For centuries, royal kitchens have satiated the appetites of rulers. Today, the scions of many of these families have realised the importance of documenting their royal recipes because it’s a heritage that needs to be archived, cherished and shared.
“Men from the Patiala royal family congregated and cooked every evening. Food and classical music were a constant in our homes every evening. Women were not much cooks, but the men loved the ladle,” says former Olympic-level trap and skeet shooter and Arjuna awardee Randhir Singh, who is from the Patiala royal family,
The former royal is working on a cookbook on the delicacies from the princely kitchens of Patiala. “The book is on the cuisine of Patiala royal family. We have collected about 1,100 recipes belonging to our family, including those from Raja Amarinder Singh, who is my cousin, my father Raja Bhalindra Singh, his brother Raja Yadavindra Singh, and the royal cooks. Unlike other royal families, the men here cooked. It was a way of life. These recipes stayed on in the family. It is time to collate and archive them in a systematic way for the future generation,” says Randhir Singh.
“If you delve into our recipes, you will see variations of so many dishes that came out of the lassikhana, the kitchen in those days. Food for 3,000 people was cooked every day. Some recipes were named after cooks. There were six-seven variations of the same pulao and shammi kebabs. We’ll bring out 175 recipes to start with.”
Every royal kitchen in India has a story and a special recipe. Rani Uma Raje Jadhav of the former Gwalior state talks of western influences in the royal kitchen. “During the princely days we had two kitchens, Hindustani and angrezi. Naturally, the family developed a taste for light soups and pastas. Then the wives came from different parts of the country and brought in their food preferences. I am from Gujarat and I’ve a liking for sweetened dals. But despite these personal preferences, the Jadhav table continued to have the typical Maratha spread without letting go of the authentic recipes. This is how we have kept our tradition alive,” she says.
Meal procedures used to be strict in their royal household. “During festivals, my mother and aunts would sit on stools in the kitchen and supervise the numerous staff. Most of the times the kitchen was manned by Balbir Chand Ramola, our ex-army chef. We could not touch anything without his permission. At the sound of the gong, we would troop into the dining room for lunch and dinner,” recalls Uma Raje.
The Jadhav royal family is facilitating food festivals at their Deobagh palace to popularise royal food from their family. “Cooking is an art that constantly needs to be nurtured,” says Uma Raje.
Tikkarani Shailja Katoch, princess of the Sailana royal family, says the best kept secret of the Sailana kitchens is Dilip Shahi, named after her great grandfather Raja Dilip Singhji, who collected recipes of all the royal kitchens of India and improvised them. “The Kangra kitchens have delectable non-vegetarian recipes. I have introduced vegetarian recipes to foodies, and we’ll catalogue the non-vegetarian ones cooked with locally grown fruits,” says Tikkarani Shailja, who is married to the Kangra-Lambragaon royal family.
Sailana food is also being revived through food festivals. “We have brought out cookbooks on the Sailana royal kitchens. Kangra food has received a lot of encouragement from food connoisseurs. We are promoting it through the Maharaja Sansaar Chandra Museum cafe at the Kangra Fort near Dharamsala,” explains Tikkarani Shailja.