This cookbook, although palpable with nostalgia, selectively recaptures events and objects from the past that are a part of the intangible heritage of food and familial memories of gentler times. These are collective memories that conserve a sense of continuity, of belonging and of being rooted. I believe food engenders social and family harmony; it anchors us and connects us to the past, grounds us in the present and gives us a sense of identity and belonging. Our personal histories define us and I have chosen to define this partly through Lucknow’s food traditions.

  • Serves


  • Cook Time

    01h 30m


  • 500 gm Basmati rice (long-grained and old)
  • 500 gm mutton (short loin chops)
  • 8-10 almonds, blanched and peeled
  • 5 star anise
  • 4 green cardamoms pods
  • 3-4 flakes mace
  • 3-4 leaves edible silver
  • 3 small bay leaves
  • 3 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3 whole black cardamom pods
  • 2 cups yoghurt
  • 1 small nutmeg
  • 1-inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 tbsp milk, warmed
  • 4 tbsp desi ghee
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil, for frying the meat
  • 3 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp magaz (watermelon and musk melon) seeds
  • 2 tbsp kewra (screw pine) water
  • 1 tbsp meat masala
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp black cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp saffron


  1. Wash the mutton and drain the water. Add the finely chopped onions and tomatoes, yoghurt, 1 tablespoon of oil and mix all the ingredients together except almonds. Marinate for 1 hour.
  2. Wash and soak the rice in lots of water for 45 minutes. The water should completely cover the rice. After 45 minutes drain the water.
  3. Boil 1 litre of water with the cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, bay leaf, black cardamom, star anise and 1 tablespoon of salt. Once the water starts to boil, add the rice. After one boil, reduce the flame and cook for 10 minutes. After it is half done, drain the water and transfer the rice to a wide pan to let it air out. When the rice is well spread out, it does not stick together.
  4. In a kadhai, heat the oil and add the marinated meat to roast. Cook the mutton until it becomes a little tender and the oil rises to the surface.
  5. Mix the mace and the saffron in lukewarm milk. Add this mixture to half the quantity (250 grams) of the rice. Then mix together both the quantities of rice.
  6. In a heavy-bottomed pateela, first add the rice at the bottom and then add the roasted, cooked meat, kewra water and desi ghee and cover it with a heavy lid. Seal it with kneaded dough. On a low flame, take a large pan and place the heavy-bottomed pateela filled with rice on top of the pan. Simmer for about 40 minutes.
  7. Open the lid and garnish with blanched almonds. Decorate with silver leaves. Serve hot with Kachoomber Salad, Burhani Raita and Mint Chutney.

Excerpted with permission from The Lucknow Cookbook, Chand Sur and Sunita Kohli, Aleph Book Company.

Chand Sur

Chand Sur

Chand Sur was born in 1925 in Bahawalpur, Undivided Punjab, and brought up in Quetta. She is an inventive cook who places great emphasis on nutritious and healthy meals. Her lunch, dinner and tea parties are legendary. She has passed on her love of cooking to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. A voracious reader and an adventurous traveller, Chand is deeply interested in other cultures and people.

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Sunita K Kohli

Sunita K Kohli

Sunita K Kohli is an interior designer, a reputed leader in historical interior architectural restoration and, since 1972, a manufacturer of fine contemporary and classical furniture. She was the first interior designer to be conferred the Padma Shri in 1992. She developed a passion for cooking from her mother and enjoys trying new recipes. Widely travelled, Sunita brings influences from different cultures into her architecture as well as her cooking.

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