The Kismet of Jamaluddin and a Recipe for Kheer


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.


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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What I’ve been watching/reading while flat on my back

So one good thing about having a dodgy back is that you’re forced to take it a bit easy.  This has meant watching way more TV than usual – happily we’ve recently started subscribing to a service that lets us watch British and American channels.  I’m now up to date with every food programme on the BBC,  including  Nigel Slater (always inspiring) Lorraine Pascale (wonderful new baking talent) and Raymond Blanc (always more French than he has any right to be after 100 years of living in Britain).  I’ve also plodded through the rather dull  Brit version of Masterchef – not a patch on the Oz series – enlivened only by an appearance by the wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi.

I’ve also been able to catch up on some food-related reading, and thought it might be nice to share. Among other things,  I’ve been enjoying various anthologies of American food writer M.F.K. Fisher and the New Yorker collection of food writing.

As a lifelong sugar addict, this lengthy article in the New York Times, ‘Is Sugar Toxic?     scared the life out of me and while I’m not about to turn my back on all things cake and jalebi, I’ve decided to give up sugar in tea and coffee to see if I can stall the inevitable slide towards diabetes and worse.

My Twitter friend Robyn Eckhardt who runs the wonderful Eating Asia blog from Kuala Lumpur wrote this thoughtful piece about safely eating street food as applicable to eating street food in this part of the world

While I’ve  been feeling very low energy, I’ve been marvelling all the more at those bloggers who seem to juggle effortlessly job, family and three posts a week, including pictures and recipes.  One of my recent favourite, super-energetic bloggers is Kathy Gori. A screenwriter and once the voice of Rosemary the Telephone Operator in cartoon series Hong Kong Phooey (I remember it well!) Kathy writes a wonderfully entertaining Indian food blog even though she lives in Hollywood and as far as I know has never been to India.  Kathy seems to cook and blog constantly – this week she’s  been cooking up some seriously impressive-looking momos.

Another  blog that caught my eye was this cutie – a young cook living in Paris who invites people to her tiny apartment for lunch.  It took me back to my own garret-living days in Paris.

I loved this article about the two families of sufi singers in the Nizamuddin area of Delhi, written by my fellow Mint writer, Mayank aka The Delhiwalla. We lived in Nizamuddin  for a while and Thursday nights in the dargah listening to the qawwals  were some of our most magical times in Delhi.

It was good to see three British restaurants appearing in the world’s top 50 restaurants announced last week.  It seems like a really exciting time in British cooking (contrary to what Masterchef would have us believe!) – I’m really looking forward to trying out some new taste sensations when we’re home in the summer.

And finally, for fun, a big talking point in our house this week: what was Domestic Goddess Nigella Lawson thinking going to the beach in this hideous burkini? Has she lost the plot or was it a clever two fingers up at the paparazzi?

Goodbye Sachin, Hello Haleem


A little over two years ago I met the wonderful Eating Out In Delhi gang and it is no exaggeration to say that they altered my food horizons forever. Through them came my life-changing introduction to Indian street food and a lifelong addiction to Chhole Bhature.

At  EOID’s helm was Hemanshu Kumar who organised regular jaunts to obscure eateries – we even had a couple of out of town gorging sessions – our trips to Amritsar and Lucknow will stay with me forever.  Eating street food became less of a priority  for Hemanshu, though, when he got married recently. Several other founder members  have also moved onto pastures new. We meet sporadically now but it’s always the highlight of my week – eating and laughing, laughing and eating, then a bit more eating.

Last night we met to say goodbye to our friends Sachin and Prajakta who, sadly for us, are moving back to their beloved Bombay.  So that’s the sadness. Happily the food was exceptionally good and Prajakta kept us all entertained with hilarious impersonations of Kiran Rao.

Sachin had chosen Purani Dilli in  Zakir Nagar for his last supper and what a treat it turned out to be. Zakir Nagar is a Muslim area  near New Friends Colony positively overflowing with good things to eat.  The main street of Zakir Nagar has the party feel of  Matia Mahal in Old Delhi, with the added chaos of people trying to drive 4x4s down it. Purani Dilli is at the far end of the street so it can take a while to get there and for me it was an anxious rickshaw ride as Sachin had warned us that the Haleem for which the restaurant is famous would be finished by 8.15.  By the time we arrived there was only a spoonful of Haleem left and it looked a little forlorn  – hence no pictures.

The taste, though, was divine.  I don’t exactly know how haleem is made (and I’ve spent way too much time on Twitter this morning trying to find out!)  but I do know it’s a dish that originates in Hyderabad, a divine marriage of mutton, ghee, wheat, lentils and spices.

Bizarrely, the thing it most reminds me of is French ‘rillettes’ – meat, usually pork, slow cooked in fat then shredded and served as an extremely rich paté. When I lived in Paris rillettes were my passion (and  downfall in the dress size department) and I think Haleem might be about to become my Indian equivalent. Both dishes have a soft, soothing yet incredibly rich texture (that’s the beauty of ghee and pork fat!), set off perfectly by good bread.  In Paris that meant baguette, at Purani Dilli a perfect naan.

The Haleem was so good I couldn’t focus on anything else although the mutton stew alone would be worth a return trip.  And there will be a return trip – but next time I’ll be setting out earlier.

Thank you to Sachin for choosing Purani Dilli and thank you to both he and Prajakta for sharing some of my best times in India – eating!  All the best to them and their gorgeous little girl Aanya – we’ll be down to sample some Bombay street food very soon.



Daulat ki Chaat: God’s Own Street Food

This time of year is bliss in Delhi.  After prolonged, air-conditioned  hibernation, it feels like the start of  the long summer school holidays, with every day a potential outdoor adventure until we’re chased back indoors in Spring.  The parks are full of power-walkers, tourists are taking their time at India Gate and al-fresco eating is the order of the day; happy family groups are out picknicking and we suddenly see the point of restaurants with gardens.

I always know winter is well and truly on its way when I spot the Shakakandi seller in Khan Market with his piping hot pile of roasted sweet potato – just say the word and he’ll load up a plate with scooped out flesh and douse the lot with masala and lemon juice – with optional kamrakh (star-fruit) garnish:  a mini feast to ease you through those awkward times when your next meal just seems a little too far off.

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Faqiri Muamalaat – making rice pudding pay!

inflation hits old delhi kebabs

inflation hits old delhi kebabs

Eating Out in Delhi trips are always an adventure, but the vegetarian excursions are a particular delight. Not because we’re all militant meat-haters. Quite the reverse in fact. However, despite the fact that most of us believe a meal without meat is no meal at all, our leader, Hemanshu, is committed to providing an equal opportunities dining experience.

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A World Heritage Greasy Spoon

Entrance to the canteen at Humayun's Tomb

Entrance to the canteen at Humayun's Tomb

They say you should breakfast like a king. I think we’ve gone one better and found a place to breakfast like a Mughal Emperor.

Our local world heritage site, Humayun’s Tomb, has always been the loveliest spot in Delhi, a tranquil world away from the Sufi pilgrim chaos on our side of Nizamuddin.

Until recently, though, Humayun was definitely on the ‘to do’ list of Delhi’s heritage custodians, with an overgrown charm and lots of potential. Now, following a comprehensive renovation programme by the Aga Khan Humayun’s Tomb has been transformed into a serious rival to the Taj Mahal and for us, a beautiful place for a morning stroll.

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