If you’re looking for the right way to prepare an Indian meal, literally a meal fit for a Royal Indian Banquet, look no further than the charming Smita Chandra.
Smita’s “The Royal Banquet – India’s Palace Cuisine” (Moghul Cuisine) was part of a monthly Trending NOW Dinner Series, featuring top Canadian chefs, held at held George Brown Colleges, Chefs House. For those unfamiliar with this spot, The Chefs House, is a student-focused concept restaurant on King St. East, in Toronto, where students of the Chef School, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management get to prepare and serve their creations to the public.
Smita is the bestselling author of 3 cookbooks, a spokesperson, freelance food writer, recipe developer, food consultant and if that isn’t enough – she teaches cooking at the Centre For Food at Durham College, Kraft and Fortinos to name but a few.
We were among 22 fortunate dinners partaking in The Banquet, based on India’s Palace Cuisine; beginning with crisp Papadum, which, coupled with the aroma of fragrance spices, was more than enough to whet our appetite. During Smita’s presentation her husband, Sanjeev Chandra, gave us details on the wonderful history of Moghul Cuisine.
The dishes Smita prepared for us were: Shammi Kababs (lamb kebabs with feta and herbs) with a quick ‘n’ easy Tomato Chutney, Cashew Coriander Chicken Korma, Saag Paneer (spinach cooked with onions, yogurt and cottage cheese), Saffron Pilaf (rice cooked with saffron and spices) and Boondi Raita.
Smita’s Tips for preparing these dishes:
- When preparing the kebabs (or any dish calling for fresh coriander), Smita suggests chopping the top tender stems as well as the leaves as they contain so much flavour and use dry bread not fresh. The Tomato Chutney recipe calls for vegetable oil, but her preference is grape seed oil or extra virgin olive oil and she suggests coconut or brown sugar instead of white; the chutney is also a wonderful marinade for chicken or shrimp.
- Paneer is Indian cottage cheese, it’s very dry and can be cubed like feta.
- Boondi, used in the Raita, is made from sweetened fried chickpea flour and is a great snack on its own. Usually made with grated English cucumber and cilantro, Raita is used to cool the palate.
- The Mango Kulfi is really easy to make and the combination of cardamom, saffron and pistachios produce a phenomenal perfume that hits every one of the senses.
- Saffron, used in some of Indian dishes is the most expensive spice in the world and is actually the stigma in the lilac Crocus (sometimes called the saffron crocus). There are only 3 of these fragile orange threads in each flower and they must be very carefully picked.
Royal Indian Banquet
The meal is concluded with the delicious Mango Kulfi (ice cream made with thickened sweetened milk flavoured with mangoes and pistachios).
Smita’s recipes – don’t be afraid to try some of these dishes; the end results will amaze you. Download the recipes
History Moghul Cuisine
Moghuls were tribesmen, descendants of the hordes led by Genghis Khan, who eventually formed the Ottoman dynasty in Turkey and the Safavid dynasty in Persia. After helping to unite feuding areas of northern India, the Moghuls transformed their cooking style using Persian influences. The combination of apricots, raisins, and almonds with meat dishes, kababs, and biryanis became the mainstay of Moghul banquets. Indians learning from their Persian counterparts, integrated their own traditional spices and ingredients and created a novel cuisine now known as “Moghlai”.
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The article was written by Maureen Dahl and the photos by Parm Parmar.
Note: We were guests of the Chef’s House for this event, but all opinions expressed in this article are our own.