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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Blog Event | Search Out Loud #GoogleHouse, Google Café Day, Delhi

“If it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist.”
Jimmy Wales

Search Out Loud #GoogleHouse, Google Cafe Day, DelhiI am a HUGE fan of Google, of how dynamic it is; creative and interactive too. In  many ways I know I don’t speak for myself alone as Google marches ahead making life online simpler and simpler. Google India hosted a Google Café Day in Delhi showcasing the search experience for Indian users: English Voice Search in the Indian accent, The Knowledge Graph, and Google Now.

Search Out Loud #GoogleHouse, Google Cafe Day, DelhiThe demo driven event reflects Google’s continual effort to improve the search experience that will help Indians users find answers on the web more quickly and efficiently. Sandeep Menon, Head of Marketing Google India, led the demo. From asking Google where you can watch the latest movies to finding out cricket scores at the touch of a button,  help is just a click away, or rather just a shout away! Search Out Loud #GoogleHouse, Google Cafe Day, Delhi I came home and shouted into the Google Search App of my ‘smart phone’  … “SMS Rohan to have a bath now”. Smartly enough, hand in hand with Google, it first went to SMS, then asked me which Rohan from my phone book … and seconds later the message was sent!! Minutes later a curious Rohan emerged to ask about the unusually cryptic message. Once explained, he was pleasantly surprised and actually went to have a shower!! That explains the magic of Googles Voice Search for mere mortals like me.

customLogo.gifGoogle Café Day was informative and interactive, something that Google India has consistently done. From g|india in September 2012, where Google engaged with the Indian community of developers, business leaders, IT professionals and entrepreneurs who are as passionate about technology as they are …

World Photography Day … to World Photography Day  the Google+ Way in August 2013 in Mumbai, when professional photographers and photo enthusiasts were invited to step into Googles dynamic world of photo sharing. Google invited photographers to embrace technology with its easy to use features, once again showing how dynamic they are as a company.

Search Out Loud #GoogleHouse, Google Cafe Day, Delhi The Knowledge Graph is Googles growing model of the hundreds of millions of people, places and things that make up our world. Using ambitious technology and massive google-scale computing, The Knowledge Graph attempts to give you relevant information based on this sophisticated database.

Search Out Loud #GoogleHouse, Google Cafe Day, Delhi The third innovation introduced that day was Google Now, an anticipatory feature within Google Search that brings you the right information even before you ask!! The days weather, traffic en route, traffic hot spots and even alternative route suggestions, flight status, movie listingsGoogle Now brings it all to you proactively when you opt for Google Now in the Google Search App.

Search Out Loud #GoogleHouse, Google Cafe Day, Delhi The event was interactive, engaging and entertaining with a few special guests. Singer and model Shibani Dandekar, Indian footballer Baichung Bhutia, and Chef Kunal Kapoor were part of the demo team out to make each session fun! Appreciation must be given to the team that set up the stage for the event… attention to detail, excellent creatives, and a lovely play of Google colours made #GoogleHouse fun and imaginative!

Search Out Loud #GoogleHouse, Google Cafe Day, Delhi A down to earth, approachable team, interactive demos and engaging sessions are trademark of Google India. It’s interesting to see how they progress, how much they enjoy sharing their milestones with users across the spectrum, how ethical and focused they are! For a layman like me, I came back inspired as always. Thank you Google India.

 

Cooler | Phalsa Berry Sharbat – ‘Blendit’ like Vikas Khanna #summer #cooler #inseason #kitchenaidindia

“The more you know, the more you can create. There’s no end to imagination in the kitchen.”
Julia Child

Phalsa ka Sharbat Phalsa Berry Sharbat … the much dreaded ‘loo‘ or hot summer winds, dry and dust laden, sweep across the plains of North India. Summer here becomes intolerable at times, with ‘fry eggs on the sidewalk‘ like temperatures threatening your very existence! Then along come some of the best fruit that nature has to offer … and life becomes worthwhile again! This Phalsa Berry Sharbat helps you survive…

Phalsa ka Sharbat With a slew of summer fruit now being offloaded by the truckloads, we could not have asked for more. Red, luscious, juicy cherries, mangoes falling off hand carts, watermelons piled sky high on roadsides, peaches just about beginning to surface, Indian java plums too. And then the phalsa berry, a beautiful, tangy, astringent much awaited native Indian berry!

Phalsa, Grewia asiatica Packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, this humble little berry, Grewia asiatica, brings alive childhood nostalgia. Back then, almost 40 years ago, the silent afternoon would be pierced by the shrill cry of the ‘phalsa wala‘. You’d find him with a wicker basket, topped with a very wet gunny bag which he gently peeled back to reveal the precious little berries. The very fragile and perishable phalsa would change hands for a few pennies. Washed gently and tossed in rock salt, we would hungrily suck them, trying to extract the most from the almost impoverished looking fruit.

Phalsa ka SharbatSometimes if we were lucky enough, we would be rewarded with phalsa ka sharbat! It was pain staking to make and a special treat. Life is a little easier now, with gadgets that make life in the kitchen a breeze. Just one sip of this amazing cooler, in colours that uplift the soul,  memories of a quintessential part of Indian summer comes alive! Sharbats or ‘fruit and flower based coolers‘ are the answer to the beat the heat!

Kitchenaid Blendappetit  with Vikas Khanna Hymns from the Soil This takes me to the launch of the KitchenAid Pro Line Cordless Hand Blender in association with Masterchef Vikas Khanna in Delhi. The launch is a part of multi city #Blendappetit Tour spanning across India starting from May 20, 2014. While, the cordless blender is a unique, first of its kind, versatile product, it comes with an ultimate experience of ‘anytime anywhere’ blending.

Kitchenaid Blendappetit  with Vikas Khanna Hymns from the Soil This new blender from Kitchenaid India is a magic machine, ergonomically designed, a thing of beauty. It comes equipped with a rechargeable 12V lithium ion battery which gives it the power to perform efficiently. The super blender can blend, mix, whisk, chop, froth, puree, shred and whip up anything in a flash.

Kitchenaid Blendappetit  with Vikas Khanna Hymns from the Soil The very sweet and charming Vikas {I was fortunate enough to shoot with him recently} blended a lip smacking good kiwi smoothie from his new book.  The chef was affable as ever; entertaining, engaging, humourous! He connected instantly with the expectant crowd and soon had the gathering mesmerised. Ripples of laughter flooded the studio in Gurgaon with Vikas holding court, spinning out one anecdote after another. Stories of his home, his mother & grandmother, his inspirations, his journey from cooking a Rs 20 meal in Punjab to a Rs 20 lakh meal for Obama … yet humble and grounded as ever, a philosopher at heart!Kitchenaid Blendappetit  with Vikas Khanna Hymns from the Soil The afternoon witnessed the launch of his book- .Hymns from the Soil, his first book on Indian vegetarian food and a tribute to Mother Earth. It is full of nostalgic tales of his childhood, and in many ways ‘our childhood’. The ‘mitti ki khushboo‘ or the smell of the wet soil, planting his own vegetable patch, the vegetable vendors with fresh vegetables, seasons that spelt fresh produce {unlike now when you almost get everything round the year} … a touching evocative connect with the soil of the land. The book is beautifully written, with stunning pictures and recipes that call your name.

Phalsa ka Sharbat With so much talk of the connect of the earth, including the shrill call of the vendor that pierced the afternoon silence then, it’s a good time to share this recipe. I make the Phalsa Berry Sharbat every year, changing the recipe as I evolve, always in panic like the berries might disappear or go out of fashion. The phalsa season is a short one here just through May and June. Juicing these in my Thermomix is a breeze … which is why I make this quite often.

Phalsa ka Sharbat 6Phalsa ka Sharbat Not sure if taste buds change as the years go by, or the flood of flavours available and sugar laden options in packaged juices snatch simple pleasure away. Maybe it’s the slightly astringent aftertaste, but unfortunately, this isn’t the kids favourite sharbat. The boy loves his aam panna or raw mango sharbat, the daughter her cranberry juice. Thankfully both also love the daily fresh watermelon juice & smoothies.

Phalsa ka SharbatThe Phalsa Berry Sharbat takes the summer heat away, refreshes the soul, gives you a generous dose of vitamin C and antioxidants … what more can you ask for in these ‘oven like’ months? Oh yes, and if it takes you on a trip down memory lane, that’s even better! I’m loving it!!

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

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