Heirloom recipes are the treasures of any kitchen. They are priceless and have stood the test of time with their perfect blend of flavours. These are classics loved by all, for the comfort and satisfaction they provide at every bite. As the world advances, and finding a recipe on the internet is as easy as a snap of a finger, many of the age-old recipes have got lost with time or the ink blurred on the sepia pages of an old, tattered notebook. And it is for this reason that Village Degh is talked about much these days. Started by Chef Osama Jalali who himself is a seasoned food writer, researcher and culinary historian, Village Degh offers few dishes that use heirloom recipes and are prepared with patience and passion.
Slow Methods Of Cooking
If there is one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it is taking life easy, slowing the pace and taking a moment to smell the proverbial flowers. The shift has been towards concepts like slow travel and slow food movement. Slow methods of cooking were used by our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers. Many of us have grown up to okhlis, silbattas, handis being an integral part of a kitchen. I remember every year, copious amounts of spices would be ground in a huge mortar in our ancestral home in Kanpur. One had to stand up to ground spices using a 4 feet high pestle, and the house would resound with the rhythmic thwack of the pestle and sneeze when the masalas tickled our noses. The pounding of spices, garlic, herbs, salt is a full sensory experience. As the pestle pounds, aromas are released and flavors are compounded with every beat of stone on stone. Ancient techniques of cooking involve a connection with food and one who uses them displays is a sign of an engaged cook. Chef Osama Jalali, I know for sure, is engaged at every step of cooking in his kitchen. It is for this reason I eagerly waited to eat the delicacies that were arriving from Village Degh.
Strapped onto the back of a motorcycle, the humongous wooden hamper arrived with handis stacked on top of one another. Sealed carefully to retain the heat and then further wrapped in biodegradable cloth the whole appeal was rustic and alluring. Personally signed by Chef Jalali, a post card was handed over by the rider which also listed instructions to heat and a brief note about every dish.
“Back To The Days Of Yore, Food Fit For Royalty“
These words can aptly describe the food from Village Degh.
During the Mughal era, gosht was cooked all through the night to be served to the kings in breakfast after their morning prayers. The Shahajahanabad Nalli Nihari can be not far from that extravaganza. Lamb shanks are slow cooked in a myriad of spices absorbing flavours and adding textures to the dish. This is a delicacy that can have you unabashedly licking your fingers.
Situated on Amritsar- Lahore GT road and 30 km from Amritsar, Attari is the last village of India before the Wagah Border. The villagers there are robust people with robust appetites which in reflected in their food. The Attari Chicken curry at Village Degh cooks tender pieces of chicken in a rustic, delicious manner as is cooked in that region. Succulent chunks of chicken simmer leisurely in a feisty gravy, sending off an inviting aroma that is simply irresistible.
If you’ve never had Dal Gosht , you’re in for a treat. The Beramkhan Dal Gosht uses a special potli masala that is hand pounded in an okhli. The result is a flavourful lentil stew with goat meat. There is nothing more comforting than a combination of lentils, meat and rice. And we chomped on our food with Chitte Chawal, all tender and fluffed up.
Another dish that I absolutely loved was Rampuri Chicken kofte in which moist, juicy meatballs simmer in a saucy tomato-yogurt gravy using fresh spices.
The vegetarians need not despair. Village Degh offers Dal Langar, Ranikhet Paneer Curry and Mirzapuri Shammi Kebab Kathal. The freshly pound silbatta chutneys are the spicy condiments that take add extra punch to the food.
The Kadhao Kheer is rich and creamy and the slivers of coconut add a new dimension of flavours to it. An ultimate dessert!
From the time the food reached home in an environment-friendly packing to the moment the last morsel was eaten, I could not help but wonder the passion and effort it must have taken Chef Osama to cook a meal as magnificent as this. The painstaking travel to remote corners, the research and documentation are all worth an applause. The food from Village Degh traverses back through the pages of history to savour nostalgic flavours. It is a rustic, hearty experience, one that must definitely not be missed.
Note: This is my first post for October 2020. “I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s “My Friend Alexa”