Bhavna Singh's haveli, Indrashan, is a sea of white-washed walls. After we pass over the threshold, she receives us in her living room. The room is adorned with trinkets and paintings, as well as photos of relatives and framed moments from special, family occasions. Warm, happy memories smile down upon us, reminding me of visits to my Nanna’s home when I was little.
Bhavna graces her living room with a glowing radiance. Her smooth skin and beaming smile complement a saffron-coloured sari that’s smattered in a design of pink flowers. She is a beacon of Maharaja hospitality; a descendent of India’s long, traditional line of royal Maharajas. We’re led to an intimate courtyard for relaxation and a home-cooked lunch. Plants and sunshine make this courtyard a lazy lunch location.
Nearby, we can hear the kitchen abuzz with clanging pots and sizzling food. A tempting aroma wafts around us. The table is set and we’re summoned to help ourselves. What’s presented to us is an array of classic northern Indian dishes. There are crushed lentil dumplings in gravy, spiced cauliflower flowerettes and a paneer and pea dish. A staple menu item – dahl – steams away in a rotund pot; simmering underneath a bouquet of fresh coriander. Fluffy rice and chapatti sit aside a bowl of silky raita. We fill our plates and sit casually among the courtyard with plates on knees.
As I scoop up dahl with a torn strip of chapatti, I can instantly taste the love that has been laboured into Bhavna’s dishes. I can also taste the hours spent preparing this delicious meal. Bhavna glides through the courtyard to ensure we’re enjoying our meal. If she finds an empty plate on someone’s lap, she insists the person to grab an extra helping. Though, it’s not hard to fit in a modest second helping – the food is flavoursome and more-ish. Bhavna seems to be as doting as our own grandmothers, and her cooking mirrors this. I occasionally fish out a bay leaf and cinnamon stick from my meal, reminding me of when I would fish out cloves from my Nanna’s homemade apple pie.
It’s not long before dessert is served and we’re offered a glass bowl packed with sweet halva. The halva is cooked from crushed lentils; a lengthier process than the semolina halva I’m accustomed to. Crushed lentil halva can take up to two hours to prepare, and the end result is a light and fragrant celebration of this nourishing meal. Plump sultanas and orange notes tickle my tongue, accentuating such thoughtful hospitality that the city of Jodhpur, and its state of Rajasthan, is famous for.