Grand Master Chef of ITC Hotels crafts a menu of his all-time favourites
A LEGEND in Indian culinary circles, Imtiaz Qureshi, 85, hasn’t lost his innovative, adaptable edge. “I believe that food must be constantly reinvented to keep the customer interested,” he begins. Of course, he goes on to explain there are certain staples that one does not change, like the dal Bukhara and Sikandari raan that he pioneered for the ITC, although they were also reinvented from other recipes, he adds.
A charming host, Qureshi seated himself at the head of our table at the Dumpukht – Jolly Nabobs, where he is visiting until August 17, and proceeded to introduce us to his specially-crafted menu, aptly interspersed with interesting anecdotes and great humour.
We waited for our zafrani murgh, vegetarian galouti kebab and jhinga Qureshi while learning how he dined with Jawaharlal Nehru and Zakir Husain, planned the wedding feast of the Maharajahs of Jaipur, and was complimented by Bill Clinton. Then, the chicken arrived bursting with saffron and a dash of cardamom, while the kebab – made from roasted moong dal and almonds, was surprisingly similar in texture to its meaty counterpart. The giant tiger prawns that followed stole the show. Cooked to perfection and served in its shell covered in strips of dough before being deep-fried and served with a tamarind and jaggery sauce, it is a recipe Qureshi learned from his father.
We were already stuffed to the gills when the main course arrived. Fig-stuffed potato in a piquant gravy, paneer, that literally melted in your mouth, stuffed with spinach, and the famous Sikandari raan. As Qureshi carved it, he recounted how he invented it in the first place. “Watching the old Prithviraj Kapoor film Sikandar, I saw them roasting the whole leg of lamb and dousing it with alcohol. That’s where I got the idea of using vinegar to tenderise it,” he shares. And tender it was, with a mouth-watering mix of spicy and tangy flavours — by far the best you’ll have.
But if you have some more space, you might want to try patties of flavoured crabmeat doused in a thin, zesty tomato-based gravy accompanied by sheermal – saffron-flavored traditional flatbread, and fig-stuffed naan.
To round off our decadent meal, we were served the very special dum pukht biriyani which actually comes in cooked chicken skin and filled with an aromatic mix of masalas. It is accompanied by the rather unusual potato salan. Rs.2,000++ . At ITC Windsor, Golf Course Road. Details: 22269898