MEET THE QURESHIS

By: Jane Borges

A regular day at the dining table of this Indian household would be worth witnessing. Heated debates, differing opinions and pointed arguments are a given.

But it’s not international or political affairs that draw all this noise and clatter. It’s food. The subject could be the meal that is presently being served, or a dish that was previously cooked.

“Whatever it is, it’s only, always food that we talk about,” claims Mohammad Ashfaque Qureshi, a spectator to these family discourses during meal times. Because in the Qureshi home anything else would otherwise be an anomaly.

What makes this family different is that every member here is a taste-maker, bringing his or her own insight to food. But then, it’s not without reason.

The Qureshis are synonymous with Indian heritage cuisine, having mastered and modified their culinary skill in dum pukht cooking over the 230-odd years of celebrating their food with both the royals and the masses.

The brand is now making a stunning foray into the sultanate with the opening of its third international Qureshi Restaurant at the Hormuz Grand in Muscat.

Qureshi Bab al Hind, the newly-opened fine dining restaurant, with a capacity seating of 100 guests indoors, promises to honour the flavours cultivated by the illustrious food-loving family. Leading the team are Ashfaque, Irfan and Imran Qureshi – sons of veteran master chef Imitiaz Qureshi, all doyens in their own right. “Our primary goal is to create a taste, because if there is a taste, there is a demand, and if there is a demand, there are also people to make that food,” claims Ashfaque about his international venture, which first started with independent chains in Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.

His spiel sounds very business-like, but for the Qureshis, this enterprise is more than just that. “We want to make sure that our food is alive,” he clarifies, “We do not want our art form to die with us.”

The fact that Ashfaque equates cooking to art speaks volumes about the value that he and his family associate with food. Cooking is an artwork in progress, he maintains. “There is no other art form in the world that needs to be consumed compulsorily thrice a day. It’s just that it is taken for granted by people who are making it, as well as those who consume it,” he claims, elaborating, “When we prepare a menu, there is a lot of planning and balancing that goes into it. What a meal needs to be complimented with or how it must physically look on a plate is all an art. It takes a lot to get it right.”

Ashfaque, however, argues that unlike other artists, a chef works within a very limited space. “I personally believe that 90 per cent of how your final dish turns out depends majorly upon the basic ingredient – like the chicken, fish, meat or vegetable. Eight per cent is the salt because without it, you won’t really get any taste in your food. Our creativity is restricted to the remaining two per cent. It is this two per cent, which brings it down to why someone would eat our food over someone else’s.”

This takes us back to the rich legacy of the family, which once served in the royal kitchens of the nawabs of Awadh in north India. Their expertise in dum pukht – a technique dating back to the 16th century – that involves cooking meat and vegetables on low flame in sealed pots, is unparalleled. Today, almost every Qureshi member is a name to reckon with in the Indian hospitality industry. “The Qureshis were born cooks,” insists Ashfaque, “Food was never forced upon us. As far as I remember, we were always taught to love food, appreciate it and to an extent even criticise it. We don’t shy away from discussing food or any element related to it.”

Their passion for the subject and knowledge of the complicated techniques of cooking – all of which have been inherited from their forefathers – is what Ashfaque claims helps the Qureshis keep their brand alive.

Having said that, he still maintains that every individual is a cook, irrespective of whether he dons the chef’s hat. “There are two kinds of cooks,” he explains, “One who makes food – like me, and the other, who imagines or thinks about food. Even when you are thinking about food, you are making menus in your mind. So in a way, each one of us is preparing a meal, day in and day out.”

He lets these words linger. The foodies, with absolutely no experience in the kitchen, finally have something to revel

From the chef’s kitchen

Koh E Awadh

INGREDIENTS

12 Indian lamb shanks

45gm ginger garlic paste

100gm brown onion paste

100gm Kashmiri chilli powder

2gm saffron in water

10ml kewra water

10ml rose water

2lt lamb stock

30gm cardamon powder

100ml oil

200gm yoghurt

Salt to taste

Whole spices:

10gm fenugreek seeds

8 green cardamons

5 cinnamon sticks

5 cloves

5 bay leaves

Powdered spices:

20gm potli masala

10gm black pepper powder

PREPARATION

Heat oil in vessel. Add whole spices, ginger garlic paste and bhunao (cook until oil separates).

Add lamb shanks and salt.

Add yoghurt when the lamb is half cooked. Bhunao again for some time, then add the brown onion paste.

Add Kashmiri red chilli followed by the powdered spices.

Add stock and cook for half an hour.

Remove lamb shanks from the gravy and strain the gravy. Put back lamb in the strained gravy and simmer.

Add cardamon powder, followed by kewra, rose and saffron water.

SOURCE: Muscat Daily