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An iconic dinner at Rs 1,947
Feast on the last meal that was served to Lord Mountbatten a day before Independence, says Saimi Sattar
At the cusp of midnight, when India was heading towards making its tryst with destiny, a sumptuous (albeit rationed as per government regulations at the time) menu of three courses was laid out for the guests at The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. The dinner, which was served after the last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, gave his last speech on the stairs of the iconic hotel, was attended by him and many prominent Indians.
And there was much song and dance Khursheed and Shirin Vajifdaar performed a Manipuri dance and Tillana respectively. Then there were Rajasthani folk and ballet. Ultimately, everybody danced to the beats of Micky Correa & Chic Chocolate. with Molly O’Connor crooning the hit numbers of the time.
The rationing conditions were applicable to all restaurants at that time and diners had to choose course combinations rather than feast on each choice. Dosabhai Framji Karaka, also known as D.F. Karaka, an Indian newspaper editor and then owner of Current Weekly, addressed the guests as has been mentioned in the book The Taj at Apollo Bunder.
And it is this tryst that the many of the Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris properties in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and London have set out to replicate this Independence Day.
Chef Abhijeet Thakre, executive sous chef, Taj Palace, New Delhi, said, “We just had the menu and there was no write-up about how to create the dishes. The menu served as an inspiration and we created the dishes as to what could have been.” The chefs have developed a menu which is in sync with the culinary trends of that year. They had to go back and understand the essence of the recipes and adapt it to current tastes using local ingredients and techniques. Also retained are the Indo-French touches not just in the dish names, but also in their foundations as some core French sauces and ingredients albeit with a modern Indian twist are used.
Interestingly, the curated menu had only one vegetarian option when it was served on August 14, 1947. Consomme a l’Indienne, a cardamom enhanced clear chicken soup, was the starter. With shredded chicken, carrots and beans floating around, the spice kick was perhaps our first attempt at fusion.
The was followed by Delicacies al-Hindustan or what we now know as the Paneer tikka, which was tamarind-flavoured and served with a mint chutney. Perhaps for a visual tricolour appeal. That night perhaps the chunks were coated with mustard, cream and yoghurt.
The original main course comprised Paupiette de Daumon Joinville which is a soft mash of salmon roulade with joinville sauce and Poularde souffle Independence, a chicken souffle with steamed vegetables and lemon parsley sauce.
The chef has added vegetarian options to the menu. Besides the chicken soup, there’s the creamy almond veloute or cream of almond topped with dry fruit slices.
The chef added two vegetarian choices— crêpes aux épinards à l'ail, sauce au tomates, which is garlic-flavoured stuffed spinach crepes with buttered gravy and Feuille de curry tempéré légume rösti, sauce au curry or curry leaf-tempered vegetable fritters served with curried sauce. The meal was rounded off with Vacherin de peches liberation which is poached peaches with cinnamon ice cream and English cream.
The price of this dinner (for one person), to mark the year of Independence, is Rs 1,947. While guests will enjoy the sumptuous meals inside, the hotels from outside will be illuminated in the Indian tricolour. You can sample the menu till August 14.
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