The Kismet of Jamaluddin and a Recipe for Kheer

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So finally Korma, Kheer and Kismet – the product of years of joy (in Old Delhi) and heartbreak (at my desk) – is here. Although I still can’t quite believe it and do a double take every time I see it in a shop – my little book out there trying to make its way in the world.

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The response to the book so far has been incredibly cheering, particularly in Old Delhi itself.  As soon as I got back from my holiday in Scotland I went straight there to give copies to the vendors who feature in it.

First stop was Bade Mian’s shop in Lal Kuan.

The Siddique family’s kheer shop is a stone’s throw from the Chawri Bazaar metro and I always start any Old Delhi jaunt there – sitting at one of the tables at the back with a cup of chai and a tiny square metal plate of kheer. Jamaluddin is a wonderful character who is always ready with a colourful story – many of which I can’t understand because he seems to speak in Urdu rhyming couplets.

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The Siddiques’ shop is not only home to the world’s best kheer but also the place I was first introduced to the notion of ‘kismet’. Over many happy hours while I was working on the book I listened while Jamaluddin Siddique patiently and often movingly explained his own fate as a street food vendor.

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I also got to know the family well and some of the ups and downs of their incredible almost 150 year history are included in the book.  On a sad note, though, Jamaluddin told me that his wife, who is a big part of the chapter on the kheer-wallahs, had died over the summer.  Ironic, too, as the last time I saw her it was she who was fretting about her husband’s devotion to his ‘kismet’ and that he was working himself to death.

Jamaluddin, though, is determined that life, and the exhausting commitment to kheer-making, must go on.

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I once asked him what made his family’s kheer so special and he told me there was no great secret, that it was simply ‘Due to the blessings of Allah!’

This was a version I made which is similar.  Kheer is normally made with white sugar but I used jaggery to try and replicate Bade Mian’s fudgy flavour and colour. I’m not sure if my kheer had ‘the blessings of Allah’ but it was pretty good.

INGREDIENTS

One litre  milk (the creamier the better)
50 gms rice (I used broken Basmati) three to four tbsp jaggery
Ground seeds of two green cardamom

METHOD

Wash the rice and soak in fresh water for about one hour, then drain. Bring the milk to a boil and add the rice and cardamom powder. Simmer over very low heat until the milk has thickened and the rice has almost completely disintegrated. Stir in jaggery to taste and leave on the heat until dissolved. Serve warm or cold.

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26 thoughts on “The Kismet of Jamaluddin and a Recipe for Kheer

  1. Any idea where I buy your book. It’s not available at Book Depository and Amazon didn’t recognise it.

  2. Hi Andrew – at the moment it’s only available as a hardback book in India. My agent is still working on publication elsewhere. Fingers crossed that works out soon. In the meantime, I’ll be putting it on Amazon kindle shortly. Pamela

  3. I bought a copy via Abebooks on Monday this week. DHL delivered today, Wednesday. Abebooks either .com or co.uk

    Hope that helps those outside India looking for a hard copy.

  4. hi just finished your book. I have a deep connection to old delhi.

    My roots are from ther (katra neel) and my maternal grandparents still live there (kucha brij nath). we still buy all our spices and groceries from there even though i have stayed in south delhi all my life.
    While reading your book, i came across a picture of a Tea Seller, and guess what.. he is Kishen Chai Wallah from Kucha Brij Nath. I showed the picture to my nanaji nani and parent and everyone.. and everyone was delighted. I have sent the book to my nanaji to share with Kishen, as he has been very eager to see his picture and still thinks its some sort of hoax. Hopefully he will love seeing himself staring at all the readers of your book.
    I really enjoyed your reading as i share the love for all things coming from OLD Delhi and find myself justifying all that there is to that part of delhi. Loved the way, you have uncovered places and areas which even my family had not heard off. Looking forward to trying your recipe as and when i get a chance to cook which is rare.

    Finally, since you have a keen interest for all types of traditional stuff…do let me know if you would be interested in a dish called ankoot ki sabzi. It is generally made one day after diwali and typically combines atleast 56 different vegetables. There is loads of other such stuff which you can find in my home. mostly associated to various festivals.
    Thanks for the read.

  5. Hey Pamela,

    your book has been a pleasure to read and even my very busy hubby took out time to read a ‘non high brow’ book and proclaimed it a must read for anyone who lives in or loves Delhi. (Usually he finds my obsession with reading food related stuff mildly funny.)

    Since you mention kheer here that too with jaggery added thought would mention the Bengali payash which is made with date jaggery and is consumed mostly during the winter months. The colour and texture is close to what I see in the picture here.

  6. Hi Ramit – I’m so pleased to hear about Kishen Chai Wallah – hope he enjoys seeing himself in the book – it’s certainly a great spot he’s got for himself!
    The Ankoot ki Sabzi sounds intriguing – would love to know more 🙂

  7. Hi Girl Next Door – thank you for the lovely review – yes I’m happy to do an interview. Would you like to email me the questions? pameladottimmsatgmaildotcom

    On 17 September 2014 11:25, eat and dust wrote:

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  8. Ramit Tandon the next time you come across an Anukut feast let me know. I haven’t been to one since 1992 when a blast in Naya Bazaar destroyed the temple where it was held every year. From what little I know, the main Anukut subzi has a minimum of 56 ingredients because it then becomes a “chappan bhog” by itself. I have fond memories of Anukut feasts, sitting on durries and eating on a pattal, water and kanji served in mitti kullars. The highlight was the deserts, kheer, khoya burfi, ghiye ka lachha and fresh hot besan ladoos.

  9. Hi Pamela, thanks to a tip from one of the commenters on this page, I got a copy of your book through Abebooks and am loving it but forcing myself to read it slowly to make the pleasure last! This weekend I plan to make the Korma recipe. I love the book, your writing, observations and the sheer familiarity of the scenes you describe. I am from Lahore and the food scene there is so similar to the one in Delhi.

  10. Pamela, we live in the USA, and I just purchased the Kindle edition of your book. Just love reading it, and it makes me miss Indian food dearly, even though I grew up in Bangalore and visited Delhi only a couple of times. Your writing is fantastic, and you are very lucky to be a foodie in India discovering the gems that are there for anyone who cares to look. I am a fast reader, but am savoring the writing in your book slowly and re-reading paragraphs because they are written so well. Thanks!

  11. Hi Kiran – thank you so much for leaving a comment – I’m delighted you enjoyed the book. All the best, Pamela

    Regards Pamela

    blogging at: eatanddust +91 9871927320 T: @eatanddust F: Eat and Dust Skype: pamela-timms

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