Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Dehlnavi Table Spread - A Story of Delhi's Food

“You give little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Anyone who has interacted with Sadia Dehlvi will agree that she is a ‘giver’ in the truest sense. The love with which she serves her food, the openness with which she shares her family recipes and the fluidity with which she narrates stories about her family, the evolution of cuisine in Delhi, and so on, almost envelopes you in her positive aura. Having authored two books on Sufism, entitled ‘Sufism – The Heart of Islam’ and ‘The Sufi Courtyard’, Sadia is a sufi soul herself!

Since I missed the highly talked about COMMEAT’s Iftar-e-Dastarkhwan that Sadia hosted in her home during the holy month of Ramzaan, I was doubly excited upon being invited to a pop-up of Dehlnavi cuisine at Sheraton, New Delhi’s Delhi Pavilion. An avid cook, Sadia was particularly happy to cook with the masterchefs of the Sheraton due to her family’s association with ITC Hotels since they lived down the road from ITC Maurya for many, many years.

Sadia Dehlvi (R) with her sister-in-law Asyie Dehlvi.

Since the evening was focused on Forgotten Treasures – Culinary Trails of Shahjahanabad, Sadia shared umpteen stories about how the cuisine evolved in the capital through different eras in the walled city. While the Tughlaks brought minced meat cooked with nuts, the banias added the vegetarian fare and chaats. The Punjabis, especially after the Partition, brought the tandoor, creamy dals and paranthas. Each dish thus served comprised of flavours that form an intrinsic part of Delhi’s culinary heritage, and those that are cooked regularly for friends and family in the Dehlvi home. Needless to say, many of these dishes are not found on restaurant menus anywhere, such as the kachri keema that is tenderized with pineapple pulp and half-ripe papaya and smoked while cooking. While this turned out to be the star dish of the evening, there were other gems that are equally lesser known yet finger-licking good! Shabdeg is a delicious carrot and kofta curry. “It can also be made with turnip, but we prefer carrots,” shares Sadia. Then there were the usual suspects – a succulent yakhni pulao, perfectly spiced haleem and a hearty aloo gosht

Clockwise from Top Left: Yakhni Pulao, Haleem,
Smoked Keema, Shabdeg.

Sadia's latest book, 'Jasmine & Jinns' is a treasure trove of all these recipes and many, many more, interwoven with tales of Delhi's ancient past and her personal memoirs. She graciously allowed me to share her recipes with you. I have chosen the delicious, smokey Kachri Keema since it is "a specialty and not many outside our community know about this dish," she shares in the book. It is also ideal for Delhi winters. Enjoy!


Kachri Keema - Marinated Smoked Mince

1 kg mince meat
4 whole kachris crushed or 2 tsp kachri powder (Kachri is a small, wild brown melon found in desert areas. It is a common ingredient in Rajasthani cuisine and is available at spice stores in both whole and powder form.)
1 cup half-ripe papaya, peeled and pulped
1 and a half tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
Salt to taste

Marinate the mince meat with all the above ingredients. Leave overnight in the fridge or at least for four to five hours. 

Cooking the Mince Meat
300 gm curd
4 medium-sized onions, golden fried
4 cloves
4 green cardamoms (optional)
Half cup oil

Mix the curd and onions with the marinated mince meat and hour before cooking. Heat oil and add the cloves and cardamoms and leave for a minute or two till they crackle. Now add the marinated mince meat. Stir for a few minutes on medium flame and then leave on low flame till done. Do not use the pressure cooker. This is a dry dish, so let the water released from the mince meat evaporate fully.

After the mince meat is cooked, prepare to smoke it. Light a small piece of coal over the stove flame, then place it on an onion slice, pour a few drops of oil on the live coal so it smokes. Then, leave the smoking coal over the keema and cover the cooking pot with a lid. Let it remain there for a few minutes.

Garnish with fresh chopped coriander leaves, onion rings, chopped green chillies, shredded ginger juliennes and a sprinkling of garam masala. A squeeze of lemon juice adds a bit of tanginess. 

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Stay | Head Here for your next Beach Holiday

After travelling around Andhra Pradesh for almost a week, a dinner at The Park Hotel, Visakhapatnam’s beach front restaurant, Shack, turns out to be the highlight of my trip.

The beachfront restaurant. Shack, at The Park Vizag. 

Why Andhra Pradesh
Now don’t get me wrong, the state has a lot of natural beauty and culinary treasures. The newly minted state offers a beautiful coastline and the tourism department is pumping in money to boost travel related infrastructure. During my travels from Vijayawada to Dindi and Kakinada, I have to say that the food, even at the simplest of places is absolutely delicious. While there is an array of seafood, meat and of course biryani, the blandest vegetables and dals are zinged up by local spices and cooking techniques. Having eaten at many state-run restaurants (I’m told that these places often have the best chefs who follow the most authentic recipes), I can safely say that Executive Sous Chef Neeraj Balasubramaian is doing a fabulous job.

Left: Prawn masala.
Right top: Vegetarian Platter.
Right bottom: Non-vegetarian platter.

What to Expect at The Park, Vizag
Vizag (short for Vishakhapatnam) is known for its beautiful coastline. And Shack does justice to the natural beauty with its laidback ambience that’ll transport you to a hip Goan shack. But mind you, the service is far from laidback! Prompt and courteous servers bring out Chef Neeraj’s creations in quick succession. While the vegetarian platter has a delicious podi idli (you’ll find this at The Park Hotel, New Delhi’s swanky Indian restaurant, Fire, as well), Japanese-inspired melt-in-the-mouth spinach cutlets topped with cheese and mushrooms in a pepper fry masala, the non-vegetarian platter consists of chicken pepper fry, chicken burrah topped with burnt garlic and ruslam patti or slow cooked lamb. After being marinated overnight the lamb is slow cooked for six hours making it very tender and flavourful. Even though the fare is spicy as the local cuisine is meant to be, each dish has a distinct flavour. The prawns that follow are very fresh as the state abounds in prawn farming. The sweetness of the meat is balanced with a wonderful masala made with garlic, ginger, chilli and coconut. This meal is of course best enjoyed with the soothing sound of the waves and a salty breeze blowing in from the Bay of Bengal. 

This year along with the Park group, the Park Vizag is also completing 50 years. With a choice of restaurants, two nightclubs, a rooftop bar and the most enviable location along Vizag’s gorgeous beach, keep this hotel in mind for your next beach holiday. 

Friday, 5 January 2018

Winter Menu at Olive Bar & Kitchen: Inspired by a Walk in the Forest

If there is one seasonal menu that I look forward to, it is at Olive Bar & Kitchen. Chef Dhruv Oberoi is as much an artist as he is a genius in the kitchen. While he does gastronomic justice to the fabulous produce that he works with, one can also envision him sketching out the gorgeous plating of each dish while he guides an enthusiastic team that is busy executing every element on a plate to perfection.

When he says that this menu is all about minimalism I find it a little hard to believe since every dish has a range of elements that take classic combinations several notches up, making it ‘gastro art’! “Although we have stuck to classic combinations we have played around with textures and presented simple ingredients in novel ways,” he explains as he introduces the newest dishes on the menu. Burrata and tomato for instance has taken the form of Burrata Tatin where creamy burrata is served on a crispy pastry layered with pesto and comes with a delicious tomato jam on the side. The combination may be traditional but the execution is very modern. The heirloom tomato and strawberry salad too tastes as refreshing as it looks. But this is just the beginning.

Clockwise from top left:
Burrata Tatin; Heirloom Tomato and
Strawberry Salad; Mushroom Duxelles; Pastrami and Oxtail. 

The appetisers are as gourmet as it gets! The roulade of milky mushrooms in Mushroom Duxelles is served with an almost addictive split truffle emulsion. The accompanying white asparagus not only balances the flavour of the dish but its crunchy bite adds a wonderful texture as well. Chef Dhruv shares that in this winter menu he has also used different cuts of meat. The Ham Hock is a good cut of pork that is sherry glazed and served with Hokkaido scallops and vanilla fennel marmalade. My companion enjoyed the crispy oxtail with spice crusted smoked tenderloin pastrami. Here the accompaniments are mustard caviar and pickled cream. Although everything sounds very fancy, trust me, it is simply delicious.

Top: Pulled Pork Casoncelli.
Bottom L-R: Arroz Nero; Grains and Mushroom. 

Even though the plating is beautiful, inspired by a walk in the forest, it is the taste of the food that one ultimately gushes about. When a hearty bowl of millets and Arborio rice, cooked in truffle paste garnished with parmesan, mascarpone, and a selection of winter mushrooms is as comforting as the squid ink risotto with Spanish bomba rice and caramelized onion broth you know that chef has chosen to serve food that is appropriate for the season. And what can spell winter better than a Glazed lamb Ossobucco Cassoulet, cross cut foreshank of lamb slow braised with winter beans and lentils! The choice is extensive. From the candy wrapper shaped casoncelli pasta stuffed with pulled pork, with sage parmesan cream, charred citrus, roasted beets and toasted almonds to the Chilean sea bass glazed with fermented corn and honey, garnished with borage leaves, house matured black garlic, and kataifi parsnip there is literally something for everyone on this menu. And of course, the usual favourites including the freshly baked breads and woodfired pizzas continue to be hot-sellers.

Top: Chilean Sea Bass.
Bottom L-R: Hokkaido Scallop with Glazed Ham Hock; Lamb Ossobucco. 

Regulars would also know that amongst the desserts, the tiramisu of every new season is awaited with much anticipation. While the summer menu had it presented as an icecream bar, now version 8.0 comes with a cocoa dusted cannoli that looks like a cigar and tiramisu itself is in the shape of an ashtray. But if you’re willing to stray away from your love of coffee, try A Perfect Mess – it is an homage to the English Eton Mess with thin strips of meringue that looks like egg shells, a soft-centred vanilla blancmange along with varying textures of macerated strawberries.

A Perfect Mess

If the food that I’ve described so far is not enough of a temptation, go there for the vibe. Whether you sit indoor or the white-pebbled courtyard, Olive really is an all-season restaurant. And yes, it is also perfect whether you want a romantic evening out or lunch with the kids, celebrating an occasion or simply looking for good food. If I could choose I would kick-start my weekend a li’l early – with the live band on Thursday evenings.  

Olive Bar & Kitchen Address, One Style Mile, Haveli no. 6-8, Kalkadass Marg, Mehrauli, New Delhi – 110030.
Timings: Lunch 12pm - 3.30pm; Dinner 7.30pm - 12pm
Meal for two: Lunch 1500++; Dinner: 2200++
Phone : 011-29574444 / 3; 9810235472.