The First Indian Foodie and his Wondrous Recipe Book


From the highlands in Scotland, to the small town at the tip of New Zealand’s South Island, you can probably find an Indian restaurant in any corner of the world today. Whether it’s fancy fusion fare such as broccoli and cheese-stuffed samosas or fast-food aloo tikki burgers, Indian food has caught the imagination and taste buds of people everywhere.

One of the first Indians to profess his love for great Indian food was Ghiyath Shahi, the 15th century ruler of Malwa, a small state in west-central India. He ruled, and was ruled, not by his head but by his heart and his stomach. Disinterested in the business of running a kingdom, he handed over charge to his son, Nasir Shah, so that he could dedicate himself to exploring the finer things in life. In fact, during his reign, the capital city Mandu, was known as Shadiyabad, or City of Joy. His palace was filled with artists, painters, musicians and several hundred cooks. Ah yes, our raja was a big foodie!

His greatest contribution to Indian food is the splendid Ni’matnama (or Book of Delights) that was commissioned in order to preserve his favourite recipes. Even the illustrations are sumptuous, created in the Mughal miniature style, many of which feature Giyath Shah overseeing the cooking, hunting and fishing or simply enjoying a grand meal. The recipes are written in the Naskh script, a beautiful calligraphic Arabic style of writing. Local and Persian influences can be seen in the artwork and in the recipes as well. In what has to be one of the best dedications in history, the book opens with the words, “King of cockroaches! Please do not eat this, my offering to the culinary world — recipes of cooking food, sweetmeats, fish and the manufacture of rose-water perfumes.”

Some time-tested dishes in the book are still found on our plates today. Take this delightful recipe for the humble samosa for example:

“The method for samosas of tender meat of mountain sheep or of deer: mince (the meat) finely and add turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, coriander, cardamom and cloves and mix them together. Flavour sweet-smelling ghee with asafoetida. When the ghee has become well-flavoured, put the mince in it and leave it so that it becomes well cooked. Add lime juice and pepper and then put in a quarter of a sīr of dried ginger and one sīr of chopped onion and remove it. Add one rattī of camphor and one rattī of musk. Prepare a few large samosas and a few small ones the size of one mouthful. Having stuffed them with the mince, fry them in sweet-smelling ghee and, when they are to be eaten, sprinkle them with vinegar or lime juice. Serve them and eat them.” Doesn’t that make you feel like devouring one right away?

Besides recipes for flavoured mutton, kheema, vadas, shorbas and others popular dishes, Giyath Shah also included recipes for drinks, preparing paan, perfumes, essences, and medicines. A real all-in-one cook book!

This wonderful Ni’matnama has been preserved through the centuries and can be found at the India Office Library in London.


Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant​. She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.


Spread the love
No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Write to us at

Help us keep currentkids, current! We’d love to hear about your crazy adventures and experiences. Send us your pictures, travel diaries, thoughts on cool new gadgets, gaming experiences and anything else you find interesting!

About Us

Welcome to our entertaining and empowering news source for kids with inquisitive minds! This is a digital space that keeps kids aged 8 and above (and your families!) connected to what’s happening in the world. We filter a wide variety of news, events, and interesting bits of trivia to develop short, relevant, unbiased content in creative formats. We give everyone something to relate to and get engaged with in short bytes of information with a snappy, chatty feel. We believe in encouraging curiosity, creativity and continued learning in our safe digital space.

Why is reading non-fiction important?

This helps curious minds to learn more about the outside world. It also enriches their vocabulary and their general knowledge. Simplified news helps children to express their opinions easily with their friends and family and gives them some perspective on complex issues. Our safe news website will give you parents a useful tool with which to navigate the digital world with your children.

We hope you enjoy our posts!

Biyash & Sunaina

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and stay current!


You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.