Feature | Walking through the streets of Old Delhi on a cold winter morning #winter #food #props #delhi

‘Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity.”
Jonathan Safran Foer

Old DelhiThere can be nothing better than an impromptu walk through the streets of Old Delhi on a cold winter morning. Unplanned turned out even better. One day, a couple of weeks ago, I tumbled out of bed feeling restless and tired of work. The cold had been getting to me, work progressing slow and somewhat unsatisfactory! I needed a fix, and for me it was an instant decision.

Old Delhi With Mr PAB away in HKG, it was a free day. I literally tumbled out of bed into a very foggy and cold morning. Then bitten by the familiar addictive ‘old delhi bug‘ once again, within the hour I was on a train into the beautiful old city. The experience is always enriching, and to my delight, I found this impulsive visit an eye opener.Old Delhi 3For me, Purani Dilli or Old Delhi, or the walled city too as it is sometimes called, is synonymous with two things. Prop shopping is the big bait for the incorrigible prop collector that I am. And obviously, some of the best places to eat in Delhi is the other. It’s the ambiance that charms you, tempts you to go back over and over again – the flavours, the sights and sounds, the cacophony!

Old Delhi No North Indian food is complete without sweets, and the streets of the old city do not disappoint! Having never been to Old Delhi during the peak of winter, I was elated to dive straight into a light, airy and heavenly bowl of the elusive Daulat ki Chaat. Pure love!! It was everything Pamela Timms wrote it to be in her beautifully written book on Old Delhi – Kheer, Korma & Kismet! In the back of my head, the pages of her book turned, one by one. So much connect. Felt like kismet.

Old Delhi A quick chat with the gentle, sweet salesman and a few quick clicks later, I set off towards Jama Masjid. I wandered down the street which is home to some of the best restaurants in Delhi that offer old world rustic charm. Fresh, artisan food, aromatic, as spicy as you like it, flavours hard to find elsewhere. It was early and I wasn’t hungry for a meal, so just took in the flavours wafting through the air while lunch was being prepared. No sense of urgency at all, a languid charm, a nip in the air, lots of tea brewing everywhere..

Old Delhi Like most restaurants in Delhi, there is plenty of choice on offer here, though mainly North Indian cuisine. Since I was alone, I had plenty of time to take it all in. One place that caught my eye was a tiny little eatery offering Wazwan, Kashmiri cuisine. The tables already full with folk enjoying a late breakfast or an early lunch perhaps, the restaurant owner, an old man, was quite happy to chat with me. Old Delhi We talked about Srinagar since I had been there just last year, typical dishes {goshtaba, rajma, haaq, tabaq maaz, rogan josh}, that they cook everything on the first floor, how people come from far and wide to eat their food. I was really tempted but alas, with no appetite, instead opted for a nice cup of Kashmiri Namak Chai {salted tea}. What a revelation. Salty tea … deep, earthy, warming. Almost soup like! The best part was that the old man refused to take money for it. And that stunning samovar… a thing of everlasting beauty!

Old Delhi The samovar reminding me of why I was here, but sadly the shop I went in search for was shut. Quite disheartened, I hailed a rickshaw back to Chawri Bazaar and reluctantly stopped at a random copperware shop. Must have been my lucky day as the owners were more than happy to oblige! I returned giddily happy with stuff I fell in love with, stuff they couldn’t understand why I was so happy to buy. Once cleaned up, it shone. And how!!Old Delhi , food propsSpirits revived, it was another rickshaw ride again, this time to Khari Baoli as I had a promise to keep. Since it was past noon, the market is packed. Being Asia’s biggest spice market, trading is at a frenzy. The crowds carry you along, and it’s easy to get lost in all this mayhem. Visit it during winters as in summer the crowds can be pretty overpowering if you know what I mean. Bought some enamelware for a friend, some dry fruits that are always a part of the shopping list, took in the sights, sounds and smells… then very satisfied headed back to the train station. It was time to go back.

Old Delhi With a head full of memories and a bagful of goodies I reached home cold, exhausted but so so happy! I love any trip into the old city. The next trip will be on an empty stomach and with friends. The charm beckons you, the aromas call your name … kormas, rotis, rusks, sewain… it’s a food paradise. A food prop paradise too if you are lucky!

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


Baking | Oatmeal Nutella Whoopie Pies … and a peep into Old Delhi

“But there’s always a first time for everything”
Melissa de la Cruz

Oatmeal Nutella WhoopiesThese were cookies whoopies waiting to happen! One look at the inbox a few weeks ago and the Pioneer Woman had me bookmarking again. There’s loads of make-able stuff that Ree constantly churns out, and oatmeal in whoopies were right up my street. A few days ago we had Oatmeal Nutella Whoopie Pies!Oatmeal Nutella Whoopie Pies Whoopie pies are sweet baked delights that are a cross between a soft cookie and cake or pie, basically a set of cookies whoopies sandwiched together with a frosting. As expected they were a hit with the teens! It’s amazing how comfort food can bring out the kids in young adults. Both the ‘now much taller than me kids’ grabbed a pair each, pulled the cookies apart and proceeded to lick the frosting, savouring every Nutella lick. Then it was time to demolish whatever was left!!Oatmeal Nutella Whoopies PiesI took a small nibble of the unfrosted cookies and they were quite nice. Maybe I’ll skip the cinnamon next time as it reminds me of warm winter days. I think an orange zest kick would make yum summer whoopie pies! Mmmm, maybe that’s an idea since brown sugar, orange and chocolate are a good pairing.Oatmeal Nutella Whoopies PiesThe cookies were a tad on the sweeter side according to Mr PAB, so I’ll cut back the sugar next time. They disappeared really quick as I could see hungry eyes pick out the box from the fridge to devour the pies. I refrigerated them as the Indian summer has really kicked in, 42C and rising! Won’t even begin to tell you about the nonsensical and irrational power cuts…. sigh! Heat & Dust = North Indian Summer!Old Delhi, Purani Dilli It’s the beginning of a tough summer; a long hot month ahead before the monsoons get here. Then it’ll be hot + humid! On my list of things to do was a visit to Old Delhi which I managed a few days ago before the heat became unbearable. My Mum had some work there so I happily tagged along … Brass teapot, Old DelhiOld Delhi, Purani Dilli I bought this charming brass teapot {pictured with the whoopie pies} from a shop near Jama Masjid. I also climbed up rickety old ladders and pulled out vintage handmade copper boxes from a dusty old shop that sold copper by the weight. We had a wonderful local guide who walked us through quaint places, like Mohalla Kabristan which quite literally translates into ‘Graveyard Colony‘.Old Delhi, Purani Dilli It was an uncanny feeling having to walk nonchalantly around graves that lay in your path! This little colony was built ages ago around old graves that dot cemented streets. Goats languish lazily around every possible corner, heat, dust and more dust, shops that sell everything under the sun … beads, incense, bottles, cookware, bangles, buckets, cloth, paper, silver jewelery, fresh juice, food! Old Delhi, Purani DilliOld Delhi, Purani Dilli Old Delhi, Purani DilliA journey into the ‘walled city’ transports you into another world. We got onto rickshaws from the historic Turkman Gate {one of the 14 gateways to the Shahjahanabad of yore} in the heart of New Delhi. The minute we crossed the gate and took a right turn, the road disappeared into a ‘gali or narrow street! No cars, just rickshaws, people on foot, goats galore, mules too …. a different cacophony!Old Delhi, Purani DilliSome of my photographs might have a ‘rickshaw shake’ as we were in a hurry to get around, but I had to share them with you. It’s the essence of Old Delhi, a city I love, which appears rather mystically the minute you cross over into the walled area, or  Purani Dilli. The city  grows on you!Old Delhi, Purani DilliTomorrow I’m off to Goa with the kids for a short break, a revisit after a gap of over 20 years. Whoopie!! Hopefully will have some more pictures of yet another beautiful Indian city to share with you soon! Until then, here are my version of Rees whoopie pies!

Other Pioneer Woman recipes on PAB
Sweet Orange, Roasted Strawberry & Chocolate Buttermilk Rolls
Apple Cranberry Almond Olive Oil Pull-Apart Loaf & Popovers

PAB featured on The Pioneer Woman on Web Deliciousness: Strawberries!
Old Fashioned Eggless Chocolate Cake with Balsamic Strawberry Cream Filling
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This post featured on Huffington Post

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