Julia Child in Delhi – Author Sadia Dehlvi Makes the Rarely-Seen Mango Qeema, H. Nizamuddin East
The great chef’s life in Delhi.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
If you want to taste some of Delhi’s best homey non-veg dishes, then you have no choice but to plot and scheme your way to become author Sadia Dehlvi’s buddy. She rustles out truly memorable meals that are always sweetened-and-spiced with a generous helping of love and gossip. Her delicious aloo saalan and safed daal has acquired mythical proportions among her wide circle of lucky friends.
In her 60s, Ms Dehlvi has written two books on Sufism. In fact, her drawing room shelves are weighed down with fist-breaking tomes on that subject. Her third book had an altogether different theme. It was her memoirs, embedded in a collection of family recipes that include dishes not usually found outside home kitchens, but which are firmly rooted to authentic Delhi cuisines.
Indeed, Ms Dehlvi says her family has been in the city for centuries. The name Dehlvi literally means “someone from Delhi”. Until a few years ago, she lived in a sprawling mansion on Sardar Patel Marg. Her late father and grandfather were publishers of the wildly popular film and literary Urdu journal Shama. In the evening, the house at “SP Marg” regularly held soirées. It went on to become the city’s informal cultural institution and was famous as Shama Kothi.
“Throughout my childhood I saw actors, writers and poets coming in and out of the house, and my grandfather loved hosting receptions for them.”
Ms Dehlvi recalls the old days by taking out black-and-white photographs stuffed inside a plastic bag. Here’s “ammi” with actress Meena Kumari; this one shows “daddy” with lyricist Gulzar; and over here a most arresting portrait of the “newly married” star couple Rajesh Khanna and Dimple Kapadia.
The family-owned magazine closed down during the 1990s “because of a dwindling Urdu readership.” Later, the fabled Shama Kothi with 40 rooms was sold, and the family dispersed. Ms Dehlvi moved to her present address, a four-room apartment in Hazrat Nizamuddin East. “For me, this move was a hijra, a symbolic migration where one encounters physical and emotional displacement that brings suffering. The pain purifies the soul, triggering an inner change that connects you with the truth, with God.”
Today Ms Dehlvi shares the recipe of kachha aam qeema with us. She got this recipe from Ameena Chachi. “Often while cooking, I call her up to check ingredients and cooking methods. She treated me to kacha aam qeema when I visited her one summer at her home in Civil Lines. I had not had it for decades, and it reminded me of the days when we all lived and ate together in our old family mansion on SP Marg.”
Recipe for Kacha Aam Qeema – Raw Mango Mince
1 kg mincemeat/qeema
2 medium-sized onions, golden fried
4 medium-sized raw onions, finely sliced
1 medium-sized raw green mango, peeled and grated
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp garlic paste
11⁄2 tsp ginger paste
1⁄2 tsp turmeric powder
2 green chillies, whole
2 tsp coriander powder
1⁄2 cup oil
Salt to taste
Heat oil and add fried onions along with garlic and ginger paste, turmeric powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder and salt.Add a little water and fry for few minutes till the oil separates. Now add mincemeat and fry till the water it releases evaporates. Cook on medium flame for about 15 to 20 minutes till half done.Add a little water to ensure that the mincemeat does not burn. Now add green chillies, raw green mango, and raw onions to the meat and cook on low flame till done. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.
The making of Sadia Dehlvi’s Mango Qeema