When Old Delhi comes calling one has to oblige. Having heard of the feasts put together by the Jalalis and experienced one herself, Skeeter met the Jalalis one on one over a lunch table hosted by them at at Le Meridien, Gurgaon. And it couldn’t have been better! Osama Jalali, a food writer has curated the dining experience and the meals are prepared by his mother Nazish Jalali & wife Nazia Khan. What one gets to sample is the kind of food that is found in the homes of Old Delhi or Shahjahanabad. Nazish Jalali or Ammi as she is fondly called is a passionate cook who learnt her craft from the khansamas of the nawab of Rampur before she got married and came to Shahjahanabad, where she added more recipes to her repertoire.
These Mughlai recipes by the Jalalis are showcased at food festivals across prominent hotels time and again. This time round the focus was on some interesting vegetarian ones. The first of these was a very flavourful Kathal ki Galouti. Skeeter has sampled unusual preparations of Jackfruit but this one outshone them all. Steamed and boiled jackfruit is mixed with lentils and whole spices for a well-textured, sublime galouti. French beans ki Shammi appeared next. Again, a well-made, melt in the mouth preparation, which forces the French beans out of their stir-fry, sabzi, pulao and other avtars. And the third stellar appetizer of the day was a daliya ki tikki. Yes, there’s more to daliya than light/diet food.
For the mains we sampled sookhi Urad dal, both black and yellow; the recipes of which come from the kitchen of the Nawab of Rampur. These were very simple preparations that were fluffy and flavourful. A robust Mughlai paneer preparation made in a yoghurt gravy had Skeeter hooked onto the curry. An earthy and dense preparation of Chana dal bharta (mashed lentils) was rich in texture and chopped green chillies complemented it well. Osama calls it desi hummus and well, why not?!
All these were served with a rustic Khamiri Roti or yeasted flatbread and a mildly sweet Sheermal which is saffron-flavoured, leavened bread. Both are usually paired with greasy non-vegetarian curries in the bylanes of Old Delhi. There was Vegetarian Biryani too! It looked simple but was a pot of myriad flavours. The rice were aromatic as they soaked flavour from the whole spices and each vegetable lent a layer of its flavour to the dish.
After being overwhelmed by the appetizers and the mains, it was time to be besotted by dessert. Aloo ka Zarda, made with shredded potatoes, saffron and sugar was sampled for the first time. It was sprinkled with chironji. Skeeter was looking forward to this one but was underwhelmed by the taste. Maybe she needs to get used to the idea of having spuds for dessert? The Shahi Tukda, which was not liked by some on the table, made Skeeter quite happy. Those who didn’t like this version prefer crispy bread against the soft one which was served. The Gulathi, which was somewhat like a phirni, was the best dessert of the three. It is made by reducing milk in dry fruits and made a fitting end to a sumptuous feast.