Delhi – diverse and developing, one cannot define the culture or religion of saadi Dilli or Dehli, but it cannot be denied that here, two separate worlds co-exist. One, which is growing under the urban influence, where there is a logic behind everything…..But when the inhabitants of this first world want to visit a place to reconnect to their roots, to experience the old world charm, all roads lead to only one place- Old Delhi, known as Shahjahanabad  in the Mughal era.

A family is recreating the magical flavors of home cooked food and yet keeping it simple and subtle. Osama Jalali’s childhood was spent in the colorful bylanes of Old Delhi near Jama Masjid, watching his mother cook huge quantities of food in deghs . His father Dr.Najam Jalali was the most respected and sought-after hakeem or doctor in Shahjahanbad. From common men to khaansamas to karigars, Dr.Jalali was trusted by all for their health. His mother Nazish Jalali was from Rampur, a town situated somewhere between Delhi and Lucknow, the cuisine of Rampur which has influences of both these cities, travelled to Delhi with her. The khaansamas treated by Dr.Jalali used to share the royal recipes, the tricks and hacks of cooking with Nazish Jalali, lovingly called as Ammi Jalali. She in her kitchen created recipes which were simple in flavors and yet fit for a king. 

Shahjahanabd Classics Food Festival is designed to give you a taste of food from Osama Jalali’s home. The served dishes are prepared under the supervision and guidance of Ammi Jalali and we all know that a mother’s eye never misses even the smallest of details. 

If you aren’t enticed till now, wait till you hear the dishes you can devour at this festival. For starters we were served a dish that is not at all unknown to us – seekh kebabs; moist and mild on the palate. Next, a fish deep fried with garam masala, one could actually taste the simple flavors infused in the fish, and the dish proved that it is not required to confuse the ingredients by making them complex. The star of the starters was kachche keeme ki tikiya – raw meat pounded with spices then shallow fried, the name stands true as the mutton retains its flavor which will linger on your palate. I loved the Machhli ki shaami served in anest of seviyan. One of the best , i have ever tasted in my life.

For, our vegetarian friends, this festival is a must visit because I can assure you that you would have never tasted a french bean ki shammi and a kathal ki galouti. Besides the common starter like paneer tikka, they have a very elaborate menu for vegetarians. Kathal ki galouti is a reflection of the cuisine of Rampur from where Ammi Jalali hails. Jackfruit mixed with a perfect amount and combination of spices, these kebabs are delicate in texture and its flavors; a must have. Anothe favorite was the Daliye ki shaami, so subtle yet so delish.

As told by Osama Jalali himself, they believe in using the spices moderately to ensure that the character and taste of the vegetables or the meats can shine through. They believe that the food is more pleasing when it has an aroma. They refrain the use of spices like red chilli powder and prefer to use fresh green chillies to add a mild heat in their dishes. 

In the main course a very popular and hearty dish- nihari, which is cooked to perfection overnight is served. A classic salan – allo gosht, best enjoyed with a khameeri roti is a burst of beautiful flavours in your mouth. Again, the spices do not over power the taste of the aloo. Hari Mirch Qeema was the highlight of the meal, minced mutton flavored and cooked with green chillies; as you eat it the green chilli adds a kick to the mutton mince but the heat does not stay on your palate for long and will not leave you asking for water. 

 In their vegetarian spread they have a Mughlai paneer which is not cooked with dollops of cream or butter- remember these dishes are home style! Simple and appetizing ; Chane ki daal ka bharta – lentils cooked carefully with simple flavors till it attains a slightly thick texture. Move over a baingan bharta as in the line is aloo ka bharta- hand pounded with spices, it is worth a try. A stunner and a standout is the Urad ki Dal Dry, lentils soaked, drained and then cooked with very little or no water, a dish from the kitchen of Nawab of Rampur, garnished with green chillies and fried onions, each grain retains its shape and will burst with flavors in your mouth. Also, they serve Tahiri- which is a common dish made in our homes, rice cooked with potato and served with ghee, but many not be familiar with the term.

To end this perfect meal, which frankly I never wanted to end, for desserts we were served Gulathi which is made by reducing milk in dry fruits and has a very rich and creamy texture. Also, Aloo ka Zarda , which is shredded potato cooked in sugar syrup; Ammi Jalali uses sugar in moderation, according to her people these days are more health conscious.

The festival is on at Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon till the 20th of September. These dishes are incorporated in the regular buffet menu at an attractive price tag of Rs. 1650/- ++

Do visit this festival as the food served by this family comes from a great cultural lineage and is bought to live by the midas touch of a mother. Could there be a better combination?  

Coverage By : Vickrham (vicky)
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