Friday, 20 October 2017

A chef with a hat

A Lakhnawi housewife can run a fine dining specialty hatted restaurant in Kuala Lumpur ? Hard to believe? But Kaneez Narjis is one such achiever. Kaneez who  returned from Malaysia in 2012 now runs her own successful catering business from Lucknow by the name of Narjis’ kitchen.

Born and brought up in Islamabad, Pakistan Narjis grew up in a family which was into hospitality business.” My father was a pioneer in the hotel industry in Pakistan. He opened the first five- star hotel in Islamabad. In 1973 their hotel catered for the First Islamic Summit .The family was catering to Pakistan Airlines, Air France and Kuwait Airlines. My parents were exceptional cooks. Though I did not receive formal training in hotel industry I guess I learnt from just being around. My parents encouraged me to learn traditional as well as cuisines from around the world. I also picked up the economics of running  a business from them.”

Narjis  graduated in Textile Chemistry in Lahore and soon after married to Shobair Husain and came to Lucknow. She emphasizes that she chose to marry in India and feels at home here. Her new family was the Zamindar family of Lorepur, which also has a rich culinary tradition. Once in the kitchen Narjis realized that cooking was what she always wanted. She happily cooked for friends and family

The couple moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2010 when Shobair was offered to run a restaurant in  downtown Kuala Lumpur. Taking a few cooks from Lucknow they started Kabab and Qaurma , a fine dine restaurant specializing in food from North India. Narjis Kaneez was the restaurant’s Executive Chef. “We kept the menu strictly traditional, no fusion! We stuck to traditional recipes. Of course because seafood is more popular we substituted it in many recipes.” The restaurant was a big hit!  The same year Malaysia International Gourmet Festival, in which in which 28 top 5 star restaurants of Malaysia participated awarded Kabab and Qaurma The Best North Indian Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. As the Executive Chef of the restaurant Narjis was awarded a chef hat, which is a very prestigious recognition in the world of hospitality.

In 2012 the family returned to Lucknow keeping in mind the education of children. Since then Narjis has launched out Narjis’s kitchen, her catering service. She has help host international conferences and festivals in Delhi. Serving delicious Awadhi and Mughlai fare the menu also has a wide variety of Continental dishes, not served in any restaurant in Lucknow. Her USP she says is that she does not compromise on quality or procedure. We tried Seekh and Shaami Kababs, Biryani , Roghan Josh  and Murgh Mussalam. For dessert it was saffron laced Shahi Tukde. We give the recipes 10/10. Rich but not greasy, loaded with surprising flavors Narjis’s cooking is a delight to the palate. We also include here one of Narjis’ popular recipe.Hope you enjoy cooking it.

  • Pasanda Kababs
  • 500gms fatfree mutton fillets ideally from the loins
  • Tbsp of salt
  • 100 gms papaya
  • Masala 1
  • 4 onions
  • 1 whole pod of garlic
  • 3 inches ginger
  • All ground together
  • Masala 2
  • 3 onions
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 3 small cardamoms
  • 2 badi elaichi
  • A pinch of mace (javitri)
  • Half a nutmeg (jaifal)
  • 10-15 black peppers
  • Deep fry them with the onions and when golden grind them into paste
  • Masala 3
  • With little oil dry roast 2 tbsp of poppy seeds, melon seeds each and 3 dry red chillies and grind them into paste
  • Roast 300 gms of gram flour (besan) and keep aside

Method

Grind papaya with skin with salt into a fine paste and mix it with meat. Keep it overnight

Mix  all the three masalas, roasted gram flour, a small bowl of cream ,add more salt if needed. Smoke with charcoal

In a pan add ghee and add the meat mix in it. Slow cook till oil separates. Add a spoonful of kewra

Serve with mint leaves and lemon wedges

2 Comments

  • Normally, Lucknow is associated with ‘shaami kabaabs’ in different variants, not with ‘seekh’ kabaabs. Pas and a as are also a trademark awadhi dish but not in kabaab format. Moreover, awadhi kabaabs use sandalwood powder, kewda itr and rosewater, as Lucknowi cuisine relied not only on taste but also on the smell and visual aspects of its dishes. Use of raw papaya as ‘galaawat’ (tenderiser) was another Lucknowi trick which was picked up and copied in many other cuisines. What is important to know and remember is that true ‘awadhi’ cuisine is quite different from mughal cuisine. The spices in ‘awadhi’ cuisine are understated and more mellow than in mughal cuisine. Mughal cuisine is more robust while ‘awadhi’ cuisine is more delicate. It is much more difficult to prepare a good ‘awadhi’ dish than a mughal one.

  • The photograph, on top of the article with food in different small metal dishes, does not fit with Awadhi styles. Thanks for the recipe of Nargis.

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