10 April 2011

Emperor Akbar's chicken dinner with dal and roti (lentils and bread) - Mughal feasts #3 on 2 Ap 2011

Mughal feast #3 cooked three recipes on Saturday 2nd April 2011 for Emperor Akbar from Akbar's section in the S. Husain "Emperor's Table". The three recipes were
1. Murgh Zameen Doz = Chicken wrapped in bread and baked
2. Khasa Tilaai (Paheet) = Lentil cooked with yoghurt
3. Roghni Roti Shahi = Wholewheat milk bread

See photos of the Mughal feasts, or start with the Akbar section.

This feast or dinner was a nice combination of chicken with lentils and bread. It was fun to make, but overall the flavor and taste was not that great - they get an overall rating of B-. The chicken especially was not outstanding - the meat was moist and somewhat flavorful, but not succulent or exciting, an overall C+. So too with the lentils - just mildly interesting with a B-. The bread was perhaps the most interesting with a mild sweet flavor, different from the normal rotis, and gets a B+.

Question: who are better cooks, women or men? I tended to favor
men for a while because they seemed to write the best and most books, and were famous chefs in famous restaurants. But I've modified that over time with all the Julia Childs stuff, other women who've been very good restaurant chefs, and personal women friends who are fantastic cooks. I'm wondering if the gender of the cook is important at all. Well, that's much more to say on this - and I'd like to hear other people's opinions about this - who are the better cooks? men or women? This ends Part I of this topic.

Cardamom - it seems like this spice was discovered and used in Akbar dishes more extensively than before in Mughal cooking. All three dishes used it, and it is the dominate flavor in all three.

Other ingredients? New to me was black cumin (shah or kala jeera), though no others I talked with were surprised by it. It took a while for me to find garlic paste, even harder to find almond paste. Easy, but new to my Indian cooking was mace. Impossible to find was ginger juice - though one can evidently buy it online for around $60 for a 5 oz bottle. Deej was a great help for this and worked for 1/2 hour or so squeezing out the 2 t we needed. Also the type of lentils - arhar dal - which I'd never cooked, and had a hard time finding, but the store I bought it at said it was the same as toor dal, yellow lentils, or chana dal. I'm not convinced, but ...

Equipment? - it would be nice to have a juicer, which would have extracted the juice from the ginger. Also a handi for the last stage of cooking the chicken. And a large, large metal bowl, which Indians use upside down to cook the roomali roti.

But I'm getting ahead of myself - I didn't realize at first I needed to cook the chicken in the last stage on a bed of roomali roti. And the book was no help - no description of making roomali roti in the book. I went online and found a couple videos which helped me out. One other suggestion (after the cooking) was to use a large tortilla as a substitute. But I went ahead, experimented to make my own roomali roti, making the dough and rolling it out fairly thin, and cooking two together on a large skillet. Sometime in the future I'd like to try making real roomali roti, which involves (like pizza making) thining out the dough by throwing it over ones head several times, and then cooking it on the upside down big mental bowl. There are wonderful roomali roti street carts cooking it right there and selling it - like in Chandni Chowk, etc.

The chicken or Murgh Zameen Doz takes a long time to make - three different marinades during 2 or so hours, then cooking it in broth, then (after you've made the roomali roti) placing it on a bed of bread (roomali), wrapping it in foil (because you don't have a handi) and baking it. My main modification was to cook three chicken breasts instead of cooking a medium chicken. Over all it was okay, and we ate the chicken over several days - again the cardamom taste was sometimes overwhelming.

The lentils or Khasa Tilaai (Paheet) was a new kind of lentils than I have cooked before and I cooked it about 3 times longer needing twice as much water than the recipe called for. It was way too much and we ended up throwing part of it away - it was pretty tasteless and uninteresting.

The bread or Roghni Roti Shahi on the other hand I found quite interesting. Good tasting, followed the recipe, including rolling it out thick (but not as 1/2 inch thickness like called for), and making those nice holes with a knife - which ended up like a pattern.

So, there you have it, the Akbar feast, chicken, lentils, and bread, not bad food, but not great. As usual, a fun adventure in cooking, some interesting new ingredients, new ways to make things, and new recipes.