I love history, I love food. With this as the background, it’s a no brainer that I loved, ” The Lucknow Cookbook” by the mother and daughter team of Chand Sur and Padma Shri Sunita Kohli, the famous interior decorator. This book of 225 pages, each one worth reading carefully has been published by Aleph in 2017. As specified in the title the book is centred around the city of Lucknow in the state of Uttar Pradesh in North India.
Lucknow, the capital of the Nawabs of Oudh, has had a special place in Indian history. It is renowned for its culture and customs. In more senses than one, it is the cultural capital of North India. No one who has visited there can come away without carrying memories of a Nawabi culture which sounds almost quaint now in the hustle and bustle of 21st century India. It is in this setting that Sunita Kohli shares family recipes handed down to her by her mother Chand Sur and other family members, friends and relatives. Chand first came to Lucknow in 1948 as a young bride from Quetta, in the days following the tumultuous Partition of British India into India and Pakistan.
Though the story of Chand Sur covers a mere 20 odd pages, they are full of life and evoke fond memories of a period long gone by.
Next we come to the recipe themselves. Each of them is described in detail, often accompanied by a tale of where it originated and how Chand or Sunita first came across that dish. Over 150 recipes are presented to the reader with Chapters covering, amongst many others: Kebabs; Vegetables; Dals & Lentils: Biryanis & Pulaos; Puddings, and of course, Lucknowi Coffee, High Tea, Cocktail Snacks and Cakes.
Some of the lip smackers include: Machhli Mussalam ( Whole Fish with Spices); Badaam ka Shorba ( Almond Soup); Kakori Kebab; Amras Aur Aloo ka Salaan ( Mango & Potato Curry) and the ever popular Chane ki Dal ka Halwa (Lentil Halwa) .
As is well said, “Lucknow is known for the variety and richness of its cuisine”. This book does full justice to tracing the origin of many dishes and describing how Chand and her family came across them. The description of the book in the back cover sums it up so aptly: ” a celebration of the tehzeeb of Lucknow as well as its nazaakat ( elegance) the book is also a portrait of the city and its storied history.”At the end of the book, is a carefully put together list of Recommended Reading for those who wish to know more about Lucknow and its fabulous cuisine.
Thank you, Ms Kohli and your charming and gracious mother Mrs Sur, for such a delectable treat. Highly recommended for anyone who is fond of Indian cuisine.