If you are passionate about food, keep abreast of food events & trends and live in Delhi, there is no way you would not have heard the name of Osama Jalali. A renowned food critic with more than 2000 food reviews under his belt, this young food impresario and chef in his newest avatar, is now doing a yeoman service in helping to revive traditional Indian cuisine and preserving the food heritage of our nation. Fresh from the success of a food festival he recently curated along with his mother Nazish Jalali and wife Nazia, called “Lost Recipes of the Mughal Era” where dishes like “Parinde mein Parinda” and “Mutton Halwa” were the talk of town; his current venture is a food festival “Shahjahanabad Classics” at Latest Recipe, the all-day dining restaurant at Le Meridien Gurgaon.
What he has brought to the table here are not some exotic dishes but food that he has grown up eating in his home in the by-lanes of Urdu Bazar near Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. These are fairly simple and delicious recipes prepared with love and affection by the Jalalis.
This is not food that you find at the Karim’s and the Al-Jawahar’s which is more street food meant for the working populace of Shahjahanabad (walled city which used to be the capital of the Mughal Empire). In fact “Kacche Keeme ki Tikiya” “Hari Mirch Qeema” “Urad Daal Gosht” “Saag Kofta” “Arvi ka Salan” “Chane ki daal ka bharta” and “Aloo ka Zarda” are dishes you will not find at any restaurant. These are dishes made in people’s homes every day and on special occasions with each household having their own secret recipes which they guard zealously. Sourcing recipes both for the previous food festival and this one was a tough task as it was difficult getting culinary secrets out from traditional homes where the kitchen is strictly a domain of women and no men are allowed inside due to the system of “Purdah”. This task was entrusted to Osama’s lovely wife Nazia who had to literally pry out the recipes from women reluctant to divulge and share the exact measures and the spices used.
A lot of dishes in the Shahjahanabad Classics Menu like Urad Dal Gosht, Kathal Ki Galouti reflect the cuisine of Rampur where Osama’s mother Nazish, fondly called Ammi Jalali, hails from. Osama Jalali told me during the course of lunch that he had honed his culinary skills working alongside his mother in the kitchen as food interested him more than playing with his friends and cousins. His mother in turn had learnt from the khansamas (cooks) of the royal kitchen of the princely state of Rampur. Dehlvi cuisine (cuisine of Old Delhi which is an amalgam of Awadhi, Rampuri, Mughlai and Nizami) is very close to his heart and he has spent many an hour recreating and perfecting the recipes Having grown up in an area of Old Delhi amidst cooks who claimed descent from the royal khansamas of Mughal Emperors an understanding of the finer points of the cuisine was not so tough, like the right meat cuts for specific dishes, the knowledge of spices etc.
In this food festival he has laid more emphasis on home style comfort food sans frills. The kebabs are not to be missed especially the “Kacche keeme ki tikiya”. “Aloo Gosht” is a dish that most of us have tried our hands at some point or the other. Aloo Gosht made by Jalalis has lifted the humble potato to another level with the flavour of mutton completely permeating into the tuber. This is the first time that I ate potato as a sweetmeat in the form of Aloo Zarda where it is cooked in sugar syrup. The rice dishes are outstanding too especially the Mutton Biryani and Tahiri or Teheri (a staple in most North Indian homes during winters made with vegetables and rice and served with dollops of ghee)
Shahjahanabad Classics Food Festival brings food from Osama Jalali’s home. Reason enough to go and attend this festival which is on at Latest Recipe at Le Meridien Gurgaon till the 20th of September.
By : Lavina Kharkwal