The Ranas ruled Nepal for a little over a century, as prime ministers, and are famous to date for their stucco, colonial style palaces, beautifully manicured gardens, magnificent jewellery, palace intrigues and autocratic rule.
This glamorous, colourful regime that shaped the history of the country for 104 years, imported ideas concerning architecture, dress and even administration from far off Europe but in the field of culinary art they did not stray too far from their homeland.
The local cuisine was influenced to a certain extent by the khansamas (cooks) brought in from Mughal India after the loot of Lucknow during Jung Bahadur's time.
Since then the khansamas and the Nepalese bajaes and bajais (Brahmin men and women) worked in tandem, though in separate kitchens, perfecting a style of fusion cuisine that has become famous being unique in its Rana flavour.
Coming to the meal patterns of the Rana households, breakfast, if taken at all, was not common.
Lunch, which was the main meal, was usually had at 10 am in the traditional junar ko bhancha or room adjoining the kitchen.
Everyone would be seated on the floor on wooden pirkas (flat stools) and would be served in traditional thaals or chaapris (platters) by the bajaes and bajais on a khatiya (a low wooden table).
A typical meal consisted of rice, lentils, meat and a variety of vegetables and pickles. Fruit and dessert would usually follow a meal.
Teatime was 3 pm where everyone partook of khane kura usually cheura (beaten rice) accompanied with meat and vegetables and sweetmeats.
Dinner was usually at 6 or 7 pm served in the rooms upstairs with a variety of rotis, cheura meat and vegetables.
If rice was being served, it had to be partaken of in the junar ko bhancha again.
No one remembers snacking in between meals! On the whole, the everyday meals were very well balanced and nutritious, catering to all types of tastes.
Rohini Rana in The Rana Cookbook shares vignettes of Rana life and the gustatory indulgences that occurred at Nepali palaces.
The fat glossy volume is packed with several unique recipes from Nepal's royals. One among them is Pharsi Masu or Pumpkin Mutton.
Bhogate Sande Ko Dhania Ko Achar Ma or Pomelo In Coriander Chutney is a fresh salad, usually served with lunch.
Pharsi Masu or Pumpkin Mutton
The credit for this recipe goes to Dr Niti Rana, whose mother, Kanwarani Preeti Prabha Rajya Laxmi Singh of Pawayan, opened the first Nepali durbari style restaurant Sunkosi, which was famous for its delicious cuisine.
His Majesty King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Deva and Her Majesty Queen Aishwarya Rajya Laxmi Shah were known to walk out of the palace gates and enjoy meals in this restaurant.
For marinating the mutton
- 1 kg mutton, cut in 1½ inch cubes including bones
- 2 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 dalcheeni or cinnamon stick
- 4 small green elaichi or green cardamom
- 2 bada elaichi or large black cardamom
- 2 tej patta or bay leaves
- 6 long or cloves
- 3 tsp jeera or cumin powder
- 4 tsp dhania or coriander powder
- 1 tsp haldi or turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chillies
- 2 tbsp ginger paste
- 1½ tbsp garlic paste
- Salt to taste
- 1½ water for cooking the mutton
For the pumpkin
- ½ kg kadu or pumpkin
- ½ cup sunflower oil (or reduce for an low-fat preparation)
- 1 tsp hing or asafoetida powder
- ½ tsp haldi or turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- ½ tsp chilly powder
- ¼ tsp timur or Indian Szechuan pepper powder
- 2 green chillies, slit
- 2 cups green garlic shoots, cut into ½ inch pieces
- Salt to taste
- Place the mutton in a bowl and add all the marination ingredients.
Mix well and marinate for 3 hours.
- Cook the mutton a pressure cooker with 1½ cups of water for 3-4 whistles.
Check to see if the mutton is cooked and the oil separates.
- Heat the sunflower oil in a large heavy-bottomed kadhai or wok.
Add the asafoetida, pumpkin pieces.
Add the salt, turmeric powder and stir fry for two minutes.
Add the garlic paste, ginger paste, cover and cook till soft and mushy.
Once the pumpkin is cooked, add the red chillies, timur powder, green garlic shoots.
Slowly blend in the cooked mutton.
Garnish with the slit green chillies and serve.
Bhogate Sande Ko Dhania Ko Achar Ma or Pomelo in Coriander Chutney
- 2 cups bhogate or chakotra or papnus or pomelo, deskinned and deseeded
- 1 cup green dhania or coriander or cilantro leaves
- 1 green chilly
- 2 tbsp roasted til or sesame powder
- 2 tbsp or less castor sugar (a kind of finer sugar manufactured by top baking brands)
- Salt to taste
- Wash the coriander leaves and place them in a blender with the green chilly.
Blend to a paste.
- Place the pomelo in a bowl and add the coriander paste to it.
Add the sesame powder, sugar and salt to taste.
Best served immediately because the pomelo tends to become sour if kept too long.
Note: For a sugar-free salad, replace the castor sugar with honey or a sugar equivalent like stevia.
Excerpted from The Rana Cookbook: Recipes from the Palaces of Nepal by Rohini Rana with kind permission from the publishers Penguin Random House India.