A Spot of Surgery and a Saveur Blog Award Finalist

IMG_3137

To be honest, blogging has been the last thing on my mind recently.

About a month ago I suddenly decided to have some hip surgery I’ve been putting off for a while. I did a few last beautiful spring walks in Old Delhi with friends, my husband and son wangled some time off work/school and we flew back to Edinburgh.

It’s now been two weeks since the surgery and needless to say my usual musings on my beloved Old Delhi have been on hold as I concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

I’m very thankful that all seems to have gone well but frustrated to not be racing around yet. One of the things I think about every day is ‘could I manage Old Delhi yet’? That could take some time – I’m still struggling to cross the road in Edinburgh before the green man disappears!

I’m also not doing much in the kitchen beyond making cups of tea and heating up soup – although Dean says I must be on the mend because I’ve started bossing him around when he’s cooking.

I’ve got to say, though, everyone in the family is proving to be pretty nifty in the kitchen. Dean has produced a constant supply of stews and roasts (it’s bloody freezing here – in fact yesterday, the alleged start of British Summer Time, saw snow in Edinburgh). My daughter makes a mean Thai Green Curry and my youngest son is the king of Carbonara. My eldest son has yet to rattle the pots and pans but I have big plans for him in the weeks ahead.

My Mint newspaper baking column is also on hold for the time being but I’m hoping to rustle up some recipes in the next week or so.

Anyway, as you can imagine blogging has been the last thing on my mind given that the things I most love to write about – Old Delhi and baking – are out of reach for now.

So I was absolutely flabbergasted, in fact I thought it was a codeine-induced hallucination when I saw on Twitter yesterday that Eat and Dust is a finalist in the Saveur Magazine Blog Awards 2015. Stunned – out of 50,000 entries, I’ve been shortlisted in the Culinary Travel category. Thank you, thank you, thank you to whoever nominated me!

If you’d like to vote, or just take a look at the wonderful range of beautiful blogs Saveur have highlighted again this year (they’ll certainly be helping me pass the hours between physio and binging on Netflix), click here.

If you’re new here, I apologise for the lack of ‘eat’ and ‘dust’ (Edinburgh has to be the least dusty place in the world and street food is limited to the weekly hog roast at the farmers’ market) appearing at the moment but here are a few posts from the archives you might enjoy:

One of Old Delhi’s Most Fabulous Breakfasts at Khan Omlet Centre

God’s Own Street Food – Daulat ki Chaat

Eid Prayers at Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid

A Round-Up of Old Delhi’s Best Street Food

A Recipe for ‘Old Delhi’ Cheesecake

Sita Ram Diwan Chand’s Chana Bhatura (with recipes)

IMG_3255

Advertisements

The Kismet of Jamaluddin and a Recipe for Kheer

IMG_5627

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.

IMG_5687

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.

Continue reading

Your Weekend Starts Here: Egg Paranthe in Katra Bariyan, Old Delhi

IMG_5185   Old Delhi in July is not everyone’s idea of fun. In fact, most people would probably say that Old Delhi in the middle of a north Indian summer is the last place they’d want to be.  When the temperatures are pushing 50ºC and monsoon humidity is looming,there is a huge temptation to simply find the coolest spot possible and not move if you can avoid it.  But sometimes I feel the need to shake my fist at the iphone weather app and head into Old Delhi. Not least because I know there will be something great to eat and that always improves the mood – whatever the weather. A couple of weeks ago, I did just that and stumbled on a wonderful egg parantha stall on the corner of Naya Bans and Katra Bariyan.  I must have walked past it a thousand times because Khan Omlet Corner is no newcomer.  The Khans’ stall is hugely popular little eatery at breakfast time when the Naya Bans morning market is full swing. safe_image.php The breads are crisp, the spiced egg filling has just the right amount of green chilli and coriander to kickstart the day and the mango pickle on the side sets the whole thing alight.  There’s even a little shady ledge to sit on to get out of the sun and watch the market commotion. IMG_5141 IMG_5142 IMG_5145 I returned exhausted and sweaty but well fed, triumphant at having conquered the weather and ready to take on the world again. Get your weekend off to a great start with the Khans’ wonderful egg paranthe.  You won’t regret it. Having said all that I’m off to cooler climes for a couple of weeks to see family in London and Edinburgh.  We’ll also have some time in Corfu so brace yourselves for Instagrams of blue seas and cold beer. By the time I get back at the beginning of August, the monsoon will be in full swing and I’ll be itching to get back into Old Delhi for all the food that tastes so good in the rainy weather – jalebis, pakore, samose and ghewar – and a visit to Ram Swarup which for some reason I always associated with puddles. IMG_5150

Chikki Market and Gupta Chaat Wallah, Old Delhi

IMG_4573
As we cling onto the last few cool days here, it’s a perfect time to take a leisurely wander around Old Delhi and enjoy some some of the winter specialities that are still available.

One of the never-ending delights of walking in Old Delhi is coming across the tiny markets within markets, the little lanes devoted to one commodity. This winter I discovered a market tucked away in Kothi Shri Mandir near the Khari Baoli spice market and devoted almost entirely to Chikki – a type of nut brittle made from jaggery in the winter months.

Kothi Shri Mandir is so narrow there is hardly any daylight and it almost feels like walking through a secret underground passageway where your path is lit on either side by piles of magical sugar.

IMG_4399

IMG_4409

IMG_4412

There’s chikki everywhere you look made from sesame (also called gajak), peanuts, cashews even dried rose petals which come in all shapes and sizes – bars, rolls, discs, slabs, golf balls, tiny coin-sized pieces and hearts.

IMG_4403

This is my favourite shop, Lal Chand Rewri Wale – beautiful fresh chikki and I love the way the owner is practically wearing his merchandise.

IMG_4415

There are also some namkeen shops in the street like Pappu Caterers who sell everything you could possibly wish for to put a bit of crunch into your chaat – the spinach matri was particularly good.

IMG_4394

IMG_4395

You can  see the chikki being made in some of the shops – these guys are pounding slabs of sesame and jaggery

IMG_4477

And this is the peanut brittle being shapedIMG_4570
IMG_4401

As you come back out of Kothi Shri Mandir, take a minute to appreciate Gali Batashan itself – a whole street devoted to all things sugary, pickled and candied – like these carrots, ginger and amla.
IMG_4417

The gali is also home to some excellent snacks. The Bombay Sandwich wallah often makes a stop here and there is a chana puri stall doing a roaring trade on the corner of Kothi Shri Mandir.  But my new favourite chaat is made by the Guptas who told me they had been in the gali for 45 years – verified by a happy customer who said he’d been visiting their stall for over 40. They run a hugely popular, very spic and span cart from which father and son dish up all kinds of fresh and flavoursome chaat.

IMG_4474

IMG_4419

IMG_4418

IMG_4476

Finally, on the corner of Gali Batashan and Khari Baoli there is a  seasonal vegetable stall – look at all these gorgeous black carrots, fresh green chick peas, star fruit, sweetcorn, lotus roots and fresh turmeric…

IMG_4424
Gali Batashan runs between Khari Baoli and Naya Bans.  If you’re coming from Khari Baoli, Kothi Shri Mandir, where you’ll find all the chikki wallahs, is the last turning on the left before reaching Naya Bans. Gupta Chaat wallah is on the left of Gali Batashan before you turn into Kothi Shri Mandir.  Here’s a map of the exact locations.  Go soon, though, the hot weather is on its way!

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=z5yQqd-1sTFU.kwW3uh74zD_M

Cooking the Book: Recipes from Korma Kheer and Kismet – 1. Sita Ram Diwan Chand’s Chana Bhatura

Image

While I wait  for my editor to put her red pen through the manuscript for Korma, Kheer and Kismet,  I’ve finally found time to  test the book’s recipes. Even though it isn’t a cook book – more of an Old Delhi street food memoir –  each chapter contains one or two recipes.  Some of them were given to me by street food vendors, others are my own versions based on watching the cooks at work.

First to be tested was one of north India’s favourite comfort foods: Chana Bhatura, specifically the version made by  Sita Ram Diwan Chand.  They have been making their magnificent dish in Paharganj since their ancestors arrived in the area after Partition and I once was lucky enough to spend the morning with the shop’s owner Pran Kohli.  He patiently showed how they make all the various elements, the chickpeas, bhatura, pickled carrot and tamarind chutney.  I blogged about it in 2009 and it has been the most popular post on Eat and Dust ever since but somehow I never got round to making it myself. (although I do frequently make my friend Anita Dhanda’s extremely easy and delicious recipe for Chana Bhatura).

I  was right to feel daunted by their incredibly detailed recipes and can finally testify that Sita Ram’s recipe is not for the fainthearted cook – it took me about a day and a half to complete – but it turned out to be well worth the effort.  As well as being very time-consuming, the recipe is also  very nuanced  – from the careful spicing of the chick peas and potatoes to the subtle accompaniments like the pickled carrots, paneer-stuffed bhatura, and tamarind sauce, every element of the dish has a vital role to play in producing an astounding range of flavours and textures. We’ve been happily gorging on it for days.

So here it is, a (rather lengthy)  sneak peek of one of the recipes that will appear in Korma, Kheer and Kismet. It’s been thoroughly tested and somewhat amended from my original scribbled notes from Pran Kohli of Sita Ram Diwan Chand.  Of course it’s not as good as his – after all they’ve been practising since 1947 – but it’s still an outstanding dish to make at home.

SITA RAM DIWAN CHAND’S CHANA BHATURA

Serves 6-8

Chana

500g chickpeas

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 cassia leaf

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

150g chopped onion

100g yoghurt

100g peeled and chopped tomatoes

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 heaped tablespoon anardana (pomegranate seed) powder

1 tablespoon garam masala

½ – 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste)

Spiced Potatoes

2 medium potatoes, boiled until cooked with skin on

½ onion, finely chopped

1 tomato, peeled and chopped

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon red chilli powder

½ teaspoon anardana powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in cold water.  In the morning, drain then put the chickpeas in a large pan with the ginger, cassia leaf, bicarbonate of soda and about 2 ½ litres of cold water.  Boil the chickpeas until they are tender but not mushy – about 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, melt a tablespoon of oil or ghee and brown the onion.  Add the yogurt, chopped tomatoes and turmeric.  Stir well and cook on a low heat until the mixture is a deep reddish brown then remove from the heat.
  3. When the chickpeas are ready (retain the cooking liquid which will be much reduced) add the onion/tomato mixture and stir well.  Add salt, pepper, anardana, garam masala and red chilli powder and stir well.  Continue cooking until the gravy has thickened then take off the heat.
  4. To make the spiced potatoes, peel the boiled potatoes and chop into 2cm cubes.  Heat a tablespoon oil in a pan, add the chopped onion and tomato cook until browned.  Add the turmeric, salt, black pepper, red chilli powder, anardana powder and garam masala.  Cook for a few minutes until the spices are roasted.  Add the potato cubes then stir well to coat them in the spiced mixture. Stir the potato cubes into the chickpea mixture.

Bhatura

Makes 12

150g plain flour (maida)

150g semolina (sooji)

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons yogurt

150-200 mls water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Bhatura Stuffing

150g paneer, finely chopped

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon garam masala

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

5g chopped fresh coriander

  1. Mix together the flour, semolina, salt, yogurt and 150 mls of water.  Knead well until you have a soft, springy dough.  As the flour and semolina absorb the water, you may need to add more water.  After about 5 minutes of kneading you should have a smooth ball of dough. Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover and leave for 4-5 hours.
  2. To make the bhatura stuffing, combine all the ingredients and mix well.
  3. Work a tablespoon of oil into the rested bhatura dough then divide it into 12 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball between your palms.  With your thumb press a large dent in each ball, put a dessertspoonful of the stuffing into the dent then close the dough back up over to cover the stuffing.  The stuffing should be completely enclosed.
  4. Roll each stuffed ball out as thinly as possible.
  5. Heat about 6 cm oil in a kadhai.  When a small piece of dough dropped into the oil rises quickly to the surface, the oil is the right temperature to fry the bhature.  Gently slide in one bhatura, let it cook for a couple of seconds then press it down with a slotted spoon – this helps it to puff up.  Flip the bhatura over and press down again.  When the bhatura is golden brown and puffed up, removed to drain on some kitchen roll.

Pickled Carrot

The pickled carrot needs to be started a few days before you want to serve the chana bhatura.

200g red, ‘desi’ carrots

5g black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon turmeric

juice of 2 limes

250ml water

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon red chilli powder

  1. Peel and cut the carrot into small batons about ½ cm thick and 6cm long and place them in a clean jam jar.
  2. Mix together the mustard seed, salt, turmeric, lime juice and water.  Pour over the carrot sticks, close the jar and leave the carrots to steep for at least 2 days.
  3. Drain off the pickling liquid, rinse the carrots then mix with ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon red chilli and mix well.  The carrots are now ready to serve.

Tamarind Sauce

1/2 cup tamarind water (imli)

6 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder

1/2  teaspoon red chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Mix together all the ingredients in a small pan, bring to the boil then let it bubble for a few minutes until slightly thickened.

Serve with the chickpeas along with slices of raw onion, pickled carrot, and tamarind chutney.

Image

Eid ul Azha Prayers at Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid

Recently, I’ve spent way too much time sitting at my desk writing about Old Delhi, and not nearly enough time doing what I love most – actually being in Old Delhi.  But yesterday, a couple of friends and I decided to try and catch the Eid ul Azha prayers at Jama Masjid .

Thinking the prayers would be the first  of the day, we dragged ourselves out of bed at 4, only to find the mosque closed.   A policeman suggested we come back at about 8.  A difficult moment.  I’m not going to lie – at this point, still half asleep, staring at the locked gates of the Jama Masjid, the temptation to head straight back to bed  was enormous.  It was a very close call but  somehow we forced ourselves to stay, and I’m so glad we did.

Of course every walk in Old Delhi is an adventure but there’s something particularly special about watching the city wake up. First, though, we needed to wake up properly ourselves.  We wandered down into a very dark and  almost deserted Matya Mahal and found a tea shop.  Several sweet chais and omelettes later,  and after quizzing every Muslim customer about the exact time of prayers, we were ready to take a stroll.

We found many stalls starting to set up including this splendid young man taking care of the pre-dawn Kachori business

The beautiful emerging light showed off the dazzling sweet displays which people would later give as Eid gifts.

At the junction of Chitli Qabar lines of prayer mats were being laid out for early prayers, stretching back along the lane from a mosque in Churiwalan

The soft, barely audible sounds of the mosque and  gentle rhythms of the prayers were mesmerising.  As the line grew and we were pushed further and further down the street, we realised we couldn’t get back to the Jama Masjid without disrupting the men’s prayers so we looped back through the tiny back alleys, where  we joined hundreds of men in  fresh white kurtas all heading in the same direction.

Eid ul Azha, which is also known as ‘Bakra’ (‘goat’) Eid is one of the most important dates in the Muslim calendar.  It commemorates   the moment the Prophet Ibrahim’s faith was tested when Allah asked him to sacrifice his son Ismail.  Allah replaced Ismail with a goat at the last moment hence the tradition of sacrificing  a goat immediately after the Eid prayers.  The meat is then distributed among family, friends and the poor.

At the mosque we were shown into the ‘press gallery’ a raised platform with the best view in the house.

The mosque was full (it can hold up to 25,000) and even beyond the walls, every bazaar and piece of open ground was filled with neat rows  of worshippers.

When the prayers started, everyone, inside and out, moved in a single wave.  Sitting high above the bazaars, it felt as if  the soft prayers had the power to silence the city.

At the end of prayers, everyone turned to their neighbour and embraced. Eid Mubarak!

As everyone exchanged Eid greetings, I looked  out over the Meena Bazaar side of the mosque. The early morning mist  seemed to blot out everything beyond the Old City.  It felt as if, for a few moments, there was, again, nothing but ‘Sheher’.*

A good feeling.

* ‘Sheher’ means ‘city’ and is the name for Old Delhi used by residents and former residents.  It refers back to time when Shahjahanabad was the only city and everything beyond the city walls (where New Delhi now lies) was wild jungle and primitive villages.

Kishan Lal Halwai – the rock god of Old Delhi sweet makers

Narender Lal, rock god

I’ve been putting off posting about this recent Old Delhi find because the pictures I took are so terrible. Like this…

Not an illegal poker game, a sweet shop

and this…

Literally throwing money at the guy

Then it occurred to me.  The reason the pictures are so bad is that the food is just so good and the crowds so mental that it’s impossible to get a shot without  being trampled in the crush.  How could I not pass on such treasure?
The chaotic scene you see above is played out every evening on Chandni Chowk and if you didn’t know any better you’d think it was a high-stakes illegal poker game.
In fact it’s possibly Old Delhi’s most popular sweet shop.
Actually, it’s not even a proper shop, more of a nightly pop-up event in the doorway of what during the day is Bishamber Dass Prannath Jewellers.
Whatever you want to call it, Kishan Lal Halwai make some of the best sweets and samosas you are ever likely to taste.  The proof:  the trays of freshly made Sev ki Barfi, Karachi Halwa and samosas which are carried in at about 7pm are gone within an hour.
As you can see, above, people are literally throwing money at the poor guy whose job it is to weigh the sweets out.
Despite its seeming impermanence,  this is no fly by night operation.  The family have been in  business for over 50 years; the founder,  Kishan Lal, used to sit outside the Mercantile building on Chandni Chowk.
The business is now run by the founder’s son Narender who I imagine must feel like the rock god of halwai  every night in life.
They also have a shop in Sitaram Bazaar  which I later remembered visiting a couple of years ago  during monsoon when they make stunning ghewar.  I didn’t manage to get any good shots then either…

A sweet maker at Kishan Lal in Gali Shankar

Ghewar, although not Kishan Lal’s

The sweets I sampled, Sev ki Barfi and Karachi Halwa, are some of the best, and certainly the freshest, I’ve ever eaten.  Sorry there are no drool-inducing close-ups – you’ll just have to take my word for it.
A huge thanks to my high-energy companion for the day, Surekha Narain, for pointing out Kishan Lal’s spot in Chandni Chowk.
How to find Kishan Lal:  The stall is at 1210 Chandni Chowk and is directly opposite landmark shop  Chhabra 555 which is roughly halfway down Chandni Chowk on the Gurudwara side.
Arrive before  8, though!
To find their Sitaram Bazaar workshop: from Chawri Bazaar metro walk almost to the end of Sitaram Bazaar, then turn right into Gali Shankar.  Ask for Kishan Lal Halwai

Gorgeous Goddesses and Lashings of Aloo Puri in Old Delhi

Saturday was Ashtami, the 8th day of the nine-day Hindu fasting period known as Navratri  (literally, ‘nine nights’) during which the goddess Durga is honoured.

Food, as ever, plays an important part.

Continue reading

A Western Disturbance and a Winter Lunch at Khan Hotel, Old Delhi

As the temperatures rise and Delhi-ites rush to get their ACs serviced and start to dread the long, sweaty slog ahead, we have been granted a few days’ reprieve in the shape of unseasonal chilly squalls.  This, we are informed by every daily newspaper,  is thanks to the ‘Western Disturbance’,  a term used in this part of the world to describe a sudden cold snap caused by extratropical storms in the Mediterranean.

The cold winds and swirling leaves are making  me think back to some of the lovely book-related  Old Delhi outings  of the past few months that I never got round to blogging about.  Winter is such a great time for Old Delhi pottering, when the city is  warm and cheering  rather than exhaustingly hot.

Back in January, for instance, on the day of the Lohri , I went for a stroll in the area which specialises in gajjak – a jaggery/nut brittle  eaten and gifted during this winter harvest festival. The gajjak shops turned out to be not too far from Chawri Bazaar metro towards the Khari Baoli end of Lal Kuan, and seemed to  envelop the area in a tantalising nutty, jaggery aroma.

In Frashkhana, there was a cluster of shops overflowing with nutty delights and doing a roaring trade.  It was a street I hadn’t explored before and  was keen to keep going but Rahul my rickshaw driver stopped after about 100 yards and said it wasn’t safe to go any further as the end of the gully marked the beginning of G.B. Road, Old Delhi’s red light district.

I wanted to linger, though. Luckily I spotted a busy food stall snuggled up to an old Mughal archway. Bathed in the soft winter sun, Khan Hotel was crowded with workers in their cosy woollen tank tops, an old man was making bread and all seemed well with the world.

The shop’s young proprietor, Chaman Khan, looked astonished  when I strolled up and ordered a plate of mutton and potato – I suppose not many foreigners stray into these parts.  One of the workers ushered me to a bench in the gully under the arch where I sat and dipped my fresh tandoori roti into the gravy, studiously ignoring Rahul’s rising twitchiness. The meal was simple and homely with none of Old Delhi’s signature spicy pyrotechnics –  also on offer was potato and spinach and dal, each served with the freshest of bread for 20 rupees a go.

Eventually, I gave in to Rahul’s constant reminders that this was not a good area and got back on the rickshaw.  Returning via Lal Kuan, we stopped at Lal Ramkrishan Das and Sons where a huge crowd was blocking out a beautiful display of gajjak. I sampled a few – a perfect chaser to the savoury meat – then watched sugar being spun at the back of the shop. (unfortunately I’ve managed to delete a video I made of this!)

Just looking at these photos makes me feel winter is already a distant memory but if the Western Disturbance troubles us for just a little bit longer, we can enjoy a few more leisurely Old Delhi strolls.

Khan Hotel, about fifty yards up on the right of Frashkhana coming from Lal Kuan

Lal Ramkrishan Das and Sons, gajjak shop, on Lal Kuan next to the opening for Rodgran Gali 

A Delhi Street Food Feature For Feast Magazine

Here’s a link to a feature I wrote for the Australian food magazine ‘Feast’. Photographer  Alan Benson and I did this in May when it was boiling, boiling hot and even I was finding it hard to eat huge amounts of deep-fried food!  At Dilli Haat craft market we were literally the only people at the food court.

Alan’s  photos are gorgeous though – Old Delhi never looked better and happily, there are no shots of my red, sweaty face in there!

Feast Feature