Wednesday, September 28, 2011

At Wildflower Hall in Shimla--view from our bedroom.

We are at 8350 ft. above sea level, in the lower Himalayas. The fog has been lifting slowly so we can't see the snow-capped peaks in the horizon. Tomorrow's weather promises to be clearer.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A perfect, peachy sun

We were woken this morning by a glowing, peachy orb of a sun on our last morning at Al Maha. Next stop-- one night in Delhi, enroute to Shimla in the Himalayas, where Wildflower Hall awaits.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A surprise feast

One of the sous chefs at the main restaurant at Al Maha is Sri Lankan, and I wrangled him into preparing an all-out Sri Lankan feast for lunch today. Rice, arhar daal, fiery dry-sautéed brinjal, "Devil's prawns," and Colombo chicken curry-- all served in these delightful copper bain maries. I'm trying to get the recipes out of him now-- watch this spot for further developments....

The desert sky looked like a Tiepolo fresco today!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mezze spread at dinner.

The mezze selection at dinner had the usual suspects: tabouleh, kibbeh, hummus, baba ghanoush. But the star entry was an incredibly unctuous Persian feta whipped with olive oil and thyme-- a definite addition to my next cocktail gathering.

Apologies for the dark photo-- my flash gave up on me.

Driving through the dunes.

Gazelles and Wild Oryx roaming the dunes.

Leading into our suite-- #6.

Water in the oasis

Tinkling water runs throughout the Al Maha property, acting as natural air conditioning while irrigating the vegetation.

Unobtrusive exit signs

The emergency exit signs are cleverly and seamlessly worked into the stucco walls.

More coffered ceilings.

Reception room

We were greeted at the main reception area last night with rose scented towels and papaya juice. The walls are traditional stucco with coffered wood beam ceilings. Niches throughout the compound are decorated with antique bedouin water jars and cooking vessels.

Cool, shaded verandahs are everywhere.

Desert vistas.

Our private lap pool and deck-- right outside the bedroom.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Aromatic Saffron-Scented Braised Lamb Shank

My sister Bihu and I have been going back-and-forth about this recipe for weeks. The germ of the recipe—braising a lamb shank in simple whole garam masala, black peppercorns, onions, garlic and ginger—came to me earlier in the summer, but I put it aside thinking it was more suited to the cooler weather of autumn. Then B called and asked for suggestions on how to cook a piece of lamb shoulder that she had, and she volunteered to be the guinea pig and test my recipe out. She sms-d me triumphantly a few days later, saying that it was a big hit at her dinner party, so much so, that a few of her guests returned a week later for a repeat performance! After some last minute fine-tuning to the recipe, I finally gave in to hubby’s urging and made the dish this past Monday. So here you have it, the codified recipe, honed by Fat Sister and by recipe-tester extraordinaire, Lady B.

8–10 cloves Garlic, peeled
2” piece Ginger, peeled
3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
4 lbs [2 kgs] whole bone-in Lamb Shank, trimmed of any excess fat
2 large Onions, diced
4 whole Cloves
4 whole Cardamom pods
4 sticks Cinnamon
4 Bay leaves
3 tbsp whole Black Peppercorns
Salt (to taste)
2¼ cups Milk
4 tbsp Ghee
10–12 whole Dried Red Chillis
1 whole Black Cardamom
¼ tsp blades of Mace
3 tbsp ground Almonds
¼ tsp Saffron
  1. Put garlic, and ginger in a food processor and grind to a smooth paste. 
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, over high heat. Add lamb shank and brown well on all sides. 
  3. Add onions, garlic and ginger paste, 3 cloves, 3 cardamom pods, 3 sticks cinnamon, 2 bay leaves, 1½ tbsp black peppercorns, salt, and 2 cups milk, and bring to a brisk boil. Then lower heat, put the lid on the pot, and simmer for 2 ½–3 hrs. Turn and baste the meat every 30 mins or so while it is cooking. When the meat is fork tender, gently remove lamb from pot and set aside in a platter. 
  4. Turn heat to high and bring gravy in the pot to a brisk boil. Continue cooking gravy uncovered for 5–7 mins, until it has reduced by half. Turn off heat. Remove all gravy and spices into a separate bowl, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. 
  5. Add ghee to the pot and turn heat to medium-high. When the ghee is smoking, add dried red chillis, black cardamom, mace, and remaining cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, and black peppercorns. Stir for about 1 min, and allow the spices to swell. Add ground almonds and fry for 3–5 mins, until golden brown. 
  6. Add reserved gravy and spices back to the pot. Stir briskly for about 5–7 mins, until the colour deepens and the oil starts to separate. 
  7. Add lamb and accumulated juices to the pot and stir gently to coat lamb thoroughly with gravy and spices. Simmer for 15 mins and turn off heat. 
  8. Heat ¼ cup milk in a small saucepan until scalding. Remove saucepan from heat, add saffron, and allow to steep for 5 mins. Pour saffron milk over lamb and baste gently. Put the lid on the pot and allow the flavours to steep for 30 mins. Serve warm.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Al Maha

Three weeks left till hubby and I get to Al Maha....


© Copyright 2012 Shubhani Sarkar