Spring always makes me a little homesick for Punjab. As one of the main crop cutting times of year the whole region jumps into action and the whirring of combine harvesters fills the air – which is thick with the scent of cut crops and hazy with dust.
Known as the ‘breadbasket’ of South Asia, Punjab spans Eastern Pakistan and Northern India, and has deep agricultural roots. Fertile soils and mineral-rich waters from the Himalayan mountains provide the ideal conditions for growing rice and wheat. The Hindi word rabi refers to this grain crop sown in September and reaped in spring.
The harvest involves every Punjabi, and a successful growing season determines the whole year for many. A bountiful harvest is a cause for region-wide celebrations. And with the warmer weather comes an abundance of natural produce. Fruits and berries grow wildly on the bountiful bushes and trees, the rivers fill with fish and large game animals run wild over the hills.
Heralding the new season, street vendors in Lahore swap out their ubiquitous ember-grilled corn from winter in favour of light and vibrant fruit chaat, a spiced savoury fruit salad. The roadside carts found outside every school, theatre and mosque become a riot of colour from the seasonal fruits displayed and for us Punjabis, this small street-side transformation truly means spring has sprung so of all the stunning new dishes we are adding to the menu at New Punjab Club, this more humble offering is the one that means the most to me. Inspired by the street wallahs of Lahore, our version of Fruit Chaat is a refreshing fruit salad, lightly spiced with cumin and pepper and dressed with tamarind yoghurt, lemon and salt. It is a sweet-savoury dish that in my part of the world sits alongside meats (not dessert!). Just try it.
Chef Palash is particularly excited about the Australian venison from Mandagery Cree. Game hunting in Punjab has a long and regal history and venison is a lean and very sustainable meat. For the Tandoori Venison, we marinate it in fennel seeds and chartreuse liqueur to help it stand the intense temperatures of the tandoor, then roast until charred on the outside and juicy and pink on the inside. With the season just beginning, the tender meat is at its best.
Celebrate the Punjabi spring harvest with a Michelin-starred spread of these new dishes alongside favourites like the Samosa Chaat and Mughal Room Makhani. See the full menu here or book your table online today.