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Toothless Nawab Kebab

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In Lucknow, kebabs are meat patties delicately flavored with spices and fried in clarified butter on a large tray. Here is one so soft you don't need your teeth to eat it. Honest!

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Lucknow, a muslim city in the North of India, was ruled by nawabs for 150 years, becoming a place of utmost culinary refinement and the capital of Persian-inspired Indian Awadhi cuisine. When the British East India Company decided to pull the plug on nawab rule in Lucknow in 1856, sending nawab Wajid Ali Shah (pictured above) in exile, the uprising that ensued changed British rule in India for good.

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I visited the city last year on my way to Benares and would gladly go back. The city has an amazing feel to it - you'd think you are in Pakistan, but people are very friendly and not suspicious of foreigners. The city is very clean and well-run. It has many attractive monuments from both the nawab and British periods. Pictured below is La Martiniere, the former home of brilliant French adventurer Claude Martin, a man of taste who settled in Lucknow.

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Legend has it that the ruler of Lucknow, nawab Asaf-Ud-Dowlah, had lost all his teeth. And yet, the toothless nawab was so big there was no horse that could carry him. What was his secret? Legend has it that he commissioned the creation of a version of his beloved kebabs that could be eaten without teeth. His court chef designed a new kebab that would use the finest lamb cuts, mince them twice very finely, add a tenderizer and flavor the whole with a heavenly spice mix. I have tasted this kebab in some of the best restaurants in India and of course at every single meal in Lucknow. Gorgeous! The texture is so fine it surprises at first, but being dispensed from any chewing is blissful. Kebab makers in the Chowk bazaar claim to use 100 spices in their kebabs - that's about every spice they can get and I'm not sure the meat is any better for it. I obtained several recipes from books written for Indian chefs and reproduced the dish at home successfully. Here is for you this cult dish part of the Lucknawi identity. You will need:

Galouti Kebab
1kg/ 2lbs leg of lamb
50gr ginger
50gr garlic
75gr Raw papaya flesh
50gr butter
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp mace
1 tsp green cardamom freshly powdered
Clarified butter or oil to fry

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Measure 30 grams gram dal or about 3 heaping tablespoons. These are split yellow lentils from the Indian grocery store, buy those that say 'gram dal' on the package. Dry-roast the lentils until they turn a shade darker, stiring them regularly to minimize burning.

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Add the spices - peppercorns, dried chilies, mace and green cardamom seeds you just removed from their pods.

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Grind to a fine powder in an electric mixer.

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Dice the leg of lamb. You can trim the fat because we will add more fat later.

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Grind the meat twice, using the finest disc you have. This is our first layer of decadence. I have to be honest here, normally I ask the butcher to do it (twice) and it takes but a minute. But here I wanted to give my readers some dramatic illustration of the grinding and for some reason it took me the best part of 30 minutes to grind the meat with my bloody Porkert grinder. I will soon buy an electric grinder.

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