Food Festival Review | Dehlvi cuisine @ The Oberoi, Gurgaon … celebrating the flavours of India #India #independenceday

“Delhi is the twin of pure paradise, a prototype of the heavenly throne on an earthly scroll”
Amir Khusrau

Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, GurgaonHappy 68th Independence Day India. I’m reliving it with memories of the soul stirring and nostalgic meal at threesixtyone°, The Oberoi, Gurgaon. That we ate till we literally dropped, was bound to happen. It’s not often you get to taste a well researched authentic finger licking good spread of Dehlvi cuisine. The ever gracious Mallika, Manager Communications, invited a handful of us to experience this rare curated spread from a city that belongs to us.

North India, Old DelhiDehlvi cuisine {pertaining to the Delhi region} as the name suggests is an evolutionary melange of the cuisine of the Mughals, Rajputs, Punjabis, Marwaris, Kayasthas and Vaishyas blended by the centuries. As the British empire moved it’s capital from Bengal to Delhi, it brought with it a potpourri of folk to run the administration. As Delhi became the  hub of political, social and commercial activity, people from different communities found livelihood here. With them came interesting and unique culinary influences.Old Delhi, Purani DilliAfter all, food is the ultimate comfort and each region and community contributed their little bit. What evolved over the ages was a very interesting platter. Aromas that were unique and rare, flavours that seemed improbable. Where else would you find the tropical guava in a curried savoury version. That was indeed a highlight of the meal, Amrut sabzi. Yes, we had seconds too.

Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon This season, threesixtyone° pays tribute to the flavours inspired by old Delhi. The menu includes delicacies that have been researched from over centuries in a medley celebrated as ‘Delhi 6′, all curated by Chef Dirham Haque, our Indian masterchef. Dehlvi cuisine is flavoured by treasured spices that enhance and distinguish the flavours of one community from another.

Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon Talking to the very sweet Chef Dirham, who obligingly kept us company through the meal, the meal took on nostalgic flavours. He spoke with passion about the origin of every dish, his trips into Old Delhi to get to the root of the origins, his search for rare forgotten ingredients, and the connect he made with the different communities. This brought new light to the meal, a celebration of culinary history.

The uniqueness of Dehlvi cuisine lies in its fascinating mix of traditions, geography, culture and community influences that have partaken to lend their own intrinsic stamp: The Mughals after their many invasions, the hardy Punjabis after Indian partition and settlement, the Kayasthas and their peppery flavours, the Vaishyas and the Marwaris with their rugged aromas. The myriad blend of spices, aromatic infusions, base ingredients and staples juxtapose with earthy relish in the vast array that’s Dehlvi cuisine.

Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon For the table, which had a mix of us from different communities and food backgrounds, it was non stop banter. Put seven excited ladies on a table with celebrated chefs, good food and culinary history, and you will be assured of a noisy corner! The beautiful threesixtyone° at The Oberoi is well lit, surrounded by a body of water, was somewhat noisy that afternoon!

Khari Baoli, Old DelhiThat it was popular was obvious. There were folk constantly walking in to savour the delicacies, maybe to connect to a cuisine somewhat forgotten. For locals, it’s a nostalgic connect as the flavours of Old Delhi charm you, an environment that is as colourful as it is captivating. As you can see from my photographs, I go to Old Delhi  often.Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon We began with Mufarra, a royal version of the ordinary sherbet, a drink of Delhi’s aristocrats or Farmaishi Khwan of Shajahanbada {Mughals}. It was quite sweet. Then it grew on you. Saffron, rose, mica, sandalwood I think … it had all the trappings of royalty!

Dahi gujjia, Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, GurgaonThe first course offered a window into Saadgi Khwaan or comfort food as well. Dahi ki gujjia with a special chaat masala, sprinkled over with the quintessential pomegranate pearls and chutneys. From here onwards, it was a journey through the streets of Old Delhi which took us from the mansions of the rich to ordinary everyday street food, from Farmaishi Khwaan to Sadgi Khwan. A well curated meal, stellar company and never a dull moment.Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, GurgaonThe starters had a selection of flavours from Delhi’s different communities. Gilawat ke kebab, Silbatte ki shammi, Tandoori tangri, Gosht methi doka, Teekhe matar ke kebab each of them were uniquely spiced. The Gilaawat got my vote, with the Gosht methi doka and Shammi not far behind; something for everyone’s pallet!

Mains, Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon Then on began the never ending mains, an exciting medley of flavours. Dehllika mussalum, tender baby chicken filled with forcemeat napped in a golden rich nutty gravy, Thande masale ki machli, Bharwan Karela, Kunni Dal, Dhlvi Nalli Nihari, Amrut Sabzi, Paneer Lavang Latika, Bharwaan Tindora Keema … and so much more. Recipes taken from old homes in Babar Lane, cooks of Mathur households, delicacies of the  Vaishyacommunity, specialties of old Punjabi households… we dived into them all. Deliciously!

Dahi gujjia, Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon 9My favourites here were the Amrut sabzi {can guava ever be so charming in a curry?}, Nihari {beautifully cooked, served with all the trappings}, Kunni dal and the Bharwan Tindora Keema. Oh and the Bharwaan Karela too {despite not being a fan of the bitter gourd, this was finger licking good!}Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon On the side arrived a selection of parathas inspired by the famous parathas of Pandit Dayachand Shivcharan of Daiba Kalan – mattar , aloo anaardaana, gobhi aur adkrak. Also on the side, a Mirch nimona saada pullao, Sarai ki biryani and interestingly Naan e bakumach. So much goodness that we were thoroughly spoilt.

Meetha, Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, GurgaonThe cherry on the cake had to be the dessert or Meetha. The cup of nostalgia overflowed. How could each of us not connect to the Royal Fruit Cup! Taking us back to the good old days of tinned fruit, a moussey custard whipped cream, reduced milk or rabdi.

Royal Fruit Cup, Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, GurgaonIt was magic in a cup, a recipe that Chef Haque said possibly took him the longest to get right. It was well worth the effort and worth every spoonful! Then arrived the show stopper. An old fashioned hand churned ice cream maker, wooden trappings and all. Gently and royally wheeled to our table, we were served the most creamy delicious hand churned mango ice cream, just like we enjoyed as kids.Oh yes, the royal meetha also included a very Bollywood inspired Kulfi khaas madhubala Dehlvi. a great end to a sumptuous meal.Dabba Ice Cream, Dehlvi Cuisine Festival at threesixtyone at The Oberoi, Gurgaon

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Baking | Dark Chocolate Fresh Plum Wholewheat Meringue Tray Bake …. delicious mouthful!

“Some of us come on earth seeing.
Some of us come on earth seeing color.”
Louise Nevelson

Dark Chocolate Fresh Plum Wholewheat Meringue Tray Bake Dark Chocolate Fresh Plum Wholewheat Meringue Tray Bake … a bake that ended my bout of lack of inspiration. The heat and humidity is killing. Back from Leh, an exhausting trip that was messed up by the travel agent, didn’t seem to make life better. It was a trip I had waited for forever … then came the mail a few hours before we were due to leave about an error in bookings their end! Try that at 11000ft, tired teens, rarefied oxygen levels …. just didn’t work!

Leh, Kashmir 2015The past few months have seen my nose to the grinding stone, trying to make up for lost time. A project to be completed, the daughter to be packed off to uni, loads of emails in the things to do, a few small things in the pipeline … and then the everyday meals, laundry, grocery, dog etc. Of course hungry teens at home for summer vacation didn’t seem to make life easier.

PlumsThis was a few days before she left. They were hungry yet again. There is this time in the afternoon between 3 and 4 that some hunger goblins visit our home. I wish I could turn invisible at 3 o clock! Really do. Those goblins have surfaced without fail for the past month. I decided to beat them to it.

resh plums, summer stone fruitI had plums in the fridge… and thoughts of a whole wheat fresh plum cake I had made last year! It was time to work on those lines. A last minute thought made me save some whipped egg whites for the top; wanted to make a visually fun cake. Little did I know that when it would bake, it would endlessly remind me of our trip to Leh.Leh, Kashmir, IndiaWhy? Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw when we landed in Leh. To our mind, we were going into the mountains, at 11000 feet, the majestic Himalayas which would be GREEN and snow topped. 11000ft to me meant more snow that would exceed any we had seen when we visited Srinagar, Kashmir in March. Leh, Kashmir 2014Boy were we gobsmacked. I think we didn’t realise that Leh is a cold dessert. I could’ve never imagined those endless mountains of mud, rock and BROWN! Very National Geographic, very awe inspiring, very unlike what we expected.Leh, Kashmir 2015 That’s not to say the view wasn’t stunning. It certainly was. Still this cake reminded me so much of the vast rocky terrain. Mountains higher than one can imagine, and all made of mud, rocks, actually HUGE boulders, and in many places not a spot of vegetation…

Leh, Kashmir 2015… until we reached where we were booked to stay. On the way to the beautiful Nimmu House, which we eventually got to after the travel agent messed up our bookings, we even saw something like a Grand Canyon. Nature never fails to astound!

Leh, Kashmir 2015 Such a vast terrain, never ending mountains, beautiful wooden gates, doors I could pack and run away with, windows too.Leh, Kashmir 2015 Rustic outdoors that left you wanting for more, more than the eyes could capture. Fresh mountain air as clean and crisp as could be. The landscape was unreal at times, took my breath away …. yet left me with ‘brown’ stamped in my mind.

Dark Chocolate Fresh Plum Wholewheat Meringue Tray Bake And then the tray bake happened, just on the go. One look at it and it was an uncanny feeling. It reminded me of the Leh landscape in so many ways. Unexpected, rustically beautiful {in my eyes}, with unusual tones the brown sugar meringue picked up with the dark chocolate melting into it.

Dark Chocolate Fresh Plum Wholewheat Meringue Tray Bake One bite later and it was pure joy. Moist, deeply chocolaty, delightful plum undertones, what a fun bake this tuned out to be. Must have been the plums that created some berry like magic in there.

Dark Chocolate Fresh Plum Wholewheat Meringue Tray Bake There’s still some summer left here in the plains you are enamoured by stone fruit like me. Go grab some plums and begin experimenting. You never know how yummy life might get! Plums, peaches and cherries will soon be gone, and I will sadly miss them. We are looking at a long extended hot season though…sadly, the rains have failed to show up!

Dark Chocolate Fresh Plum Wholewheat Meringue Tray Bake Have you ever made a cake inspired by landscape or a vacation? Would love to hear about it!

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Event | Food Styling Workshop at Indian Food Bloggers Meet, Bangalore 2014 – ‘food-o-graphy’

… where food tells your story!

THEMEDo moods, colours, stories, ingredients, seasons, connects, props and everything in between paint your daily canvas?  They do for me, an obsessed baker and cook, a ‘locavore’ by design, who enjoys getting food to the table with seasonal ingredients and local produce. Phalsa ka Sharbat Give me an ingredient, offer me an idea … that’s enough for the magic to begin! Thoughts flow, the lens focuses and I begin to dream!

Phalsa ka SharbatWriting my food blog since Aug 2007 made me move from just baking, to baking and taking pictures. Then came the abundant inspiration from the magical internet. Styling the food for the lens became second nature; stuff my dreams are made up of.Amaranth Oat Walnut Ginger Cookies I want to tell my story, and most of the time it is through pictures with some words to tie the post together! I am seldom lost for inspiration as seasons, colours, ingredients, people all inspire me. When I hit a road block, you will probably find me at Pinterest.

Mango Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta I devour cookbooks for meals. I am fascinated as I turn pages of my favourite authors … Ottolenghi, Donna Hay to name a couple. They inspire me. I dream food, FOOD in pictures actually. Vibrant, rich, colourful, moody, picturesque … then wake up with thoughts of how to capture my dreams.Coffee Shortbread Cookies I am also an obessive prop collector, hardly a secret from those who know me. I’ve been one for years, even before I began food styling. Vintage and rustic props make my DNA! So when Aparna asked if I might be interested in doing a Food Styling workshop at the IFBM in August, I said YES PLEASE!

Hazelnuts and kumquatsFood styling is something I love, and something I find engaging. The good thing…the more you see, the more you share, the more you learn. Creativity is very individual, and for me, it exposes a part of me in every frame. Moody more often than never, I sometimes step across to the lighter side too … whatever tells my story!

Roasted bell peppersHomemade evaporated milk for Tres LechesSo hope to see you at the Indian Food Bloggers Meet at Bangalore for a little ‘ food-o-graphy

Summary of the Food Styling Workshop – Every food story is unique, rich and worth a share. Through the lens, I’m here to discuss how to capture the story behind your food. Connecting the ‘dots’ or rather crumbs, let’s try and see how we can slowly develop our trademark style!'food-o-graphy' by Deeba Rajpal. A Food Styling workshop at the Indian Food Bloggers Meet 2014

Will discuss basic planning, building a frame, setting the mood, using props to tell your story.

PAB food stylingHope to see you there! Would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, thinks you might like included etc. Look forward to catching up with you!

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

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