“The beginning of a fabulous meal should set the tone for the rest of it, just as the end of it should be the flourish of an ample repose; a belief that the world is nearly perfect”. So wrote the author, philosopher and gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1812, and it surely applies today. Certainly The Dhabba would agree. So to start:
The tandoor is an oven made in earthenware pottery and is traditional throughout all civilizations but is still widely used throughout Asia, especially in India where it has produced mouth watering roasts for over five thousand years. In India — and certainly The Dhabba — it has reached perfection. Because the tandoor uses as its fuel slow burning wood charcoal, the results, whether it be bread, vegetables or meats are healthy and avoid high cholesterol and fats. It also imparts a marvelous wood smoked flavour of the outdoors. More often than not, the various meats are marinated in Indian cookery which means the flavours are sealed into them, ending up with a succulence you will remember. The Dhabba has the luxury of an expert in its chef who knows all there is to know in this most arcane of cooking methods.
It is not difficult to understand why this sumptuous rice cookery in its widely differing forms has become a favourite with many newcomers to Indian food. It can be delicate and weighty, sharp, hot, or slight and almost breathless. It takes to robust meats, or vegetables cooked almost in air, or thick, peasant food redolent of rural Europe. It can be beautifully enhanced by subtle, or complex sauces. It is an ambrosia for kings. And indeed that is what its origins are — it undeniably came from the Persian courts, though it is legend that Tamerlane the Mongol emperor himself brought it to India along with his victorious armies. Later the great Nizams of Lucknow and Hyderabad employed their chefs to produce fabulous Biryani, some exotically decorated with edible gold leaf. But this delicious rice celebration can be as simple as well as amazingly complex. And all the vibrant tastes, and colours of India make this, almost a genre, palatial dish one of the most regal experiences of world food.
With a choice of sauces —
The beautifully aromatic Salan[v], herby and spicy. Or perhaps the smooth, springtime-like famous Raita[v][d] with yogurt, spices and fresh cucumber.
Note on fish dishes : Many imagine Indian recipes for fish as masking the flavours of the fish itself. Yet, India does not take its fish cookery lightly. Great care has been paid to enhance fish cookery with some of the most sophisticated cooking techniques ever designed. The Dhabba chefs are enormously skilled in the subtlety of the cookery of the products of one of the most magnificent bounties of nature known to us all.
There are areas of world cookery in which the herding of sheep is unknown. But in India, especially in the North, lamb has been cultivated as a meat acceptable to all. It is a meat treated with enormous respect by the great chefs of this amazing world cuisine.
In North Indian cuisine poultry was bred to feed the massive armies from history. In the following dishes you will discover the past, from Samarkand to Macedonia, yet with a touch of the domestic hearth.
There is a Scottish version of this ancient means of cheese making called crowdie, as there probably is everywhere there is milk, but paneer is something else. Rather like cottage cheese, it has a crumbly texture and dense freshness that gives strong flavours — a tendresse and a richness all of its own. At The Dhabba this paneer is made in the traditional, and, it has to be said, painstaking way.
All throughout India there are some magnificent dishes for many who practice vegetarianism. Here are some of them:
Indian basmati rice is the best in quality of this amazing food, coming straight, as it were from the fertile pastures in which they were grown. From this is added the tricky methods of preparation which produce such amazing results.