My family hailed from Peshawar and migrated to Delhi in the wake of the Partition in 1947. I have grown up hearing stories from my great-grandmother, grandparents and parents about the perils of Partition. Separated from their home and loved ones, leaving behind their belongings and friends, they brought with them only some bitter-sweet memories. I recall my grandparents telling me about the life style, socialising habits, their house and the Moti Mahal restaurant which they left behind during that time.
I was always interested to know about the restaurant and traditional Pishori recipes from my grandfather Kundan Lal Gujral who was a well-established chef and a popular restaurateur of that time in Peshawar. He had earned his laurels by converting a dhaba called ‘mukhe da dhaba’ to Moti Mahal (palace of pearls), which was a humble shop at the corner of a popular market called Gora Bazaar. Here he invented the legendary tandoori chicken and, of course, the much-fabled butter chicken.
One great result of the Internet and social media is that it provides a platform for people with common passions and interests across the globe to share their experiences. Recently, I was added to a popular social group named ‘Pishoris’. Besides the local recipes and cuisine popular in Peshawar these days, through the group I got to know some great and intriguing information and saw pictures of the present-day location of the then Moti Mahal which is now a tailor shop in Gora Bazaar.
In this week’s column, I am going to share a few interesting food facts about Peshawar and, of course , the recipe of Chapli kebab, which was a special one in our household.
My friend Dr Ali Jan shares that dal ghosht (with desi ghee) served with soft white rice, Katlamey chhole and paya (hoofs and trotter curry), kalla/painda in siri shorba (soup), sweetened haleem served with rogni nan and accompanied with a fried egg, dozens of dishes with varieties of spinach are still popular in Peshawari kitchens.
Dum pukht lamb cooked with rice over tandoor and, of course, the ever popular lamb seekh, karahi tikka and cho0nga kachnaar are some of the most sought-after dishes. I remember my great grandmother, who lived a little over hundred years, used to make ‘Burani’, which is a dish made of fried eggplants served in salted yoghurt with a dash of garlic and appropriate seasoning.
Mutton or lamb, from a humble rogan josh to intricate haleem, has always been a hot favourite of the north-west frontier. And not to forget the famous Peshawari falooda as an evergreen dessert.
● 2 large eggplants
● Vegetable oil for frying
● 1 medium onion, finely chopped
● 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
● 1 green pepper, finely sliced in rings
● 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
● Salt to taste
● 16 ounces strained plain yogurt
● 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
● 1 1/2 teaspoons dried mint
● 1 tsp raw mango powder
● Peel the eggplants and slice them into rounds about 1/4-inch thick
● Heat oil in a frying pan
● Fry the eggplants over low heat
● Fry on both sides until brown
●Remove from the pan and drain on absorbent paper towels
● Fry the chopped onions in a little oil until reddish-brown
● Arrange the eggplants, tomatoes, sliced pepper and onions in layers in a pan and sprinkle some salt
● Add about 4 tablespoons of water, cover the pan with a lid and simmer over a low heat for about 20 minutes.
● Meanwhile combine the strained yogurt, the crushed garlic, red pepper, salt, raw mango powder and the dried mint. Put half of the yogurt in serving dish.
● Remove the eggplants from the pan with a spatula and arrange them on the yogurt. Add the rest of the yogurt on top
● Serve with naan or rice
● Lamb, minced: 200 gms
● Salt: 1 tsp
● Maize flour: 1 tbsp
● Green chillies, chopped: 1 tsp
● Lemon juice: 1 tsp
● Onion paste: 4 tsp
● Coriander leaves, fresh, chopped: 1 tsp
● Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
● Cardamom powder: ½ tsp
● Sodium bicarbonate: 1/3 tsp
● Coriander seeds: 2 tsp
● Pomegranate seeds, dried: 1 tsp
● Oil for frying
● Put the mince in a bowl and add 1 tbsp of water to soften it.
● Add the remaining ingredients for the kababs. Mix and rub it well with your palms.
● Set aside in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.
● To cook the kababs, first remove the mince from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature.
● Apply a little oil to your palms and divide the
mixture into two equal portions.
● Shape into balls and flatten them slightly to form round patties.
● Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan and shallow-fry the kababs, till golden brown and crisp on both the sides.
● Drain on kitchen paper
● Serve hot with coriander chutney.