Cooking Delights of The Maharajas - Exotic Dishes from the Princely House of Sailana
Digvijaya Singh


In the introduction to his cookbook, which he dedicates to the memory of his father, the late Dilip Singh, maharaja of Sailana, author Digvijaya Singh writes, "Recently, there has been a flood of Indian cookbooks. While in their own way all are good, I feel they are aimed at the amateur cook, the busy housewife, who desires to put up a good meal in a hurry … Everyone seeks shortcuts, thereby reducing a previous fine art to the level of plain belly filling. As a result the recipes have become simplified and also to an extent Westernised." He then warns, "The recipes given here are in their pure form. This book is not for the novice."

We're not all lucky enough to have grown up in the household of a maharaja, where, Singh says, "Sometimes there was a cook for each recipe." Fortunately for us, though, his father was an avid collector of recipes, testing and refining them until they were, to his palate, perfect. While Singh has "taken for granted that anyone attempting to cook from these [recipes] has the basic knowledge of cooking", he does give explanations about cooking methods and ingredients.

As intimidating as the introduction makes the recipes seem, though, the techniques are not too hard to master (although you will need an accurate scale; he gives measurements down to as little as 1.5 grams). You should also like mutton, since more recipes are dedicated to that meat than chicken, fish and game combined, but, naturally, there's also a good selection of vegetarian dishes. Recipes I've bookmarked for trying include korma Shirazi (named after Shiraz in Persia, it's mutton cooked with onion, spices, fruits, nuts and saffron, before being garnished with hard-boiled eggs); kabab-e-murgh (minced mutton skewers, although I'll probably have to grill the meat over regular charcoal, rather than the dried cow-dung cakes he recommends); dahi machchhi (fish cooked with mustard, chillies, turmeric and fresh curds); and makki ka halwa (a dessert made with milk, fresh corn, ghee, coconut, raisins and cardamom).