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eat like a queen

Kumud Kumari of Gondal shares recipes she inherited from her mother along with her own signature dishes in a new book on track royal kitchen of Gujarat

Kumud Kumar Jadeja at her Nariman Point residence. Pic/Ashish Raje; (right) Gondal was a First Class Princely State of Kathiawar ruled by the Jadeja Rajputs

It’s a clear day in Mumbai, perfect to photograph Kumud Kumari Jadeja of the princely state of Gondal in her balcony facing Bandstand Garden at Nariman Point, thinks the mid-day photographer. The Maharani agrees.

Inside, she settles into a sofa, her hair neatly pinned. The saree, expectedly, is chiffon in mellow pink and yellow. She holds the recently released book she has authored, Recipes of a Maharani by Kumud Kumari of Gondal, and jokes that it is the heavier of the two. The memories of her take her back to Bhavnagar.

“This book is dedicated to my mother, Manhar Kunwar of Bhavnagar, who was a great cook. My father, Raol Shree Dharmakumarsinhji was one of India’s pioneering wildlife photographers. I have held several conservation-related government positions. They threw a lot of parties. She would create special dishes for each intimate occasion. I watched her and picked up a penchant for cooking, ”she says of her mother de ella who hailed from Malwa in today’s Madhya Pradesh. Her father de ella, we learn, produced outstanding results in the kitchen. “Today, men don’t cook at all. My grandfather was a great cook, and in fact, my mother learned a lot of recipes from him.”

What did the mother and daughter cook together?

“She would not let me help,” she laughs, “she was the best cook, you see! ‘Just watch what I do,’ she would tell me. We didn’t have to cut and chop. The help kept things ready.”

The Navlakha Palace, part of the Darbargadh complex, built between the 15th and 18th century.  The royal family recently converted the Darbargadh palace into a museum.  “From Shree Bhagvantsinhji's personal collection of British crockery to antique furniture, timepieces and handicrafts, Darbargadh is an architectural marvel,” she writes.The Navlakha Palace, part of the Darbargadh complex, built between the 15th and 18th century. The royal family recently converted the Darbargadh palace into a museum. “From Shree Bhagvantsinhji’s personal collection of British crockery to antique furniture, timepieces and handicrafts, Darbargadh is an architectural marvel,” she writes.

While game meat played a big role in the kitchen, Kumud Kumari remembers a diverse vegetarian spread too. But her favorite is the chicken almond, she says, pointing to a picture in the book. Much of royal cooking is usually done on a wood fire, and a vegetarian stew called varalaru is made in Gujarat using the underground cooking technique. “The fire is lit in the pit and the vessel is put on top. This we love to eat with bajra no rotlo in the winters.”

Her culinary duties continue even at 75, as she draws up the next day’s menu the night before. Depending on whether it’s regional, Indian or Continental fare, the cook best known for the said cuisine takes over from there.

The state of Gondal was a First Class Princely State of Kathiawar ruled by the Jadeja Rajputs.

Kumud Kumari says that marrying into the Gondal royal family meant that she had to acquaint herself with the food of Kathiawar in the north of Gujarat. Arid, it used few leafy vegetables if any. That she and her husband de ella traveled extensively meant that too added to the culinary influences she infused into her kitchen de ella. She writes in the book, “Partners in every sense, we worked well together including on the restoration of The Royal Opera House in Mumbai and the conversion of our palaces—Riverside Palace and Orchard Palace—into exquisite hotels.”

Bhavnagar, from where her father hailed, takes our conversation to the nearby beach town of Mahua. “The beach sand is as soft as butter there,” she smiles. And do you like sev tameta nu shaak, this writer’s Kathiawadi gene cannot resist asking. “It is a very common dish. We enjoy it while we are fasting.”

The Chutneys & Pickles section in the book carries a recipe for the Gujarati chhundo (sweet-sour grated green mango) while the vegetarian segment has a unique okra with yoghurt and bateta (potato) with dahi. The non-vegetarian dishes include a scrambled egg curry, which we thought unusual, and a pearl pink motiya murgh. Mutton fruit rice and kacche aam ka pulao are elaborate rice preparations, while the dessert fruit fool, is British inspired.

The Gondal chicken, she calls, her signature dish; mildly spiced and very popular with the guests at Orchard Palace Hotel. Flavored with red chilli, cumin and coriander, it packs in the juiciness of tomatoes. Another contender is the coriander balls.

“My mother stressed on marinating meat a night before. I still follow that technique. Another trick she taught me has to do with the gaajar halwa. She made it without cream or milk. She would fry the grated carrot in ghee. It is my favorite dish from her pantry. ”

tea pot princess

Kumud Kumari Jadeja has 600 tea pots in her collection. “I even applied to Guinness Book of World Records. They told me someone in China had beat me with a collection of 3,000!”

Sweet Mutton Dumplings (Mutton ke gulab jamun) | Makes: 8-10

Sweet Mutton Dumplings (Mutton ke gulab jamun) |  Makes: 8-10

ingredients
200 gm mutton or lamb mince
30 gm cashews, ground
50 gm yoghurt
50ml cream
½ tsp baking soda
100 gm ghee
200 gm sugar

Method
Place the mutton or lamb mince in a food processor and grind to a very fine paste. Add the cashew powder, yoghurt, cream and baking soda and mix together until well combined.

Divide the mince mixture into equal portions and roll into small balls between your palms.

Heat the ghee in a heavy-based wok on a medium high heat. Carefully add the mince dumplings in batches and fry them until they are cooked and golden on all sides. Set aside.

Add the sugar to a pan on a low heat. Add an equal amount of water and stir until the sugar dissolves and is at a one-string consistency.

Once the sugar syrup begins to thicken, take off the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Add in the fried mince dumplings. Allow the dumplings to soak in the syrup for at least one hour before serving warm.

Her favorite restaurants

Golden Dragon at The Taj Mahal Palace & Towers, Nara Thai and Yautcha. In Delhi, it’s Bukhara at the ITC

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