Three dishes with four spices and a generous garnish of love come in the form of Teen Pateela, a new restaurant in Meharchand Market. 64-year-old publisher and food enthusiast Shekhar Malhotra is the brain and heart behind it. He shows how simplicity is delicious.
The menu starts with Dal Ferozepuri and ends at Punjabi Aloo with Tomato Paneer in the middle. The recipes come from Malhotra’s maternal grandmother’s kitchen when she would devotedly make meals for her family. “Sitting in her chowka (kitchen), she would be rolling away rotis to perfection while taking turns to check the simmering daal. It was cooked overnight on a slow fire. We as children would sit ready to devour the flavorous servings that came our way. Everything was demolished to the last morsel,” says Malhotra.
The memory stayed as a strong motivation. Years later, he took those recipes from his mother. He was certain that the young generation would value them, while for the old, it would stirrup nostalgia. “I believe in ‘keeping it stupid simple.’ Complicating food matters is unnecessary. Fewer dishes cooked to perfection will outshine exhaustive menus that are hard to keep up with,” he says.
The restaurant uses four spices. These are hand pounded in stone chakkis by the women of Lajpath Bhawan that supports their livelihood. These are jeera, haldi, dhania and mirch. The food is cooked in desi ghee (clarified butter). Malhotra is happy to send miniature tins of extra ghee in 20 or 30 ml containers should you require an extra lump of indulgence.
Teen Pateela has worked out a range of pickles such as lemon, carrot, ginger, haldi and green chilli that his younger daughter Malika lovingly makes and preserves in large martaban jars. His elder daughter Priyanka, helps out as much as she can.
There is homemade churan on offer that you must try and salsa made Indian style with lots of spices and chillies. It’s called Balle Balle, owing to its Punjabi inspiration. On their days off or when they pack up early because the food for the day gets exhausted, they make kada prashad and offer it those around them.
Not many know that Malhotra is the co-founder of Café Turtle and Full Circle Publishing House. His daughter Priyanka takes care of both actively but his wife and he had launched it back in the day. The cafe too, like Teen Pateela, had a simple approach. “My wife who enjoyed baking would send desserts for the cafe and we made the food at home,” he says.
Simplicity is the key point of his endeavours. His gravitation towards a simple life came from years of running around as a publisher. "Even though I had an incredible team, it was a one-man show. You were answerable for everything. I was tired with so much intellectuality and decided to step back," he says.
Now at 64, he works the first part of the day and at 4 pm, retires to his cosy home and listens to ’60s rock music. Sometimes she plays the organ or the trumpet. Slow and soulful.
At: 96, Meharchand Market, Lodhi Road, New Delhi