Chef Akshraj Jodha, the 14th descendant of Rao Akheraj, presents the cuisine of Akheraj Deolia at this three-day pop-up
Ever since ancient times the strategically located region of Rajasthan has been a meeting point of different cultures. Although the Rajputana traditions are predominant, influences from the neighbouring region of Gujarat and traces of Mughal elements in the culture are apparent. The Rajasthani cuisine is a fine example of this blend and this weekend, Cubbon Pavilion at the ITC Gardenia hosts a special pop-up – The Cuisine of Akheraj Deolia that showcases a part of this eclectic Rajasthani fare.
Akheraj Deolia is the region between Marwar and Mewar, and its unique cuisine is being showcased by chef Akshraj Jodha, the executive chef at ITC Windsor and custodian of Rajasthani food at all ITC Hotels. Jodha is the 14th descendant of Rao Akheraj who founded the region of Akheraj Deolia (present day Ajmer). The recipes that are included in the three-day pop-up could be traced back to the royal kitchens of Ajmer where the chef spent most of his growing up days. “Ajmer is centrally located and it was politically an important region. Along with Delhi, it was the capital of Prithviraj Chauhan’s dynasty. After him, the Sultanate of Delhi took over Ajmer. The presence of the Khwaja Garib Nawaz Dargah mean the region was often frequented by Muslims. This kind of cultural influx influenced our cuisine,” shares the chef, adding, “Then my mother was married into a family who were descendants from the royalty of Dhrangdhra (in Gujarat), so this too impacted our food traditions. All of this is reflected in my cooking.”
At the festival this weekend, Akshraj will whip up nearly 40 dishes. These will be part of the rotational menus for three days. During an exclusive preview for Indulge, we sampled a set menu that included dishes such as the Paneer Mutter Soola (Cottage cheese stuffed with a green peas mixuture, marinated in yoghurt, and grilled), Soya Tikka Bootan (Smoked soya nuggets), Murg Soola (Chicken slices marinated in chilli, garlic and yoghurt. Grilled and served with garlic chutney), Maans Tikka Bootan (Lamb morsels marinated and cooked on stone), Papad Methi Daana (Papad and dry fenugreek seeds cooked in spiced gravy), Gatta Saag (Chickpea flour dumplings simmered in yoghurt base gravy), Ker Sangri (the Rajasathani specialty of wild beans and berries), Safed Murgh (Chicken cooked in almond and desiccated coconut gravy), Lal Maans (Mutton specialty from Rajasthani that is cooked in red chilli-onion-yoghurt gravy), Missi Roti, Bajra Roti, Dal Baati Choorma (A special fried and stuffed dumpling from Rajasthan that’s eaten with daal, ghee and a side of mashed dessert) and Pushkar Malpua Rabi.
The chef explained that since Rajasthan is a dry and arid region, the availability of fresh vegetables is limited so Ker Sangri, the dish made with wild beans and berries is one of the staples on the plate. But it’s the Lal Maans and Dal Baati Choorma that are unmissable. The rich gravy of the Laal Maans complements the Bajra Roti, and the succulent pieces of mutton make the combination all the more delicious. The Dal Baati Choorma, on the other hand is a delicacy that is to be feasted on without any inhibitions of getting your hands messy. It needs to be mashed and mixed with ghee and hot daal, using your fingers. It felt like it was a meal cooked for the royalty. Whether you are a gourmand who knows the Rajasthani cuisine well, or not, this festival at the ITC Gardenia is a chance to sample some authentic food from the Akheraj Deolia region.
Rs 1,600++ per person. February 26-28, dinner only. At Cubbon Pavilion, ITC Gardenia, Residency Road