Rana Safvi’s Digital Dastarkhwan

The past few days have been glorious. I illustrated some delectable recipes from the incredibly insightful and perceptive Rana Safvi. Rana, as you already know, is an author and historian with a passion for culture and heritage. She is the founder and moderator of the popular #shair platform on Twitter which is credited for reviving popular interest in Urdu poetry. Her book Where Stones Speak: Historical Trails in Mehrauli, The first city of Delhi is a unique blend of historical facts and haunting Urdu verse.


All the following recipes and information are from Rana’s website which is a treasure trove of information about language, culture, food, history, architecture and whatnot! You can check it out here.

Here’s the entire Dastarkhwan spread-


Beginning with the recipes…

rahat e jan chutney2

Rahat-e-Jaan Chutney

This chutney was a favourite of the last Mughal Badshah Bahadur Shah Zafar and I found it in an old recipe book from the 20th century. It’s called Rahat-e-jaan meaning ‘that which provides solace to the heart because of its nutritional ingredients’.


  • Carrots (gajar) – 125 gm
  • Carambola (kamrak) – 125 gm
  • Lemon juice (250 gm)
  • Mint leaves (pudina) – 75 gm
  • Salt
  • Red chilli powder (lal mirch),  to taste
  • Sugar – ½ kg
  • Ginger (adrak) – 50 gm
  • Cumin (zeera) & Fenugreek seeds (methi) – 1 tsp


Chop finely and put in lemon juice. Marinate for a day

murgh musallam - eggs shot

Murgh Musallam

The word musallam means whole and is used when a full chicken or leg of mutton slow cooked. This is a simple recipe and not the time consuming one from olden days.

All it needs is some patience.


  1. Take a full chicken, plucked and cleaned from inside.
  2. Marinate overnight (12 hours) in following marinade:
  • 250 gm ground onion paste
  • 2 tbsp each ginger and garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp dhaniya powder
  • 1 cup thick curds
  • 1 tbsp of garam masala
  • Salt, Chilli powder to taste


  1. Heat oil in a shallow lagana or kadhai where the full chicken can easily fit in.
  2. Pour in 1/2 cup oil
  3. Fry 1 finely diced onion in the oil till golden.
  4. Put the chicken on top of it and let it cool on each side for 15 minutes.
  5. Use two big spoons to turn it over to keep it intact.
  6. When done remove chicken on to a flat serving dish.
  7. Pour the roasted marinade on top.
  8. Garnish with sliced boiled eggs.
  9. Enjoy with pitta bread and hummus



Khichda is made with seven types of cereals and grains. It has a rough texture with everything whole but well cooked. Haleem is a paste made by beating the meat and mashing the cereals and grains. Also, seven types of cereals and grains aren’t always used.


khichda toppings copy


  • Fry four onions. Onions should not be too brown or the masala looks dull and brownish. Remove 3/4 for garnish.
  • Add masala – paste of 1 onion, ginger garlic (2tbsp)
  • Haldi 1 tbsp , Mirch to taste. My personal opinion- if your nose doesn’t run and eyes don’t water from the chilli, it’s not worth calling it a khichda!
  • Lazy cooks use too much oil as roasting time is reduced.
  • Should look bright and the oil should have left sides when the masala is done.

(Note: Meat can be substituted by soya chunks for vegetarians)

  • Keep meat aside.
  • Cook the dals and cereals together with haldi and salt.
  • Now mix meat and dals add 3 tbsp of Shaan masala for haleem( but only the powder not the pulses).
  • Cook for 15 min.
  • Serve with lemon wedges, fried onions, ginger julienne, hara dhania and hari mirch.


Raan Musallam

One whole leg of mutton (around 1¼ kg)

Roast all masala given below separately then grind with water. Don’t grind chana dal too finely.

  • Dry Coconut – 2″ piece
  • Almonds – 20
  • Posta – 2 tbsp (to be ground with salt & water)
  • Red chilli – to taste
  • Roasted chana dal – 50 gms
  • Nutmeg, mace – a pinch (powdered)
  • Laung – 10 pieces
  • Choti elaichi – 8 pcs
  • Badi elaichi – 2 pcs
  • Zeera- 3 tsp
  • Tez patta – 5 pcs
  • Dalchini – ½” piece

Make paste:

  • Garlic – 12 cloves
  • Ginger – 1″ piece
  • Onions – 4


  • Ghee 200 gms
  • Raw papaya – paste 50 gms (with skin)
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Few drops of keora
  • Curd – 2 tbsp (beaten- not too sour)


  1. Fork the meat and then apply the raw papaya and leave for an hour.
  2. Remove the raw papaya by wiping with a tissue.
  3. Apply all the masalas and leave for at least an hour (longer the better).
  4. Remove half the masala and keep aside.
  5. Heat ghee and brown one onion sliced finely.
  6. Add meat, water and cook.
  7. When the meat is half-done, add the rest of the masala and cook till tender.
  8. The water should be completely dry.
  9. Add beaten curd and brown nicely.
  10. Remove from fire and add saffron and keora.
  11. Cook over a very slow fire.
  12. If cooking in a pressure cooker, add all the masalas together (but the taste won’t be the same!)

karele copy

Bharwaan Karela (with mince)


  • 500 gms medium size karela
  • 500 gms mince
  • 1 onion – sliced
  • 1 onion paste
  • 1½  tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • Salt and red chilli powder to taste
  • Mustard oil


  1. Make a cut in whole karela and take out seeds. Boil for a few minutes in salt water and throw away the water.
  2. Fry the seeds and keep aside.
  3. Heat oil and fry the sliced onions. Add the ground and powdered masala to it and saute till done.
  4. Add keema and cook till tender. It should be dry.
  5. Mix the karela seeds in it and stuff in karela.
  6. Tie with a thread so karela doesn’t open.
  7. Fry on a slow fire till tender.

fish kabab

Khatte Meethe Machli ke Kabab


  • Fish – (boneless) – 500 gms
  • Besan – 2 tbsp (roasted lightly on dry tawa)
  • Laung, elaichi – 5 each oil (ground)
  • Saffron – a pinch
  • 1 egg
  • Red chilli and salt to taste
  • Adrak and onions, finely chopped
  • Lemon juice (of 6 lemons = 1/2 cup)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • Saffron
  • Mint leaves


  1. Steam fish and debone.
  2. Mix all the ground and powdered ingredients to the fish mix.
  3. Add finely chopped onion and adrak to it.
  4. Shape into kabab and fry.
  5. Cook the sugar and lemon together and keeping the kababs in a plate, pour this hot mix on them.
  6. Garnish with a few sprigs of saffron.




  • 1 litre milk
  • 2 tbsp soaked and ground rice


  1. Boil milk.
  2. Add the ground rice. The ground rice should be of pouring, semi-liquid consistency.
  3. Pour into boiling milk, stirring continuously to prevent lumps being formed. Cook till milk is yellowish because of condensation and thickens.
  4. Once the milk thickens and rice integrates, it can be left to cook on its own.
  5. Add sugar and dry fruits.
  6. Pour in an earthen dish. Cool and serve.

rahat e jan chutney

If you have questions about the recipes or have tried these at home, please comment below and let us know!

To buy Rana Safvi’s book Where Stones Speak: Historical Trails in Mehrauli, The first city of Delhi, and other books authored by her, click here:



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