Dining with the Nawabs – A Feast for your EyesA photographer recounts his journey across two countries to document a lost heritage
Over ten thousand kilometres, stretching across the Indian subcontinent from the Cholistan desert in Pakistan to the swaying coconut palms of the Tamil Nadu we went in search of ten royal families and to unlock the secrets of their cuisine. As a photographer, this project was a fascinating insight into a hidden world, a world of beauty, a world of never before seen palaces and a world of exquisite food.
To be given access to this magnificent world and to be able to share it is any photographers dream. As a storyteller through images the book takes one on a journey of epic proportions, it was a treat to meet some fascinating people, to learn about their lives, share their tables and live in their resplendent histories.
In an oasis in the middle of the Rann of Kutchh it was fascinating to meet the Nawabs of Zainabad and learn how this inhospitable terrain had become their home. Dhanraj Malik’s love for a breed of Persian hunting dogs, the Salukis were a treat and his stories of hunting quarry with them made the perfect campfire tale. As we travelled west to Pakistan I was humbled by their sense of graciousness and humility. To be transported back in time to an era of game hunts and feudal landed gentry in a nation where so much is in turmoil was a definite eye opener. In Rampur I was given rare access to the palace which had not been photographed in over 3 decades. The walls and gilded ceilings told stories of a decadent past yearning to tell their stories once again.
Remodeled in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, the Khasbagh Palace of Rampur is the synthesis of Islamic, Hindu and Gothic elements.
These are more than just the stories of these ten families, they are an inside into a remote world steeped in traditions in finery and opulence.
The challenges when shooting a volume such as this stem from having too much sometimes, we spent an average of 4-5 days over a two year period with each family and the time was spent by meticulously planning and styling the food shots. The priceless bespoke crockery was to be handled with the utmost care and the magic hours of shooting amid golden sunsets reflecting off magnificent palaces were some of the highlights.
Ashrafi Pulao (Meatball Pulao) – Bahawalpur
Nawab of Kotwara, Muzaffar Ali (seated,centre), with his wife Meera Ali (standing,left) and daughter Sama Ali (seated,left); Shaad Ali (standing,right), Muzaffar Ali’s younger son, with his wife Aarti Patkar (seated,right) and son Imaan (in arms).
I hope you enjoy this spectacular volume and try the many recipes that have been put together in what may be the finest collection of food from the courts of the Mughals. I hope this book transports you to a bygone era, to a time when style and beauty were a part of everyday life and you are transported back to age of Nawabs and ‘Tehzeeb’.
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