The great chef’s life in Delhi.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Meet the Julia Child of South Delhi’s Greater Kailash Enclave Part-I. Himani Dehlvi lives in a cheery sun-filled apartment with husband, Vaseem, and cook, Zakir. A 50-something filmmaker, she is famous for her ‘go-to’ mutton kofta. This much-loved dish is not only a permanent invitee to Ms Dehlvi’s parties, but also to those of her friends.
Ms Dehlvi originally showed no promise of being a kitchen diva. Her lukewarm experiments with cooking began quite late in life. She was already in her 20s and was living in a rented garage-like room in Defence Colony. Her then boyfriend did his best to keep her away from the hot plate. Vaseem often brought her meals from his home in Sardar Patel Road without telling his mother—the formidable Zeenat Kausar. That grand lady has a very discerning taste in food—if she were a newspaper critic, all the Michelin starred chefs would have committed mass suicide.
But today, even Zeenat Kausar is a fan of her daughter-in-law’s ‘go-to’ kofta.
Ms Dehlvi remembers her late father, the celebrated painter Tyeb Mehta, saying, after having her fabled mutton balls, “Wah, kya baat hai. Mazaa aa gaya. (This was great. I loved it.)”
She got the initial lessons on this dish many years ago from a woman who lived in Saharanpur, a town near Delhi. “Parveen is married to a man known to my mother-in-law,” says Ms Dehlvi. Over the years, the filmmaker shaped the recipe to suit the preferences of her two sons. The elder, Farhad, lives with wife, Aashrita, in Los Angeles. The younger, Farooq, is in Bombay.
“Parveen has moved to Delhi… in Lakshmi Nagar,” says Ms Dehlvi. “But my kofta has changed too much from what she told me. I’m too intimidated to offer it to her.”
Here is the recipe of Ms Dehlvi’s ‘Go-To’ Mutton Kofta.
‘Go-To’ Mutton Kofta (for 10)
1 kg minced mutton
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
4 tsp bhunachana (roast gram) powder
5 medium sized onions
100 gms fresh coriander leaves
4 green chilies
1 cup cooking oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
3 tsp coriander powder
2 small cardamom seeds
4 black pepper
2-inch stick cinnamon
1 big cardamom seed (optional; I don’t use it in summer)
1/2 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp garlic paste
300 gms curd
3 large chopped onions, deep-fried till brown and crisp
Lightly wash the minced mutton, let the water drain out in a sieve. Add salt, red chilli powder, garam masala powder and bhuna chana (roast gram) powder to the mutton.
Grind 5 onions, 4 green chillies and 100 gms of coriander leaves in a mixer and add to the mince. Mix well with hand.
Now start on the gravy.
Add the whole cup of cooking oil into a large kadhai (wok) and heat. Add the whole garam masalas (cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper and cloves) and wait for them to splutter. Then add the garlic paste, ginger paste, salt, red chilli powder, coriander powder and stir. Add half a cup of water and keep stirring the masala. (This prevents the spices from getting burned.)
Let the gravy simmer for a few minutes. Blend the browned onions and curd in a mixer and add into the wok. Stir for a minute or two and then cover the wok with a lid.
Back to the minced mutton.
Make the kofta mutton into round balls, lightly rolling them in your palms. Don’t apply pressure.
After it is done, check on the gravy. The oil should separate to the side of the wok.
Add the kofta gently, one by one.
Cover the wok again and cook for 20 minutes on a slow flame.
You can shake the vessel once to stir. Be careful, stirring with the ladle can shatter the koftas.
Finally, sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and serve.
The making of ‘Go-To’ Mutton Kofta
1. (Himani Dehlvi)
13. (Zakir and Ms Dehlvi’s ‘Go-To’ Mutton Kofta)