Meera Ali on writing her cookbook ‘Dining With The Nawabs’ – Times of India

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There’s something very fascinating about Royals that capture people’s attention even today– be it their fashion, food or legacies. With the aim of giving a glimpse of the Nawabi food culture of India, designer-producer-author Meera Ali penned a book ‘Dining With The Nawabs’ in 2017. Married to filmmaker-poet Muzaffar Ali, the erstwhile Raja of Kotwara, Meera has her own insider experiences of the Royal and Nawabi culture in India. Together Muzaffar and Meera Ali run their couture fashion brand ‘House of Kotwara’ and an Awadhi dining experience ‘Maashra’ in Gurgaon.

In an exclusive interview, when we asked Meera about the research that went into writing her cookbook she revealed that she travelled and met 10 Nawab families across the length and breadth of India for it. “For writing ‘Dining With The Nawabs’ we went to 10 Nawab families in India and we worked with them in their kitchens. We had to cull out their recipes which were all verbal; people would forget to tell us all the details. We had to cook the same thing four to five times before we got it right. But the more interesting aspect of writing the book was meeting these families– and talking to them about their culture, their history and what the culture of food for each of them meant even today! We also discussed how their cooks have carried their family’s traditions over the generations… We travelled to many parts of India– from Chennai to Surat to Delhi to Rampur to Lucknow. We even went to Punjab to the other sides of Sindh looking for these people, families and their recipes. It was quite an exciting journey!”

Apart from carrying the traditional recipes of these families which have been passed on from generations, the book also features some interesting pictures by photographer Karam Puri.

Talking about the royal family of Kotwara’s own food culture, Meera revealed that the Tarai Pasanda is their kitchen’s specialty. “We do a very nice Pasanda which is called the Tarai Pasanda. It is the meat cut from the leg of lamb in slices and then it is cooked on dum; eventually at the end it is smoked with coal. So that’s a very nice dish with an exceptional flavour.”

On being asked what writing means to her, she quipped, “It is an extension of yourself!” She further explained, “Because writing has to come from an experience and from within; and when you experience something, you can write it very well.”

Meanwhile, Meera is planning to pen her next book on Kotwara itself. “I have to write a book on Kotwara because I have lots of experiences to share. Our journey of Kotwara– not only our fashion but our own journey, my husband Muzaffar Ali’s interest in films, and the other things that we do,” she told us.



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