‘Our food is about love’

A royal platter  

Osama Jalali is so passionate about food that he has become a self-taught chef. Talking to him is like getting a crash course in history; not just on the forgotten recipes of the Mughal era, but also its influences on our cooking and culture. Osama is in Bengaluru to recreate Mughal dishes, at The Oberoi till November 14 for lunch and dinner.

For Osama, food is all about bonding. “In India, there was a time when the family ate from the same dish. Our food was never about plating and presentation but about nutrition and love. Our food was always about slow cooking; it was never fast food. So, when and where did we go wrong?” asks Osama, who is here with his mother Nazish, wife Nazia and two children.

About his research, he says it all started when he was dining out. "It was meant to be a Mughal dish, but the dip served was so frothy, I started wondering if that was how it was meant to be.” From there he started reading up on everything related to the Mughal dishes. “I was joined by my mother and wife. We would spend hours in libraries, poring over books, history and recipes.” Then the trio embarked on a journey visiting old havelis in Rampur, Old Delhi, UP and other places, looking for more.

“My wife spent hours with the women of these households and learnt some traditional recipes from them. Our study showed us that the Mughals only used pepper and a little cinnamon in their cooking. They never used spices or chillies. Hence, during that time you found a lot of sweet meats, sugar and dry fruits were used in cooking meat sometimes even oranges!,” explains Osama

Nazia explains: “It was exciting as some people cooked and showed us, some just shared the recipes. So coming back home and trying it out and tasting the dish itself was an adventure.”

“People think that cooking meat is about masalas. We kill the taste of meat or a dish with them. A good recipe is one where no flavour overpowers the other but compliments the ingredients. So in the dishes we have recreated you will find a lot of nuts, sugar, jaggery, pepper and the gravy is made only from fried onions and curds. It is also a healthy and rich food. I am excited about how Bengalureans will react to these new flavours, but I assure you they will be surprised at the vastness of our heritage,” beams Osama.


Spotlight is on

Luleh kebab : A kebab influenced from Persia as Humayun’s wife was Persian. Skewered lamb kebabs rooled ina cardamamom and mint flavoured griddled naam with cucumber and pomegranate.

Murgh zameen doz : Chicken marinated with almonds, yoghurt and spices, wrapped in dough,cooked in a earthen pot under the earth, Zamin Doz. Influences of this style of cooking may be traced to Akbar’s alliances with the Rajputs.

Amba qaliya : Braised lamb with ‘kairi’, raw mangoes, onions, ginger, coriander, dry fruits and saffron. The fondness of the rulers with mangoes at varying stages of ripening is evident. This recipe is from the tables of Jahangir.

Mutanjan pulao : Layered rice and chicken pulao with cloves, orange, cardamom, dates and figs. The unique taste of spices, meat and sugar is interesting. Bahadur Sha Zafar was fond of creating new recipes, however, he hardly ate them and enjoyed feeding his guests.

Maleedah: Pounded ‘makke ke rotis’ with almonds, dates, apricots with sugar, cinnamon and cardamon powder

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 2:20:30 AM |

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