Julia Child in Delhi – Nidhi Rishi Cooks Her Fake Omelette, Raj Nagar, Ghaziabad
The great chef’s life in Delhi.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In the age of fake news, here’s fake omelette for you. (Disclaimer: it’s not as easy to rustle up as fake news)
Nidhi Rishi’s kitchen in Ghaziabad’s Raj Nagar is unusually big—as spacious as any respectable Delhi drawing room. But then besides being a homemaker, Ms Rishi, 61, is also an unusually passionate cook. Everything that’s laid out on her dining table almost always happens to be home-made including the refreshing plum sherbet she has offered to her guest this steaming afternoon.
Ms Rishi conducts cooking classes, too, and dabbles in a variety of cuisines from Chinese to Continental. Perhaps her instinctive flair for experimenting with a diverse range of dishes comes from her mother. The late Prabha Mathur was particularly known for her skill in bakery. Her cakes tended to be as big a scene stealer as item numbers are in Hindi films. “Mummy’s cakes would be spectacles… once she had presented a pudding with a flame burning flamboyantly on the top!”
Ms Rishi credits her dear mother as her first cooking teacher. Her childhood memories comprise watching her mother at work on her famed dishes. “Mummy would also make a lot of western dishes… her pineapple soufflé was very famous.”
However, her mother’s cakes would always be eggless. She was a vegetarian. “But Mummy often did make meat dishes though she never tasted them herself.”
Ms Rishi explains that in Kayastha families, like hers, it was quite common for men to be non-vegetarians but not their women. “But the ladies would gladly make all the meat dishes.”
This led to a unique genre of cooking — mock meats where veggie dishes would be made to look like kebabs and koftas. So kaleji ki subzi, in which kaleji means liver, is actually made from three types of dal. Kele ki machli looks like a fish dish but is made of bananas. Shami kebabs is rustled out of moong dal. And kathal ki tahiri, made from jackfruit, is passed off as yakhini pulao. Indeed, Ms Rishi’s niece Anoothi Vishal has authored a book on Kayastha cuisine with an entire chapter to mock meats.
Today Ms Rishi will make Nakli Aamlet, or fake omelette. She had it after her wedding night in 1977. “My mother-in-law, Swarup Mathur, made it for me… I learned it from her. It is now our family dish.”
It must be mentioned here that that while Ms Rishi is acclaimed in her extended family for her fake omelette, her husband is credited with making the real thing and apparently it tastes divine. “Sanjeev is so secretive about his recipe that he doesn’t let us enter the kitchen when he’s making his masala omelette for us!” laughs the proud wife.
Now Ms Rishi gets going in her kitchen attended by her kitchen help Sooraj. Consulting a handwritten recipe diary, she warns that Nakli Aamlet is tougher to make than Asli Aamlet—“It needs slow cooking and some good amount of patience.”
Good for 3 big pieces or 4 small pieces
White Bread: 4 slices
Sooji: 2 tbsp, slightly heaped
Besan: 2 tbsp, slightly heaped
Finely chopped onion: 1
Milk: 1 glass
Salt to taste
Red Chilli powder to taste
Chopped coriander leaves: a little
Haldi, a pinch to give the yellow color
Chopped Green Chillies: 5
Break off the slices with your hands and crumble them into small pieces in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. The batter should not be very smooth. Keep it aside for five minutes. Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add the batter, and spread it across the pan in the shape of a round omlette. It should not be big for then it could break. Cook on slow fire on both sides until crisp. Serve with mint chutney or ketchup.