[Sca-cooks] A not-Mughal Indian recipe

David Friedman ddfr at daviddfriedman.com
Fri Feb 5 13:45:52 PST 2010

At our recent cooking workshop, I tried two of the simpler Nimatnama 
recipes. One was all right but pretty dull, but the other I thought 
was quite good. Here's the original and my version (second try):

[Nimatnama p. 15] Another recipe, for qaliya rice: put ghee into a 
cooking pot and when it has become hot, flavour it with asafoetida 
and garlic.  When it has become well flavored, put the meat, mixed 
with chopped potherbs, into the ghee. When it has become marinated 
[!mistranslation!], add water and add, to an equal amount, one sir of 
cow's milk. When it has come to the boil, add the washed rice. When 
it is well cooked, take it off. Cook other rice by the same recipe 
and, likewise, do not make it with cow's milk but put in four sirs of 
garlic and whole peppers, and serve it.

Ghee 1/2 c
Asafoetida 1/8 t
Garlic 3 cloves
Salt 1/2 t
Meat 1 1/4 lb lamb
Potherbs 13 oz spinach
Whole milk 1 1/4 c
Water 1 1/4 c
Rice 1 1/2  c

Slice garlic, melt ghee, add asafoetida, fry garlic in ghee about 20 minutes.
Add meat and spinach, fry about ten minutes.
Add milk and water, bring to a boil. Add washed rice, cook about 25 
minutes, let sit five minutes, serve.

The only deliberate change was adding salt, which it seemed to need, 
judging by the first try. At least one period cookbook explicitly 
says that it doesn't mention salt because cooks know to add it, so I 
thought that was a plausible interpretation here.

According to the Nimatnama translation, 1 sir = 2.5 lbs troy, but I 
do not believe that the variant which I didn't make replaces 2.5 lbs 
of milk with ten pounds of garlic and whole peppers. My suspicion is 
that either the "four" or the "sirs" is a scribal error or 
misreading. The interpretation of "sir" isn't very relevant to my 
version, since the milk is the only thing for which a quantity is 

It does imply, if correct, that the original recipe is intended to 
make about twice the quantity of mine. That might be useful in making 
sense of other recipe from the same source.

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