Review for “Cooking Delights of the Maharajas: Exotic Dishes From the Princely House of Sailana”
I was reading a book a few years ago where it was mentioned that food was different from one group or class to another. I didn’t understand it (although it hasn’t been fully described here as well) until I actually read the book called “Cooking Delights of the Maharajas -Exotic dishes from the Princely House of Sailana“. It was written by His Highness Shri Digvijaya Singh-of the palace of Sailana And Sailana is a small town in Madhya Pradesh. It was released in 1982 in India. It was published by Vakils, Feffer and Simons Pvt. Ltd, Mumbai. The price of the book is Rs.400. The ISBN is 978-81-8462-026-9. The total number of pages is 198.
The moment I read the title of the book, I was really impressed for a variety of reasons:
1. One can be delighted after reading the book and trying to cook the dishes mentioned in it.
2. The word “The Maharajas” meant more than one king. I assumed the recipes were different and passed down from generation to generation.
3. Dishes are exotic in nature.
4. Proceeds will be from the country of Sailana exclusively.
The cover page has been adopted and depicts one of the popular paintings of the royal family of Sailana (although he is not mentioned anywhere in the book). The back of the book gives us the details of the author and his qualities and skills. The 15th edition of the book was published in 2015. The photograph on the 3rd page shows different types of copper vessels used to cook various dishes in the royal kitchens of the city. My attention fell on the beautiful rectangular box intended to store all kinds of spices and powders. Now I hardly find one available in our country. I would love to have one in my possession and add beauty to my kitchen too.
The author dedicated his book to his late father Highness Raja Sir Dilip Singhji of Sailana. You can see the stamp of the royal family affixed above the photograph of the author’s father. I had never seen one in my life! The author recognizes other royal families present in India as Prince Shivaji Rao Holkar and Princess Shalini Devi Holkar of Indore. The foreword was written by none other than His late Highness Gayatri Devi – Rajmata of Jaipur. According to her, the author is “not only a gourmet but a superb cook”. There are a good number of color photographs of various dishes cooked and presented for royal feasts.
The content section is given in detail and these are enlisted as follows:
a) 54 recipes prepared using meat or mutton
b) 9 recipes prepared using chicken
c) 10 recipes prepared using fish
d) 8 recipes prepared from the flesh of animals after hunting them
e) 21 recipes using different cereals like rice, millets, etc.
f) 50 recipes prepared from various types of vegetables
g) 12 varieties of sweet dishes
I liked the “Preface” section of the book. The secrets of the royal families are given to the readers and the best are:
1. The Maharajas were the connoisseurs of good food (mentioned in the 2nd paragraph).
2. Fine kitchens and top cooks are hired (mentioned in 2nd paragraph).
3. There is a separate cook for each recipe (mentioned again in the 2nd paragraph) (I was imagining the total number of cooks present in the royal kitchens. No wonder the royal families of Turkey dedicated a large palace to the cooks and guides for cooking, chopping vegetables, tasting, guiding other cooks, measuring quantities, etc.).
4. It was the “status symbol” for kings to present “the most unusual dishes” to their guests.
5. The cooking secrets of various recipes have never been shared by cooks and passed down from generation to generation (usually from father to son only).
6. Some of the exotic recipes and the process of cooking exotic dishes are lost as they were not passed down from one individual to another.
7. The author credits his father for collecting the recipes for the past 100 years. He got them from various cooks around the country and had old cookbooks in different languages like Sanskrit, Urdu and Persian. He translated some of them.
8. Cooking is not an art but it is a scientific process.
9. The differences present in the different types of spicy powders or masalas are due to the amount used in their preparation in the kitchens.
10. The author was careful to share some recipes only with his readers (I don’t know about other recipes and when they would be shared with us).
In the “Useful Tips” section, the author discusses the following:
A. It explicitly denies the use of stainless steel and aluminum pans for cooking purposes. They were only used to boil things (Oh my God, we use these metal utensils for cooking in contemporary times).
b. The different types of utensils used are –
dekhchi-pot type of utensil used for cooking meat
crook-wide utensil used for cooking and boiling rice and curries
kadhai– deep and wide pan.
Pressure cookers – for preparing lentil and rice dishes and for tenderizing tough meats such as trotters
vs. Differences between
I)bhunao is the process of cooking ground spices in a small amount of oil, at high temperatures and adding small amounts of water after a few minutes
ii) Baghar meaning to temper or season
iii) Dhugar means smoking technique
iv) dum means cooking over low heat and the utensil is covered with a lid and sealed with batter
v) Kalia is a curry prepared with water or milk
vi) standard is a curry prepared with ghee or oil
(vii)”do the onion” means cooking with vegetables like cauliflower, green peas, potato, etc.
d) Details were discussed regarding the amounts used to prepare pasta, season or enhance the flavor of a particular dish.
The weak points of the book are:
a) Revenue does not come exclusively from Sailana only.
b) The author mentions other recipes from other regions like Rajasthan, Bhopal, Delhi, Jhabua, Kashmir, Persia, Nepal, Hyderabad etc. They are 24 in number.
c) Shared recipes for dishes prepared from the flesh of hunted animals are limited to rabbits and wild boars. At that time, animal hunting was not limited to these animals alone. Recipes for other dishes are not mentioned in the book.
d) There are other exotic dishes from other royal families across India. Why weren’t they mentioned? I wonder about other dishes from the royal kitchens of Lucknow, Gujarat, Jammu, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Bengal that are worth mentioning in the book (perhaps in the notes of footer).
e) Recipe sections for snacks, salads, chutneys, curd preparations, pickles and soups are missing from the book. Apart from that, there are different dishes prepared separately in each season. It’s not mentioned anywhere in the book.
f) In the photographs, three to four dishes are placed and clicked together in the book. It wasn’t really good. The colors of the dish represent a blur and are not very appealing to the eyes.
The great points to notice in the book are:
a) The sections are divided according to the themes and sub-themes of the book.
b) Careful details of the preparation of the dish have been reported in the recipes.
c) The meaning of certain words has been given by the author.
d) The photographs are given in good number in the book (but not at the height).
e) Some of the rare recipes are shared in the book like tough mutton curd (mutton dumplings placed in the curd), porridge prepared with garlic, etc.