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Home > Sunday Mid Day News > Imtiaz Qureshi 1931 2024 The more you innovate the tastier it will be

Imtiaz Qureshi, 1931-2024: ‘The more you innovate, the tastier it will be’

Updated on: 25 February,2024 07:24 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Team SMD |

Maverick restaurateur Jiggs Kalra calls late Imtiaz Qureshi a visionary intent on bringing different worlds of flavours together. In Prashad: Cooking with Indian Masters, he shares the wonders of ‘choking off steam’ in the kitchen

Imtiaz Qureshi, 1931-2024: ‘The more you innovate, the tastier it will be’

Qureshi, a former wrestler, is remembered for his genius at transforming north Indian cuisine. File pic

The innovative Dum Pukht came into vogue during the reign of the benevolent Nawab Asaf-ud-daulah. Dum Pukht (choking off the steam), has been described as the “maturing of a prepared dish”. Dum Pukht originated in Persia, where a prepared dish was sealed and buried in hot sand to mature. In India, Dum Pukht was born a little over 200 years ago. To feed his starving subjects during the famine of 1784, Nawab Asaf-ud Daulah decided to provide jobs by building the Bara Imambara. The monument was built by day and destroyed by night. During its build-and-destroy stages, huge quantities of food were cooked, sealed in degs (gigantic handis) and then kept warm in massive double-walled bukhari or ovens. As a result, the prepared food would get steamed in the gentle heat of the bukhari.

One day, the Nawab decided to sample the food—he relished every morsel. He adapted the bukhari for use at royal banquets and hunts. His chefs used exotic spices and herbs to impart subtle flavours and aromas, before putting on dum. Dishes prepared for the humble Avadhis became delicacies fit for their sovereign. 

On Mohammad Imtiaz Qureshi: The illustrious scion of a family of masterchefs, what sets Qureshi apart from the rest is his willingness to take culinary risks. He is almost compulsive about combining ingredients that others, more timid, might find mutually exclusive. While he does not deviate from the classic form, his culinary philosophy is that the more you innovate, the tastier the delicacy will be. His pioneering effort in reviving Dum Pukht is his unique contribution to Indian cooking. 



Serves: 4
Prep Time: 1 hour 
Cooking time: 30 minutes

A befitting tribute to Avadh’s best-known gourmet, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, this delicacy of saffron-flavoured chicken breast is done in a rich almond-based gravy.

12 breasts of chicken
Butter to grease roasting tray

The marination 
25 g/4 Tsp Ginger paste 
25 g/4 Tsp Garlic paste
3 g/1/2 Tsp Yellow chilli powder
3 g/1/2 Tsp Garam masala

The filling 
150 g/5 oz Khoya
175 g/1 Cup onions
20 g/2 Tbs Ginger 
5 Green chilies
20 g/1/2 Cup coriander
30 ml/2 Tbs Lemon juice

The gravy 
100 g/1/2 Cup ghee
100 g/2/3 Cup onions
25 g/4 tsp Ginger paste
25 g/4 tsp Garlic paste
50 g/1/3 cup Cashewnuts
10 g/5 tsp Dessicated coconut
220 g/1 Cup yoghurt
5 g/1 tsp Garam masala
1/2g/1 tsp Saffron
15 ml/1 Tbs milk

The garnish 
20 Almonds
1/2g/1 Tsp Saffron
15ml/1 Tbs Milk
1/2g/1/4 Cup Coriander

Chicken: Clean, remove the skin, debone and flatten with a bat.

Marination: Mix yellow chillies, garam masala and salt with the ginger and garlic pastes and rub the flattened chicken breasts with this mixture. Keep aside for 15 minutes.

Filling: Peel, wash and finely chop onions. Scrape, wash and finely chop ginger. Remove stems, wash, slit, deseed and finely chop green chillies. Clean, wash and finely chop coriander. Crumble khoya in a bowl, add the chopped ingredients, salt and lemon juice, mic well. Divide into 12 equal portions.

Stuffing: Place a portion of the filling at the narrower end of each breast and roll.

Oven: Pre-heat to 148 degree Celsius

Roasting: Grease a roasting tray with butter, arrange the breasts with the loose ends touching the tray and roast in pre-heated oven until evenly light golden. 

Gravy: Peel, wash and chop onions. Put cashewnuts and coconut in a blender, add water (approx 7 Tbs) and make a fine paste. Whisk yoghurt in a bowl. Dissolve saffron in warm milk.

Garnish: Blanch almonds, cool, peel and split into halves. Dissolve saffron in warm milk and soak, milk and soak the almonds in it. Clean, wash and chop coriander.

Cooking: Heat ghee in a handi, add onions and saute over medium heat until transparent. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and saute until the moisture has evaporated. 

Then add the cashewnut-coconut paste and bhunno for five minutes. Reduce to low heat, add yoghurt and simmer for 2-3 minutes, add garam masala and salt, stir, add saffron and stir. Transfer the roasted chicken breasts carefully, one-at-a-time, and simmer until napped in the gravy. Adjust the seasoning.

Serve: Remove to a silver dish, garnish with almonds and saffron. Sprinkle coriander and serve with naan.



Serves: 4
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 2 hours

A classic culinary tribute to Gengis Khan, the Great Mongol, the Ahd is a leg of lamb delicacy served with an exquisite peppery gravy.

2 Legs of Spring Lamb (600g/1 1/3 lb each)
3 Spring Onions

50 g/3 Tbs Ginger paste
50 g/3 Tbs Garlic paste
3g/ ½ tsp Red chilli powder
150 ml/ 2/3 cup Malt vinegar

The gravy
100ml/ 3 1/2 oz Tomato puree
(or 50 ml/2 2 oz Tomato sauce
20 g/ 2 Tbs Black peppercorns

A pinch Nutmeg powder
30 g/2 Tbs White butter
60ml/4 Tbs Cream
45ml/3 Tbs Rum

Lamb: Clean and prick with a needle.

Marination: Mix red chillies and salt with the ginger and garlic pastes, rub this mixture evenly on the raan, arrange in a baking tray and douse with vinegar. Keep aside for at least 30 minutes.

Peppercorns: Broil on a tawa and pound with a pestle.

Onions: Clean, wash, and cut bulbs into thin roundels. Finely chop 10g/3 Tbs of the greens.

Oven: Pre-heat to 300°F.

Cooking: Add enough water to immerse three-fourths of the lamb legs, cover the baking tray with silver foil and put the raan on dum in the pre-heated oven for an hour and fifteen minutes. (Check at regular intervals to ensure that the meat is not over-cooked. The right time to remove is when the meat leaves the bone at both ends.) Tear off the foil, cool, remove raan, strain and reserve the jus.

To make the gravy, transfer the jus to a handi, bring to a boil, reduce to low heat, add tomato puree and reduce the gravy to a sauce consistency. Add pepper, nutmeg and salt, simmer for 2 minutes, add butter and stir constantly until the butter is incorporated. Remove add cream and 30ml/2 Tbs of rum, stir. Adjust the seasoning.

Finishing: Make a deep incision on each raan—right down to the bone—and carefully remove the bone. Make ¼-inch thick slices, arrange in a shallow casserole, sprinkle the remaining rum and return the raan to the pre-heated oven for 3-4 minutes.

Serve: Remove the casserole from the oven, pour on the gravy, sprinkle a little pepper from the pepper-mill, garnish with spring onions and serve with naan.

Excerpted with permission from Prashad: Cooking with Indian Masters; Allied Publishers Private Limited

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