The Shahajahanabad food festival a Ssence at the Suryaa Hotel is nothing short of magic, not only because of the history it's seeped in but also because of the person who was making it. Food from the bylanes of Old Delhi cooked by Nazish Jalali, a lady who's had connections with a long line of royal khansamas.
Nazish Jalali is no ordinary woman. Despite no formal training, she's a Rampuri woman who's managed to collect recipes of the Mughal era that are on the verge of being forgotten, . And then has cooked up a storm that's truly fit for the kings. Home-style cooking that obvious won over the kings.
On the night, we went to attend the food festival, the spread reminded you of an old fashioned daawat. Served on beautiful silver crockery, you knew that you were going to be pampered. A platter of mutton seekh, chicken seekh and kachche kheeme ke kebab were brought out. Along with kathal ki tikki and the bhutte ki tikki under the vegetarian umbrella.
Osama Jalali, Nazish's son and the curator of the event explained how at home however these kebabs were made on the sigri and therefore retained all the fat and all the flavour.Unlike in the hotel, where it was made in the tandoor where it lost a significant amount of flavours. Yet the kachche kheeme ka kebab was stellar. Midly spiced with a pronounced fragrance of the badi elaichi, it was realy quite excellent.
As the main course was laid out, we heard tales of the mother and son's cooking escapades - about five-year-old Osama standing on the edge of a tandoor looking down at it, about a daughter who learnt cooking from the royal cooks and a new bride who cooked for her father-in-laws guest.
Aloo Gosht, Chicken Korma and Mutton Nihari were set out in front of us. And a mildly spiced parwal was piled onto our plates. Hot sheermals and khameeri rotis were laid down for us as we plodded our way through the curries. The chicken Korma was exceptional - curd based gravy that was scented with cardamon and tomatoes, I could have eaten it by the bowlful. The aloo gosht was superb too, light and easy on the palate, this was also Nazish Jalali's speciality.
The Nihari though deserves an paragraph on its own. Simmered over for six hours, the mutton was so succulent that it melted in the mouth. Spiced generously with fresh ginger and coriander, it was one of the stalwarts from the festival.
Steaming hot plates of biryanis were brought out. Nazish told us that they served it with a spicy garlic chutney instead of raita. The three coloured rice was mild, and not oily, so home-style that it won my heart over.
For dessert we had the zarda rice and sevaiyyan, both tasted fab and was a great end to the this fantastic meal.
The food festival is on till December 21st, so go there as soon as you can.