Lazzat-ul-taam: Fairy Dust from the Age of Awadh

AwadhAs the legendary kingdom of Lord Ram, Awadh seemed predestined for undying glory. By the 18th Century, it would rise again under the Nawabs, in the screwpine forests by the banks of river Ghangra. But well after its capital moved to Lucknow, past its decline and annexation, through to today, kewra (screwpine) and a select ensemble of ingredients have kept the legendary poetic disposition of Awadh alive. Shaam e Awadh returns with this virtuosic masala.

Capturing the erstwhile state’s nafazat, nazaakat (refinement, delicacy), adab qaida (sophistication) and heritage, lazzat-ul-taam combines over twenty five spices and herbs. It is the recognisable yet mysterious symphony of flavours that places Awadh’s famed kebabs and kormas in an orbit of their own. Most of the ingredients are easy to get a hold of, few are a matter for discussion.

Jarakush is dried lemongrass. Baobeer is barberry (no surprise given Awadh’s Persian connect). Keep in mind that kababchini (cubeb pepper) is neither allspice nor nagkesar; all three look alike and share some flavour points, but are from different families and orders. By most accounts, kababchini (cubeb pepper) is the rightful claimant to a spot on this recipe.

Ready to conjure the aroma of Awadh? The ingredients will need to be pan-roasted on low heat. Remove the roasted mix once the fragrance blooms, then grind and seive before adding sweet ittr and yes, kewra – the fragrance with which it all began for Nawabi Awadh.

5 gm clove
7 gm green cardamom
3 gm mace
2 gm cinnamon
1 nutmeg
5 gm black pepper
5 gm coriander seeds
5 gm baobeer
5 gm kababchini (cubeb pepper)
5 gm of coconut
5 gm of jarakhush
5 gm of cumin
5 gm of caraway seeds
5 gm of sandalwood powder
3 gm rose petals
5 gm makhana
1 gm bay leaf
5 gm poppy seeds
5 gm fennel seeds
5 gm anise seeds
5 gm white pepper
Dry fennel leaves
1 tbsp kewra
1tbsp mitha ittr

(ingredients courtesy: Dastarkhwan-e-Awadh: The Cuisine of Awadh by Sangeeta Bhatnagar & R.K. Saxena; pic reference: A View of Part of the Palace of the Late Nabob Suja ul Dowla at Faizabad; by William Hodges, 1787 (BL))