Restaurant Review | Purani Dilli’s Al-Karam Kebab House … from the young and foodish!

“Time spent in India has a extraordinary effect on one. It acts as a barrier that makes the rest of the world seem unreal.”
Tahir Shah

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House You walk into a heady mix of the aroma of fresh kebabs, refreshing earnesty, a set up in the heart of Gurgaon where modern meets traditional and you hit a comfort zone! Varun Veigas puts you at ease instantly. His passion shines through, his brutal honesty surprises you but in a nice sort of way. He appreciates good food, from his competitors too, never one to play anyone down!

Khari Baoli, Old DelhiPurani Dilli or Old Delhi, the walled city, holds eternal charm. The sights, the sounds, the chaos, the mayhem, the colours all characteristic. I’ve gone there often to take in the ambiance, the pick up dry fruits and masalas from Khari Baoli, to shop for props … and of course to savour the cuisine. I love Old Delhi, and it’s wonderful to find at least the food a step closer to home! Purani Dilli, Old DelhiPurani Dilli’s Al-Karam Kebab House offers to recreate the charm of traditional purani dilli cuisine in the heart of bustling Gurgaon. They serve fare from the walled city near Jama Masjid, and do a pretty good job with it! Varun’s partner Umez Bhai has been running a restaurant {Afsar’s Al-Karam} which lies in the shadows on Karims and Al-Jawahar but claims to be only better. Varun invited us for a private tasting a few days ago.

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House The USP is fresh, good quality ingredients, honest prices and authentic flavours! Old Delhi or Purani Dilli is dotted with restaurants we’ve visited time and again. Sometimes the ride into the heart of Old Delhi for food you crave can prove cumbersome and out of reach. For times like these, Purani Dilli’s Al-Karam Kebab House is like a breath of fresh air!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House Under the able supervision of Umez Bhai, the team is professional, dedicated and focussed! The quiet and affable Varun joined us at the table. With bits of trivia peppering our conversation, his honesty and passion hit us! Mr PAB couldnt resist asking him if people mistook him for the young Rahul Gandhi. Varun burst into a smile and nodded. The gentle charisma shone through!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House The menu here has over 40 items on offer, all from the heart of Old Delhi. We began the evening with expertly made sutli kebas, where ‘sutli’ refers to string. These are tenderized mutton {or chicken} kebabs that are held together with string on skewers as they are very delicate. Absolutely delicious with a generous side of fresh onions, tomatoes and a green yogurt dip.

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House This was the beginning of many kebabs, each characteristically different. The mutton shami kebabs {deep fried} were melt in the mouth good, delicately flavoured and delicious. So was the chicken tikka … simple, mildly spiced and done just right, reflecting the freshness of the produce. The purani dilli chicken tikka followed next, these had a teeny bit of gravy that they were tossed in after being barbequed. Both tikkas had been tossed in a special dry masala mix and melted butter, very different and very delicious. Oh to have a larger appetite!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House What followed was the surprise dish that Varun was really excited to bring to the table, the keema stuffed naan … deep fried Indian puri style bread with a stuffing of delicately spiced mince meat. Mr PAB declared this to be the star of the evening. Despite being off wheat for the past so many weeks, he went on to devour the whole naan without a care in the world! Delicious he declared again, enjoying each morsel. I had a nibble on the side…it was truly good; very different. You must try this if you stop by. It’s a meal in itself, but you could dip it into some curry too!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House The curries were comforting, homey and reminiscent of the old world charm. The haleem was delicious. Gently flavoured, meat just right, slivers of ginger and almonds, this is a meal in itself. If you love haleem, then you’re at the right place! The other haleem I really enjoyed was the one at Dum Affairs. The nihari was yum too, beautifully coloured due to brown onions and minimal spices. The chicken ishtoo dished out for us was brilliant. Of course it was spicy with a liberal dose of red and green chilies, but the flavours were wonderful. If you like a hot curry, this one is for you. Fresh tandoori rotis on the side and you go back singing!

We were stuffed despite making sure we were served tiny helpings, maybe half a kebab, or a spoon of curry. Just before dessert was served, we sampled some achari chicken biryani. It was was spot on, each grain of rice separate, pickling spices standing out.

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House How could we leave without dessert? The excitement in Varuns voice was palpable. He loves that he can offer patrons ‘meetha‘ or dessert straight from the streets of Old Delhi. Steaming hot little bowls of the famous purani dilli ka habshi halwa were the first to arrive. Rich, warm, gooey and not too sweet, this is a famous part of Old Delhi culinary history. Made from sprouted wheat, loads of dried fruit, reduced milk and more, it is best enjoyed in winter and promises to warm you up! Did I say rich? Clarified butter oozed out of the fudge like halwa, yet the bowls scraped clean! Delicious as can be!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House They also proudly serve the best kulfi in town, straight from Kuremals in Chandni Chowk. Kuremal, a legend in Old Delhi, has over 500 flavours in house, some which are as innovative as custard apple, kala khatta, phalsa and tamarind. The flavours on offer at the Kebab House are rose, paan, anjeer {fig} and kesar pista. I went with anjeer and the hub with paan, while Varun joined us to devour the rose kulfi. The paan one was like eating a meetha paan I heard. I enjoyed the anjeer one immensely.

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House While the interiors are very basic and spartan, incidentally like you would find in the heart of Old Delhi, the area is buzzing with activity. A steady stream of patrons flowed in all evening, some purposefully headed this way, some following their noses to the delicious aromas that rose from the barbecue. A word about the team. Very gentle, polite and courteous staff, who let you know in advance to expect upto a 30 minute waiting time. Most folk like to stand around the bbq which has a nice open area around it. Well located, we hear that folk like to drive in and be served in their vehicles, like the good old drive ins!

Purani Dilli's Al-Karam Kebab House So if you are longing for some authentic Purani Dilli grub, would rather just hop across to somewhere closer than a ride into Old Delhi, this is the place to head for. Priced very reasonably {where else would you find a moorish generously stuffed keema naan for Rs 50}, Purani Dilli’s Al-Karam Kebab House offers you good great value for money, and delivers authentic taste too! They do serve a few vegetarian dishes too. As an added advantage, have a chat with the large hearted Umez Bhai who supervises efficiently and knows Old Delhi like the back of his hand!

 

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Festive Food | Moong Dal Halwa, Dark Chocolate Nut Clusters, Baklava from scratch … have a sweet Diwali

“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.”
Oprah Winfrey

Baklava, dark chocolate nut clusters, moong dal ka halwa 1Moong Dal Halwa,  Dark Chocolate Nut Clusters, Baklava from scratch how can we not go sweet on Diwali, the festival of lights? The halwa is special. The recipe is from the very sweet, talented and humble Chef Kunal Kapur, of Indian Master Chef fame. Masterchef Kunal Kapur judged a charity cook-off between a few chosen ones from the canola India Facebook contest and a couple of food bloggers. The chosen contestants came together to cook some healthy Diwali treats, in canola oil, for the underprivileged children from the NGO – Katha.

Baklava, dark chocolate nut clusters, moong dal ka halwa With an attempt to “Lighten up Diwali” for underprivileged children, Canolainfo joined hands with Masterchef India Judge Kunal Kapur to put together an inspiring afternoon and some delectable Diwali treats.

Phase I was online: inviting all food enthusiasts to upload a recipe of an interesting Diwali treat in order to participate in the “Light Up This Diwali With Canola Oil” contest sponsored by Canolainfo. Top 3 contestants were selected/invited to attend a charity cook-off, along with a few bloggers, at Banarsidas Chandiwala Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology wherein Masterchef Kunal Kapur judged the cook-off and interacted with the contestants. All the contestants were given recipes to make, in canola oil. The best out of all – Ms. Deeba Rajpal, chosen by Chef Kapur was given a hamper from Canolainfo. This was phase II of the event.

For the last and final phase, the Diwali treats made by contestants of the cook-off, was served to children of Katha, a non-profit that promotes children’s literacy. The event concluded with the children enjoying a healthy meal cooked in canola oil, put together for them along with an interactive session with Chef Kapur.

Canola, Chef Kunal Kapur, Katha

The spirit of the season took over. My first competitive cooking competition, which initially had me on the edge. Once we got talking, time really flew by. The entire experience was amazing. From weighing ingredients, working in a very very basic kitchen with just a bunch of utensils, shared space and basic ingredients, one simple dessert recipe bought us all together. It was a sense of community. That we had the timer on for 40 minutes was challenging is a small way. None of us had ever made a moong dal halwa before, let alone in oil. This was Chef Kunals recipe. It was cooked in oil versus clarified butter, then the oil was drained off. The texture was very interesting as there was a small portion of semolina in it that added texture to the halwa.

Moong dal ka halwa Otherwise a pretty straightforward recipe, the only important thing while cooking a halwa is to give it some TLC. Patience while roasting halwa is a virtue you need to develop. Hurry it up and you might not get the prefect end result! Kunal was a gem. Interacting with everyone, dropping pearls of wisdom when needed, the key was to keep your ears and eyes open! Suddenly, there was a twist. We had to incorporate any one of each the available fruits and spices in the halwa.

moong dal ka halwa On offer were cheekus, bananas, oranges and limes. The spice box offered nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, mace, cardamom etc. I opted for orange and nutmeg, and infused the sugar syrup with a whole orange, chopped up, peels bruised and grated nutmeg. It was a beautiful halwa in the end. I loved doing it. I won first place for mine too. Happiness!!

Katha, NGO, DiwaliTime really flew by. Before we knew it , we headed for Katha, an amazing and beautifully done up school. Seeing Chef Kunal interact with the bright eyed, eager enthusiastic kids was an emotional and satisfying experience. He has a gift, a special gift. Within 10 minutes he had broken ice and had all the kids literally eating out of his hands.It was time well spent!

moong dal ka halwa It was a nice launch of the festive season. With sweet cravings arising with Diwali, it wasn’t long before I hit the sugar on fast track. It’s just once in a while that I go on a sugar overdrive. Mr PAB and the lad had been on my case for moong dal halwa.

Baklava, dark chocolate nut clusters, moong dal ka halwa So that had to be made on priority. Dark chocolate nut clusters was what I made as gifts to a few folk that I like gifting over Diwali. I enjoyed doing them a lot, packing them onto pretty white platters, finished with a hand made card from the daughter. Coco was right in the middle of everything as usual!

diwali 2013, CocoThen of course, I got bitten by a terrible bug. I had some home made phyllo left over form the Daring Baker challenge {for savoury pot pies which I still have to post}. I made the pies using homemade phyllo as the base pastry. I doubled the pastry because I have wanted to make that baklava once again.

BaklavaThe first time I had made it was for the Daring Bakers two years ago. That was a beautiful challenge, and still evokes great memories. ’twas was only when I began rolling the phyllo, that I realised I was a glutton for punishment. WHY??? It was a rather long drawn exercise, with me cursing myself all along. Yet, I DID IT!BaklavaOnce you pop the layered and cut baklava into the oven, you feel like you’ve conquered the world. Once you take it out an hour later, pour the infused honey syrup all over it, you begin to smell sweet success! Just looking at the tin the next morning, and  you realise it’s been so worth every bit of heartache and hard work! You can find the baklava recipe here, though I used a slightly different phyllo pastry recipe.

Baklava, moong dal ka halwaThe dark chocolate nut clusters are easy. They are just tempered dark couverture chocolate with nuts mixed in, then dropped in spoonfuls on butter paper and allowed to set in the fridge.

Hope you have a safe and bright diwali. Eat a lot of sweets, light up some lamps, share loads, laugh lots!

[print_this]Recipe: Chef Kunal Kapoors Moong Dal Halwa  your picture

Summary: This simple and very rustic dessert is a die hard Indian Classic. We may not ask for it specially but if it is served especially in winters then it is difficult to resist. Often this halwa is laden with desi ghee making it a difficult for many to savour. But this recipe uses canola oil that is very light and healthy. Initially the recipe uses good quantity of canola oil but later in the recipe you will find that most of the oil is strained and what remains is perfectly cooked Halwa, which is with the goodness of canola oil. Serves 4

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Ingredients:

  • Moong dal— 150 gms
  • Sooji – 25gms
  • Canola oil – 200 ml
  • Sugar – 150 gms
  • Water – 150ml
  • Green cardamom powder – ½ tsp
  • Pista sliced – 2 tbsp

Method:

  1. Soak the moong dal in sufficient water overnight. Drain all the water completely and grind it to a fine paste.
  2. In a karahi heat canola oil and sooji. On slow flame cook soji till it browns. Now add the moong dal paste. On medium heat cook the paste till it is thick and finally oozes out the oil {should get to a light brown, the colour of wood}
  3. Remove from fire and transfer to a metallic fine strainer/sieve. Let the oil drain out. Wait for a couple of minutes. During this time mix water, sugar and cardamom powder and bring it to a boil and remove. { I infused the syrup with the rind and pieces of 2 oranges, saving a few cross slices for garnish}
  4. Place the paste back in a karahi and start the fire. Heat it and add the sugar syrup carefully. Now cook till all the water is absorbed and there are no lumps. If you see any lumps just add little water and reduce it again.
  5. Garnish with pista slivers.

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Baking | Wholewheat Dark Chocolate Biscotti, GF Buckwheat Mini Apple Pies & Wholegrain Coffee Chocolate Chip Cake … & a product review #élan

“You begin with the possibilities of the material.”
Robert Rauschenberg

Baking & Serving with élanMy love for food props is understated. I am avid lover and collector of any prop related to food, from a spoon to a cauldron! It’s no secret that I haunt the streets of Old Delhi looking for vintage finds, that I browse Etsy just to drool, that Pinterest is another favourite hang out. That’s probably the tip of the iceberg as food photography props are an obsession! élan is a refreshing discovery!

living with elan I rarely veer towards bright colourful props, maybe something to do with my inherent bend of mind towards pristine neutral whites and dull un-shiny metallics! No longer though! I was recently sent this BRIGHT POP ART styled cake stand with server, and 3 tier stand. Gingerly taken out of ‘the well packed box‘, they bowled me over!!

living with elan This was where the very talented NY art school graduate Vidushi Gupta, the creative brain behind ‘Living with elan‘ comes in. She describes herself as  “passionate about the tactile, the messy, and the raw – designs and colors that transcend the mundane and bring joy to your everyday life.

living with elan

élan is a treasure-trove of fascinating lifestyle products waiting for you to organise, garden, entertain, gift, and even entice. Buckets, boxes, caddies, gardening tools, blackboard markers, suspended hearts-birds-mini homes, lanterns, stools, trays, napkin rings and more! Enjoy basic geometrics, vivid colors, patterns, and raw textures. Each piece is handmade.

living with elan I was instantly drawn to the bright, cheerful colours, the interesting and refreshing designs, and the powder coated finish. I love metallic bric-a-brac, and élan fills my heart with joy. That they used the rather underrated and unexplored world of galvanized sheet metal {read unbreakable , long lasting and sturdy} is a HUGE plus for me.

living with elan  The filigree lacework on the cake stand and matching server, the very neat powder finish of the tier stand all scream quality. And this quality available in the very heart of the NCR is even better! The lady was sweet enough to offer me the rani pink cake stand {though she did ask me if I’d rather have another colour}. PINK fitted in beautifully with Pinktober and my breast cancer awareness drive.  How wonderful that the tiered stand also had a nice touch of PINK {and the server can be used with it too}… sweet!

living with elan 6The products are not painted – they are powder coated in an industrial oven to ensure maximum quality and life. All their powder coating is lead-free and safe for foods, so you can eat from any of them. There was plenty in Entertaining with élan for me, yet curiosity drove me to explore further! Plenty of ♥-tuggers I have to say…

Organizing with élan

Wooing with élan

Gardening with élan

Traveling with élan

Mini bird homes, bucket caddies, chantilly gift boxes, an amphora pitcher of l♥ve {♥♥♥}, everything organiser, a fabled accessory bucket, mughal flower bucket, a mughal pie in the sky storage box {♥♥♥}, the dabbawala box {♥♥♥} … I was running out of words! These are just a few of the products they have on offer. The vivid colours, thoughtful designs and versatile range makes sure there is something for everyone.

living with elanBetter still, they offer ‘tailor made‘ options! How cool is that? They can customise any product for you , match it with a theme or occasion, or both. Their existing line can be custom coloured to match party theme or brand colours. You can even ask for a brand logo to be added! Immense possibilities to create refreshing, happy moments!

Whola wheat almond Biscotti & Whole Wheat Coffee & Dark Chocolate Pound Cake Of course I had a field day. I made a Wholegrain Coffee Chocolate Chip Cake that morning. Almost similar to the one above, but for a teeny bit of buckwheat flour. Also sneaked some Chocolate Almond Olive Oil & Whole Wheat Biscotti from a batch baked for Mr PAB who was leaving for HKG. He likes to carry a ‘taste of home‘ with him when he travels!

GF apple walnut buckwheat piesBeing a kinda free day, I made tiny little GF apple pies with buckwheat just because …

I scribbled  the recipe on a scrap of paper and can’t find it of course. It was basically chopped apples, brown sugar, cinnamon powder, chopped walnuts & raisins, a few tbsps of buckwheat flour all tossed together. I patted them together into cupcake liners {thank you Finla}, dotted them with butter and baked them for about 20 minutes. The daughter loves anything apple, and loved these cold!

[print_this]Recipe: Wholegrain Coffee Chocolate Chip Cake 
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Summary: Light, moist flavourful crumb. A deeply flavoured coffee cake with bittersweet dark chocolate melting into the crumb. It’s a great tea time option, and is wonderful served warm. Whole Grain makes is a good choice to include on the menu. Top with crumbled demerara sugar cubes if desired!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Ingredients:

  • 175g whole wheat flour
  • 50g buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 100g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 200g vanilla or plain sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp coffee powder steeped in 2 tbsps warm milk
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • 1 tsp pure coffee extract
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped {I used 85% bittersweet}

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Line the sides and base of a 7″ round tin.
  2. Sift both flours with baking powder, baking soda and salt. Reserve.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by the coffee extract & steeped coffee.
  4. With beater on low add the flour and buttermilk alternately in three lots. Stir in chopped dark chocolate. {you could use chopped walnuts instead}.
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes till golden brown on top, and the tester comes out clean. Leave in tin for about 20 minutes.
  6. Overturn the cake out gently on rack, and remove the lining. Turn it back on another rack. Let it cool for about 30 minutes.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature

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