backwards.
We were celebrating with Chef Reddy’s ongoing Kebab and Curry festival, which the Chef declared as, “Combining the richness of Lucknowi cuisine to the spiciness of Hydrabad.”
The Chandi Tikka was a Kebab that had a smoky taste of slightly scalded butter and a controlled use of spices. Chef Reddy made the edible silver dish his own by departing from tradition that demanded mixed taste complexity.
“I think Kebabs should be subtly marinated and only come out of a clay oven. Each spice should be distinct in the marination and in the tasting,” said the Chef.
Chef Reddy took the Parsee, Patrani Machhli and replaced the inedible, banana leaf that wraps the Bekti Fish marinated in malt vinegar, lemons, a little sugar, chilli powder and cumin seed, with an inspired wrap of Paan leaf that gave it a slightly heightened taste leavened with little mashed potatoes and barley. Once again Reddy had reinvented a favourite.
The Geelafi Seekh Kebab is a finger size shaped Kebab made of minced meat and is according to Chef Reddy, “Somewhere between a Seekh Kebab and the melt-in-your-mouth Kakoori Kebab.” Chef Reddy uses Kanchen cheese, a limited palate of spices and some coriander and mint to lift it to heavenliness. A Roman General in 715 BC was the first to grow a long list of herbs and spices including coriander and mint and wrote about them popularising them.
In France between different dishes you have a lightly flavoured sorbet to cleanse the palate. Chef Reddy used a Yakhni Shorba which was a dream of trotters, cooked with root vegetables like carrots and onions with whole spices, simmered for hours and then strained. You forget what you had eaten and prepared for the Biryani to come.
The Murgh Hyderabadi Dum Biryani was based on a Sofyani Biryani which is according to Chef Syed Nasir “A saffron-flavoured rice delicacy, mild and easy to digest.” This meat and rice dish has as many as 17 ingredients including yoghurt and a little milk. But upper most is saffron. The Biryani is cooked in a sealed pot. And once it’s opened you can smell its richness with the saffron filling the room and the spices and rice and the marinated chicken tantalising your taste buds.
Chef Reddy’s Baoli Handi or Mad Mutton is a Lukhnowi dish which uses a rich brown onion sauce and root vegetables like turnips. A nourishing, filling and a simple but brilliant dish of which the great Chef Imtiaz Qureshi said, “This was originally a breakfast food. In days gone by, this rural light-gravy lamb delicacy was eaten in the wee hours of the morning before going to till the fields.”
For dessert, Chef Reddy produced Chothi Mithai, which were Indian Petit Fours and even looked like the French original. But the taste was sweeter as the Indian Burfi, the Gulab Jamun, were served on tiny tarts. You didn’t settle for one. You ate the whole plate while your co-diners watched with a mixture of horror and envy.
But then at Radisson, when Chef Reddy does his thing and Gobinda rushes about serving, you can never settle for just tasting — you eat whole meals and then come back for more. For details contact the obliging Gobinda.