Heal your body, heal your mind
Food historian Salma Husain shares how Persian, Sufi and Mughal influences have enriched Islamic cuisine in her latest book, Islamic Food with Healing Touch. Husain draws on the culinary legacy of a centuries-old faith to create a guide that she hopes will help readers achieve well-being through cooking right and eating right. Here are three recipes from the collection...
An exotic recipe of simple lentils from the imperial kitchen of Emperor Akbar.
This recipe is taken from Ain-e-Akbari — a gazetteer of the Mughal empire detailing every aspect of Akbar’s government, written by his courtier Abul Fazi
3 cups/ 600 gm yellow lentils (toor dal), split, skinned
salt to taste
1/4 cup/ 60 gm yoghurt (dahi), hung
2 tsp ginger (adrak) juice
4 cloves (laung)
1 tsp cardamom
4 tbsp ghee
2 onions, sliced
1 tbsp lemon (nimbu) juice
1/4 tsp saffron (kesar), dissolved in milk
gold leaf (varq) for garnishing
> Boil the lentils with one teaspoon salt and drain.
> Add yoghurt and ginger juice and leave aside for 15 minutes.
> Grind cloves, cardamom and cinnamon to fine powder. Sieve and keep aside.
> Heat the ghee in a pan; fry the onions to golden brown; remove one-third of the onion to be used later. Add powdered spices and stir-fry. Add the lentils mixed with yoghurt and cook on low heat adding one cup of water.
> When the lentils are soft and cooked, add lemon juice and reserved brown onions crushed with hands. Sprinkle saffron, cover and cook on dum.
> Serve decorated with gold leaf.
This recipe has been taken from an old Arabic cookbook of Ibn al-Mabrad. It is a traditional dish and cooked on festive occasions. In Turkey, it is called keskek and in Lebanon and Syria, it is harisah. In India, it is called haris, but the origin is from Anatolia. Adopted by all with regional variations.
500 gm lamb, cleaned, washed, cut into pieces
2 cups/ 500 ml water
1/2” cinnamon (dalchini) stick
salt to taste
1 cup/ 200 gm cracked wheat (dalia), washed, soaked in water for two hours, drained
1/2 cup/ 125 ml milk
1/4 tsp cumin (jeera) powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp lemon (nimbu) juice
> Cook the lamb adding water, cinnamon stick and salt. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and cook until the lamb is half-done. Add the cracked wheat and cook for another hour until meat is soft and tender and wheat is soft and mushy.
> Remove the lamb, strip the meat from the bones, pound in a mortar almost to a paste, then put it back and mix well with the wheat mixture. The mixture should have a porridge-like consistency.
> Add milk and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt, cumin powder, cinnamon powder and lemon juice. Serve with a dollop of butter.
If using a pressure cooker, the cooking time would be reduced by 30 minutes for meat and 20 minutes for wheat. A traditional harisah dish is cooked overnight and eaten in the morning.
A rich but energetic dessert made of dates, colourful to look at and easy to make.
1 kg dates (khajoor) seeds removed, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup/ 100 gm ghee
2 cups/ 500 ml milk
2 cups/ 500 ml water
4 green cardamoms
(choti elaichi), powdered
12 pistachios (pista), blanched, coarsely chopped
12 almonds (badam), blanched, coarsely chopped
12 cashewnuts (kaju), coarsely chopped
> Heat the ghee in a wok (kadhai); fry the dates for a few minutes. Add the milk and simmer on low heat, adding water as required to soften the dates.
> Mash the dates to pulp, and add the green cardamom powder. Simmer for a minute. Add pistachios, cashewnuts and almonds; mix well.
> Cook for 1 to 2 minutes to a porridge-like consistency. Cool and serve with cream.
Islamic Food with Healing Touch;
Text: Salma Husain; Photographs: Yatinder Kumar; published by Roli Books; Rs 350. Available in leading book stores.