Breakfast in Jaipur highlighted the foods of India’s south – dosas, rice and lentil batter pancakes made on a dark griddle.  It was served on top of a green banana leaf, on a platter formed to resemble an artist’s palette with wells indented in which to put railway chutney, curry leaf, tomato and coconut chutney.  Inside was a scoop of hot spicy potato mash.  Delicate and delicious!

Other Southern Indian breakfast items included the small white idlis, made of steamed rice flour, and medhu vada, a dense doughnut made of lentil.  Also, sago vada- chick pea gram flour soaked for 24 hours, then ground fine, formed into balls and fried.

Lunch at the Maharajah in Jaipur treated us to the desert cuisine of Rajasthan.  Laal Mas, lamb curry and Kher Sangri, the skinny desert beans and berries, dried, then rehydrated and cooked with onions and spices, was a superb introduction to the region, and to dishes we had never heard of before.  We ordered a rice dish and mint (methi) parantha bread to accompany it.

At the Ranthambhore Taj Hotel, our stay was marred by unexpected monsoon like rains for 2 days.  I struck up a conversation with Nagendra Singh, the General Manager, and soon I was in his office for 2 hours of talking about our mutual love of Indian cooking.  I told him how delicious the food had been the first night, and soon he was calling in the chef and his assistants, bringing ingredients and equipment to show me, such as a wooden butter churn, dried desert berries and beans, gourds, carom seeds for digestion and for stopping bleeding after childbirth. That afternoon was my favorite memory of India.   I was furnished photocopies of each day’s menu, which I transcribe below:

Monday lunch:
Bhindi Jalfrezi – okra fried, tomato, onion, ginger, garlic

Bainghan Bhurta- eggplants baked in charcoal oven, stripped, crushed, with spices and onion

Paneer Achari – farmer’s cheese with pickle and mango sauce from pickling

Pittod Pullao – specific to that region, rice pilaf with gram flour-chickpea, oil, salt, chili powder, aniseeds, curry

Ghosht Saag Nala – Mutton/goat bones in a bright green sauce comprised of mustard greens

Makkhan Wada – refined wheat flour, sugar, ghee, cream dessert

Monday dinner
Paneer Mutter – green peas and cottage cheese

Cabbage Tamater – cumin seeds and grated cabbage strands, tomato shreds

Ghiya Kofta – white gourd, green coriander powder, crushed cottage cheese, crushed potato, balls in tomato gravy

Kadhi – thin chick pea flour gruel, yogurt, coriander powder, turmeric, mustard seeds, garlic, onions, asafetida, made into balls

Vegetable Biryani – light, fluffy rice with small bits of vegetables

Moong dal Halwa- intense, sweet, grainy dessert

Tuesday lunch
Bharwan Capsicum Stuffed with Cheese & Tomato, meltingly delicious and light

Paneer Palak – light farmer cheese in delicate green mustard/spinach sauce

Mutter Tamater Curry – peas, tomato

Chutneys & Tamarind sweet sauce

Pullao – with vegetables, beige, almonds

Keema Liver Masala – ground meat with small vegetables

Tuesday dinner
Murg Methi Malai – chicken with cream gravy, spiced with fenugreek, ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric, tomatoes and red chilies

Gobhi Tamater tomatoes with other vegetables

Sarson ka Saag – spicy mustard/spinach greens with turnip, dill, radish, ginger, green chili

Paneer Tikka Lababdar – farmer’s cheese

Lemon Rice- yellow, light and fluffy

Seviyon di Kheer dessert

We were rolling our eyes with pleasure every time we took a bite.  As soon as Nagendra found out we adored the chef’s food, he organized an outdoor cooking demonstration, under the veranda eaves.  A stainless steel cart with clay tandoor on it was rolled out, and eggplants were impaled on a 4’ skewer and roasted.  After removing the skins, the eggplant was combined with spices and onions and garlic and presented as an appetizer.

There are, according to Nagendra, 5 key ingredients that a cook is able to get anywhere in India: meat (lamb/chicken), clarified butter (ghee), salt, whole red chili, water, garlic.  The chef whipped up a curry using these simple ingredients.

Lastly, he combined chick pea flour with yogurt and oil to form a dough.  He rolled it into tubes and cooked these in water until it foamed.  Then he made a curry with the cooking water and spices.  All were delicious.

While we were in India, we didn’t have one bad meal, only good, delicious, and ambrosially delicious meals!  I won’t recount all the meals we had, but the other really good ones happened at the Lake Palace Hotel.

Chicken Murgh ka Sole, and Mixed Vegetables. This was accompanied by mango pickle, green coriander chili hot sauce, and chutney.  We brought the chef out to compliment him.  He has promised to send the recipes by e-mail, which I will share if I manage to obtain them.

In Jodphur for our 2010 Thanksgiving feast, we enjoyed a blend of north and south India.  Cauliflower and potato stir fried with chili, coriander,coconut, mustard and curry leaves (south) and gosht baghar (north),well marinated lamb cooked slowly with yogurt, mustard seeds, fenugreek and red chilies. Scrumptious cheese paratha accompanied our meal.

Culinary regards,

Claudia and Gail

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