All roads lead to Rashtrapati Bhavan on May 30 evening, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Council of Ministers will take oath. The event is likely to be attended by 6,000 eminent persons.
The swearing-in ceremony, which is being organised at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, will be attended by visiting heads of state from BIMSTEC countries, the Kyrgyz Republic and Mauritius, and political leaders, diplomats, chief ministers, academics, writers, sportspeople, film personalities and achievers.
It is not only the ceremony that the guests will enjoy, but also the High Tea and a banquet, where they are likely to be served ‘Dal Raisina’, Rashtrapati Bhavan’s special in-house culinary innovation that is known for its rich texture. Made from a “harmonious combination” of whole black lentils (Urad Dal) and tomato puree flavoured with saffron, Dal Raisina is expected to be the highlight of the banquet menu.
The dish has become the centre of controversy, with differing opinions as to how long it takes to cook. While chef Machindra Kasture, who first made the dish in 2010, claims it takes between six and eight hours, the current Rashtrapati Bhavan chef, Monty Saini, says it takes no less than 48 hours to cook.
The dish that will be served to visiting dignitaries has reportedly been cooking since Tuesday night.
Chef Kasture tells indianexpress.com, “It is such a big honour to have your dish being served to world leaders even now. We used to continuously experiment in the Rashtrapati Bhavan kitchen, and Dal Raisina was created at one such occasion.” He worked as the first resident chef of the Rashtrapati Bhavan from 2007 to 2015.
During his eight-year-long tenure, Kasture whipped up meals for former Presidents Pranab Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil, and also invented dishes like Anjeer Ke Kofte and Sitaphal Halwa.
The 57-year-old chef shares that the dal has a velvety texture and is peppered with mild spices, along with a secret ingredient – kasuri methi leaves. “The mildly bitter leaves along with a dash of garam masala helps accentuate the dal’s flavour,” says Kasture, who is currently the executive chef, Ashoka Hotel, ITDC.
Technically, the word dal denotes a split pulse, but in India, it has come to encompass dried beans and peas as well as a thick purée-like stew or soup made from lentils – one of the most adaptable ingredients in an Indian kitchen, as per food encyclopedia Oxford Companion to Food.
In fact, dals are an indispensable part of most Indian thalis and its true even for the highest office of the country where dals range from the most basic – the simple tadka dal found on most restaurant menus – to the decadent smoky dal makhni.
Chef Kasture shares that the dal, along with rajma, is soaked overnight and is washed four to five times the next day before being cooked with butter, cream, dash of garam masala, tomato puree and kasuri methi. On a slow flame, the dal is continuously cooked for six to eight hours under constant supervision.
According to chef Saini, who took over from chef Kasture as the executive chef of the President’s House, under President Pranab Mukherjee in 2015, the President’s kitchen is reportedly requested to prepare Indian foods for foreign dignitaries whenever they visit. According to an RTI reply, the kitchen comprises 28 cooks.
When former US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle visited India for the Republic Day celebrations in 2015, Dal Raisina found space on the menu along with other vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes like Chicken Malai Tikka, Dahi Kabab, Tandoori Mushroom, Mustard Fish Curry, Mutton Rogan Josh, Chicken Korma, Kashmiri Delicacy Gushtaba, Aachari Paneer, Bedmi Aloo, Kadhi Pakora, Chhole, Papad, Pulao, Tandoori Roti and Naan.
Kasture, who has earlier served PM Modi the same dish, says the dal is heavy in texture and is best served with rice.
Want to try your hand at cooking the much-loved dish? Check out the recipe here.