The Bohra community is a progressive Indian community which migrated from Persia in the 13th century, settled in Gujarat and slowly spread all over India and the world. Wherever they went they took their customs and eating habits with them. Bohra cuisine is a wonderful blend of both Persian and Indian tastes. Bohras have a traditional way and style of eating their meals. The whole family sits together around a big thal, a huge round-rimmed copper plate around which six to eight people can sit comfortably and relish their meal in different courses, always starting with a dessert. Then come the starters, followed by main course items. Meals always end with a rice dish.
Bohra cuisine is a sublime mixture of sweetness, saltiness, sourness and bitterness. So, whether you are a gourmet (appreciator of good food) or a gourmand (voracious devourer of good food), Bohra cuisine will win over your palate — and your heart.
Raan, or leg of goat or lamb, is a festive dish. It is really simple and easy to make. This recipe is for a 1.3kg goat leg. Please tell your butcher to make a crack at the knee part of the leg. Make deep gashes on both sides of the leg for penetration of the masala.
INGREDIENTS (for marination)
Curd: 2 cups, beaten
Lemon juice: ½ cup
Raw papaya (this acts as a tenderiser): 3tbsp grated
Ginger paste: 2tbsp
Garlic paste: 2tbsp
Fried onions: 1½ cup
Red chilli powder: 1tbsp
Kashmiri mirch powder: 2tbsp
Cumin powder: 1tbsp
Coriander powder: 1tbsp
Garam masala powder: 2tsp
Chaat masala powder: 2tsp
Almonds: 1 cup (soak in hot water for half an hour, then take out the skin and make a paste)
Black pepper powder: 2tsp
Mix all the above ingredients well. Massage the leg of goat with this paste for at least five minutes. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight, or 24 hours.
Preheat the oven at 180°Celsius.
Put the raan in a baking tray and sprinkle 2tbsp of brown sugar on it.
Cook in the oven at 180°Celsius for 40 minutes.
Remove the tray from the oven. Turn the raan. Now you can add about 7-8 potatoes. Then put the tray back in the oven. Cook for another 50 minutes. By this time the raan and potatoes should be cooked.
Remove the raan and place on a serving plate. Collect the liquid in the tray and if thin, cook it in a pan till it becomes slightly thick. Add a little saffron to the sauce.
Place the potatoes around the raan. Pour the sauce over it. Garnish with tomato and cucumber slices all around the plate. Some charred vegetables like carrots, lemon slices, and so on, can be used as well.
Enjoy with parathas or a crusty bread.
This sweet dish made from milk, nuts and vermicelli is common in every Bohra home during the festival Id. Whoever visits their homes on these days are given a bowl of seer khurma as a welcome gesture.
Milk: 1 litre
Vermicelli: 1 cup, broken into pieces
Saffron: 5g mixed in a little milk
Dry dates (kharak): 100g soaked in water for a few hours and then cut into thin slices
Sugar: ½ cup or to taste
Charoli (chiranji): 30g
Hot water: ½ cup
Boil the milk on slow fire till it is reduced to ¾ litre. Blanch the nuts and chop them.
Heat ghee on a low fire and fry the vermicelli till golden. Then add the nuts and sliced kharak and fry gently for a few moments.
Add hot water and when the mixture comes to a boil, add the hot milk and cook again till desired consistency is obtained. It should not be too thick or too thin.
Add sugar and saffron. Let the sugar dissolve and then remove from fire.
Serve hot in dessert bowls. Garnish with rose petals and some nuts on top.
Jaali kebab, or mince meat cutlets, is an all-time favourite of the Bohras. It is an amazing starter and not much effort is required to prepare it. It is a simpler and easier version of shammi kebab. Yet, it is extremely tasty.
Minced meat: 300g (Do not wash the meat. In case you want to wash, then it should be drained thoroughly and dried.)
Green chilli paste: 1½tsp
Ginger and garlic paste in equal quantity: 3tsp
Raw papaya (it acts as a tenderiser): 2tsp grated
Salt: 1½tsp, or according to taste
Coriander powder: 1tsp
Cumin powder: 1tsp
Red chilli powder: ½tsp
Turmeric powder: ½tsp
Garam masala powder: ½tsp
Bread: 3 thick slices soaked in water and then the water is squeezed out completely
Mint and coriander: 1tsp, chopped fine
Eggs: 2, beaten
Mix all the above ingredients to the mince except the breadcrumbs and the eggs.
Let it rest for at least an hour.
Then make small round flat patties. The size depends on you, but see that they are not thick.
Dust each patty with breadcrumbs nicely. Keep in the fridge for half-an-hour for it to set. At this time you can also freeze it.
Heat oil for deep frying.
Dip each patty in egg and slowly slide it into the oil. Repeat with other patties. Do not crowd the kadhai with too many at the same time. Just a few at a time.
Cook till nice and brown. Drain on an absorbent paper.
Serve with coriander mint chutney.
BOHRA-STYLE MUTTON BIRYANI
Bohras love their biryani. They just need a function or festival to have their favourite dish. The way a biryani is made for functions or weddings, by the bhatiyaras (chefs) is different from the way it is made in the modern kitchens. Bhatiyaras make it over coal fire, which is not possible in our homes. So, I am going to show you an easy way of making biryani, which you can comfortably make in your home kitchen. It will be extremely delicious.
#For marination of the mutton
Mutton: 1kg (tell the butcher to make biryani-cut pieces)
Curd: 2 cups, beaten
Fennel powder: 1tsp
Dried apricots: 4-5, seed removed.
Garam masala powder: 1tbsp
Tomatoes: 3, chopped fine.
Ginger paste: 2tbsp
Garlic paste: 2tbsp
Green chilli paste: 1tbsp
Cumin powder: 2tsp
Coriander powder: 2tsp
Turmeric powder: 1tsp
Red chilli powder: 1tsp, or according to taste
Casia flower: 1, pounded well
Lemon juice: Of 1 lemon
Onions: 500g, sliced and fried till brown
Sprigs of coriander and mint chopped fine: Few
Grated raw papaya (it acts like tenderiser): 3 tbsp .
Ittar: 2 drops
Rose petals: ½ cup, dried
Mix all the above items with the mutton and marinate for minimum 2 hours. Overnight is better.
#For the rice
Rice: 3 cups long grain basmati rice soaked in water for ½ hour
Salt: 4 tbsp
Black cardamoms: 2 big
Bay leaves: 2
Cinnamon: 2 sticks
Rose water: 2 tbsp
METHOD for THE MUTTON
In a large pot heat ½ cup oil. Add the mutton with the marinade and cook covered on high heat till the first boil and then let cook on low flame till the mutton becomes tender. Mutton and tomatoes and curd let out their own water. In case required you can add ½ cup hot water. There should be thick gravy. The mutton should not be totally dry. This will take minimum 45 to 60 minutes.
FOR THE RICE:
In a large vessel put lots of water. Add all the ingredients mentioned above. When the water comes to a boil add the drained rice.
Cook till the rice floats on top. Let it cook for only 4 minutes more. Then drain the rice. The rice will be 90 per cent cooked. Spread the rice out on a tray.
Cook 5 large potatoes in pressure cooker for 1 whistle. Then cut in half and fry till light golden. Sprinkle little salt and red chilli powder. Keep aside.
ASSEMBLING OF THE BIRYANI:
In 1 cup milk add little saffron. Keep aside.
In a big vessel (handi) put a thin layer of rice.
Put all the meat over it. Spread out nicely. Then put half the rice over the meat.
Place the potatoes over it.
Sprinkle little garam masala and half the milk over it.
Then put the remaining rice over the potato layer.
Sprinkle little garam masala, milk, fried onions and few coriander and mint leaves.
Put ghee over the rice and cover the hand with foil and a tight lid. (You can even seal with dough if you like).
Put the handi over a tawa and put heat on high till you find the lid getting warm. Then turn heat to low and cook for another 45 minutes. Biryani done.
Serve the biryani with raita. Put chopped cucumber, sliced onions, little tomato chopped, chopped green chillies (according to taste) and coriander leaves.
CHICKEN DABBA GOSHT
Dabba gosht is a favourite party dish of the Bohras. You can even make it with mutton. It tastes as good. It’s a very interesting dish in the sense that it has many layers to it, but it is also very easy and quick to make.
Chicken: 500g, boneless cut into 1-inch cubes.
Yoghurt: ½ cup
Ginger paste: 1½ tsp
Garlic paste: 1½ tsp
Green chillies: 5, paste
Marinade the chicken with the above ingredients for at least half an hour. Now make a smooth paste with 12 cashews and 2tsp of poppy seeds. Soak in warm water for at least ½ hour before making the paste. This process is very important. You can take little water to make the paste.
Onions: 2, finely chopped
Plain white flour: 1tbsp
Boiled macroni: 1 cup
Garam masala powder: ½tsp
Black pepper powder: 1tsp
Capsicum: ½, chopped fine
Cream: ½ cup
Cheese slices: 2-4
Eggs: 2, beaten
Tomatoes: 2, sliced round
Potatoes: 1-2, sliced into thin roundels and fried till light golden. Do not make it hard. There should be little softness to it.
Ghee: ½ cup
Coriander leaves: For garnishing.
In a pan heat the oil and add onions and saute. Do not make it very brown. Just pink in colour.
Now add the flour and saute on medium heat. See that it does not burn or stick to the pan.
Now add the marinated chicken. Saute for at least 5 minutes. Keep stirring all the time or the flour will stick to the pan.
Now add cashew and poppy seed paste. Saute for a few seconds. Add garam masala powder and black pepper powder. Saute till you see specks of oil appear.
Now add ½ cup water and cover and cook on slow fire till the chicken becomes tender. This will take about 5 minutes. In between keep stirring so that cashew paste does not stick.
Now add the cream, macaroni and finely chopped capsicum. Then add 2 slices of cheese. Cook on low flame for 2 minutes. It should nice and creamy.
In a baking dish put the chicken mixture and level it out.
Put tomato slices alternating with potato slices on top of the chicken.
Now spread the beaten egg evenly on top. Sprinkle a good amount of chopped coriander leaves.
Now heat the ghee till smoking and really hot and quickly pour all over on the egg in the dish. This will cook the eggs.
Pre-heat the oven to180 degrees Celsius. Then bake for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle a few chilli flakes on top and serve.
GREEN PRAWN PULAO
This dish is a favourite of our family in Mumbai as well as my family here in Calcutta. Even Bohras want a break from having mutton and chicken all the time. So they invented this dish which looks so fresh and healthy!
Prawns: 1kg, head and tail removed. The prawns should be little big in size. Not shrimps.
Rice: 2 cups soaked and boiled in salt water. Drain and keep aside.
#For the green chutney: Grind the ingredients below into a smooth paste. In case required you can add 1tbsp or so of water. Check the salt, chillies and sourness of the chutney at this point.
Coriander leaves: 300g or 2 big bundles
Green chillies: 10, or according to taste
Cumin seeds: 1½tbsp
Fresh coconut: 1, grated
Lemon juice: Of 1 lemon or to taste
In a pan add 4tbsp oil, and fry the ground chutney on very low flame for about two minutes.
Put the prawns and saute in the chutney for 1 minute. Then add ¾ cup water and cook prawns till tender and the gravy is thick.
Put half the rice in a pot.
Then put prawns with the chutney on top of the rice.
Cover with the rest of the rice.
Sprinkle a little garam masala over the rice.
Cover and cook on low flame for 15 minutes.
Scoop nicely when serving on a rice dish. Garnish with little peas (optional).
Best had piping hot.
Note: Do not overcook the prawns in the chutney. The prawns will still be cooking after assembling the pulav.
Durri Bhalla is a cookery expert and author of Indian Bohra Cuisine and Inner Truth To Good Health And Weight Loss. You can find her at @DurriBhallaKitchen on Instagram, Durri’s Kitchen on