Fork Spoon Knife is the personal blog of Asha where she chronicles her journeys in food through stories, recipes and photographs. She can also be found doodling and sharing her experiences as below.

 
                        

{VOTING OPEN} A Taste of Home Dinner Party for Project Food Blog Challenge #3

Voting is now open until 6PM PST on Oct 7, 2010. Please use this link to vote. Thank you very much! :)

Ras Malai
Ras Malai

Luxury: indulgence in and enjoyment of rich, comfortable, and sumptuous living!

My husband and I moved to NYC from our homeland a few years ago. So did many of our friends. When we moved away, we left behind quite a few luxuries that we did not recognise as such until their loss was felt.. immensely. One of those was the simple pleasure of having food that we grew up with, the simplest of meals, Dal Chawal (Rice and Yellow Dal) and the joy of having that cooked, lovingly, by our mothers in exactness to our preferences.

The theme of the third challenge in the Project Food Blog contest was Luxury Dinner Party. For my dinner party, I chose to host the flavors of my home country, which, in many ways has indeed become a luxury, not often enjoyed but always highly cherished by us and our friends. Caught up in a world of professional and other commitments, we find ourselves often yearning for the flavors we grew up with. For many of my friends, who don't often cook, having a home cooked Indian meal is becoming a luxury.

So, I felt that a proper Indian meal was indeed a luxury for all of us and would be a fitting challenge entry.

Microsoft Word - Project Food Blog Menu Template for Challenge 3

Today, I share with you tips and recipes for Entertaining the Indian Way . Some typical dishes from different parts of India, entertaining customs and tips to make life easy while hosting an Indian dinner (it can be elaborate!).

This evening's menu was a combination of comfort and nostalgia, reliving flavors from our childhood, some very easy to make and some a bit more involved. I have included recipes for some of the feast and linked to more authentic Indian dishes you may want to try.

Now on to the entertaining ideas -

Aloo Tikki
Aloo Tikki

1. Every Indian dinner begins with Chai. Even if you arrive at 8 pm, you will be asked if you'd like some chai and inevitably, the answer will be "Yes". Chai is the welcoming invitation to unwind, the signal that separates the frazzle outside from within and sets the tone for a relaxed evening.

Chai is usually served with biscuits (for dipping) and an assortment of Namkeen. Namkeen can be anything from store bought (you can also make it at home) snack items like sev, murukku etc. to homemade stuff like aloo tikki/cutlets (what I made), vada pav, bajji etc. As you see, this is sort of the time when the appetizers make an appearance.

2. Dinner is usually buffet style. This makes life really easy doesn't it. Rarely, is casual dinner at an Indian home, a formal occasion. We like picking up food whenever we want and mingling around chatting or lounging in different places around the room and having a heated discussion on the deplorable plight of Indian politics and/or mutual acquaintances' love life! The important thing is that the food should always be accessible but not in a way that it can become projectiles!

Dal Tadka with Chawal
Dal Tadka

3. Always have Dal on the menu. It can be the simplest yellow dal to the more rich Mughlai versions but trust me, you can never go wrong with dal. And, it's the ultimate comfort food for all Indians. Dal is made in many many varieties using so many different lentils across India but the one common characteristic of us Indians, is that we love dal in any form! And, the good news is that it is super easy to make.

4. If you have to make one meat item, pick Chicken. It's a safe choice. Most Indians who start out to eat meat (non-vegetarian) start with chicken and then move on to more adventurous items like mutton and fish:)

Coriander Chicken Kurma
Coriander Chicken Kurma

5. You don't have to make everything. Source them from quality places. Any dinner with multiple courses is usually prepped and cooked over multiple days. It can become a lot of effort and sweets especially can be quite involved. So, make your life easy and buy/source from people you know are good. The Ras Malai here were made by one my friend's moms. She makes simply divine Ras Malai!!!

6. Ice cream is an essential choice for dessert. Indians love ice cream; I guess it's the perpetual heat in the country and hence round-the-year viability of ice cream. But, no matter how wide or fancy your dessert spread, it isn't complete without ice cream.

Anjeer (fig) ice cream is one of the popular flavors of ice cream in India. I made my version of it for the party using fresh figs poached in balsamic vinegar.

Balsamic Fig Ice cream
Anjeer Ice Cream

7. Potlucks are typical and very normal. For the same reason as above, many a time, dinners are a collaborative effort with each guest bringing in something that makes it to the table. It's the proverbial wine bottle. Btw, in Indian parties, the alcohol is usually provided by the host only.

8. Finally, be prepared for a long evening. Indian dinners are rarely time bound and they can stretch into the night only limited by flow of conversation, food and drunkenness! :)

That ends my long monologue on the subject. I hope you enjoyed the read of some of our idiosyncrasies... :)

Macchi Fry
Macchi Fry


Oh! A parting tip: Always have the exhaust on as also nice scented candles while cooking. Yes, Indian food sticks to you and around you long after it is consumed. The spices tend to hang heavy in the air and especially if you are making fried food (like the fish fry above), I would definitely recommend opening up as much ventilation as possible and infusing other pleasant aromas into the living space.



Dal Tadka

2 cups masoor dal (yellow lentils)
1 medium onion, diced
3 whole cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of diced tomato
3-4 curry leaves
3 green chilies, sliced vertically
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1-1/2 cups water
ghee (clarified butter/ brown butter minus solids) as needed
salt to taste

If you have a pressure cooker, cook the lentils with salt until done. If not, cook in a vessel, with sufficient water until cooked fully.

Gently saute the garlic in some ghee until they release flavor. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and curry leaves and wait for them to pop. Then, add the onion and cook til translucent. Add salt and all the other dry spices and roast for a minute and then add tomatoes and cook completely.

Add the cooked lentils and water and stir everything together. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 5-7 minutes. Adjust consistency with water as needed. Before serving, add a tablespoon of ghee to the dal.



Coriander Chicken Kurma

6 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cubed
4 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bunches of coriander
5-6 green chilies (Indian or Thai)
2 cups coconut milk
2 tsp cumin seeds
5-6 cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
2 whole star anise
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp garam masala
salt and oil as needed

chicken marinade:
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
salt per taste

Toss the chicken in the marinade spices and set aside for atleast an hour. When ready, saute the onions and garlic in oil until soft. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a blender, combine the coriander, chilies and onion mixture to a puree. Brown the chicken pieces and reserve. In the same pan, saute the cloves, cinnamon and anise in a little oil until the aromas are released. Add cumin seeds and roast for a minute. Add all the dry masala and roast for a few seconds.

Pour in the blended puree along with the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add the chicken pieces and cook on medium until the chicken is done. You can adjust the thickness of the curry by adding water. Every time you add water, bring the mixture back to a boil.

Below are more ideas of authentic Indian food. For more inspiration, check out all my Indian recipes.

Appetizers:
Curried Egg Pastries
Murukku


Main Courses:
Mango and Mint Dal
Meen Kozhambu (Madras Fish Curry)
Madras Crab Curry


Sweet Bites:
Cashew Burfi

64 comments:

  1. I really would like to be invited to your table Asha. Everything is so inviting !

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  2. Your pictures are amazing, and LOL at the exhaust fan tip! Defintely need that when the macchi is frying! It was interesting to see that you serve tea before dinner, we usually do it afterwards.

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  3. Wow! Just wow! These pictures are mouthwatering inducing and your writing is incredible! It's so nice that you brought some culture to the dinner too. Looks wonderful! You know you have my vote!

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  4. Wow, Asha, the photos are just so mouthwatering and evoke such a beautiful feeling of comfort and luxury. You've captured it so lovingly! I wish I could taste my screen. I really love how you explain each course and the significance. Beautifully done!!!! One day, I would love to shadow you in the kitchen!

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  5. This is such an elegant meal. I love Indian food but the restaurants around here are so bad I've been wanting to make it at home. I really appreciate the time you took to explain the customs and the order in which food is presented. I like the idea of doing it right - according to custom. Beautiful post and photos...again! Thanks.

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  6. the dishes look luxurious, i'm sure your guests had a lot of fun. i wish i could have made it in round 2 but seriously, i feel a lot better knowing challenge 3 is in very very good hands :P congratulations and can i rsvp to your party? :)

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  7. What an amazing post! Love the food and photos. You are very talented, Asha!

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  8. I have to tell you Asha, if there has been one food that I have been craving lots recently it has been Indian! The Aloo Tikki looks marvelous, and the coriander chicken kurma looks like something that I must must try soon, fortunately I have all of the ingredients at home. You'll have to some over to my apartment one of these days, so that you can teach me a dish or too.

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  9. you just blew me away with your simple yet elegant menu! If I were one of your guests, I'd have licked my fingers like a typical desi. lol

    all those dishes look mouth watering and presentation is very elegant. I like how your presentation and choice of flatware and etc is well blended with Indian theme and a bit of western theme. great post. i know i shouldnt say it in public, but i will vote u!

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  10. Asha - it takes a lot of talent to make all of that food for a lovely dinner. I'd give anything to be invited to something like this - but definitely a close second is having been able to look at the pictures and attempt to create these myself.

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  11. Wow! I have been following your blog almost religiously and have loads of admiration not just for the variety but also the effort you put in some of your meals and posts!
    This is one helluva meal you have prepared. If you ever happen to be in Switzerland, my kitchen..uh..I would be happy to play host :)

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  12. Always a treat to watch all ur pics...luv rasa malai and u r making me crave for some right now :)

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  13. Great post! Learnt a few things I didnt know before :P
    No wonder when I visited a friends yst her mum insisted on me having a kulfi (with cardamon and saffron)! hahah
    Oh and your chicken kurma looks great!

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  14. Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments!! I wish we could all cook together and share each others' cultures through food! That would be soo awesome...

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  15. Asha, what a beautiful dinner party; very practical tips, too. I actually made aloo tikki myself (for the first time)! Yours are beautiful! Well done!

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  16. It sounds like a lovely way to spend an evening, with good food and friends. I love that it's so relaxed and casual.

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  17. Very nice words, Asha !!! In a way, your life experience resembles mine..I also left many things behind the day I left my country...Then the post is great, because we learn about the food of your country..traditions people like me maybe don't know that well..I would have LOVED to have been invited!!

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  18. I was lucky enough to spend a lovely week at my friend Meena's (she lives in Birmingham, U.K though, not India!) and her mum made the most amazing dishes and of course, there was always dahl. I love Indian food and am fascinated by the differences from region to region, great post!

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  19. You know what luxury is and these photos illustrate it so well. GREG

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  20. Thank you for sharing these wonderful delicious specialties! What an amazing feast!

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  21. This is my kind of dinner party. Awesome. I would love to try that fig ice cream. I love indian food but i only make a few things so your blog has inspired me to do more. Awesome and you will get my vote tomorrow.

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  22. It is well arranged with indian dishes aroma . very delicious and tasty. suparb party
    i am ist time here .wonderful space do visit my blog iif like follow i have punjabi dishes
    santoshbangar.blogspot.com

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  23. Indeed it's a very elegant dinner! Everything looks so tempting... and I really would be like to be invited :)

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  24. Your photos just reminded me of the meal I had in a luxury North Indian restuarant in Bangalore!

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  25. Great dishes. Good luck and you have my vote.

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  26. All of your food looks absolutely incredible!! But the fig and balsamic ice cream?? I NEED to try that. Awesome job with challenge #3; I'm super impressed! :)

    Sues

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  27. uh second that comment from we are not martha. lets have a fig and balsamic ice cream party together! thanks!

    http://whitneysamusebouche.blogspot.com/

    Whit

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  28. Asha this is a wonderful dinner party...Just gorgeous, and I love the menu...Perfect, voted :)

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  29. VOTEDDDDDDD! Good luck! Wish you all the best!

    jen @ www.passion4food.ca

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  30. so luxurious!

    (see my entry here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/3/view/1094)

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  31. What a gorgeous dinner for a sweet reason -- and I love all your Indian-specific entertaining tips! Great to know! You have a vote from me!

    My dinner party was designed to take the diner food from Gooch's Diner, where my parents first met over 40 years ago, and elevate it to luxury for their 39th wedding anniversary. Come see if you'd like :)

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  32. I love how you stuck to your roots and take such amazingly beautiful food photography. And it's so true: homecooked meals are fast becoming a luxury in our day and age. A vote for you, my dear!

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  33. I'll probably say this a thousand times but your photos are just jaw-droppingly beautiful! The menu for your party looks incredible. I think I'd be happy if you gave me any one of those dishes to eat, but imagine all of them together - yum! What's the Ras Malai? Is it anything like kheer?

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  34. good luck dear,..;-) awesoem post

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  35. What a mouth-watering menu! Love all of the dishes fit for the utmost luxurious dinner party! I voted! Good Luck! :)

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  36. Muhaaaaaaaaaaa I want to come for this dinner in FSK.
    I agree with you about leaving home for a another country and missing the most somplest food whch we took for granted.

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  37. Your meal looks amazing, I want to duplicate everything, great job! You get a vote!

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  38. Beautiful photos, lovely presentation and delicious food! You definitely have my vote!

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  39. "Be prepared for a long evening" - this made me chuckle, it's so true. The best thing is how goodbyes are said at least 4 times, inside the house, at the door, on the porch, at the car, with entire conversations in between :)
    Loved the elegant pictures. My vote's in. Good luck!

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  40. homey, morish and very very elegant! beautifully presented and makes me want to stop talking, grab a chair and enjoying the meal.

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  41. delicious we make similar dal and curries
    yummy

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  42. Your menu looks great! Hope we both make it to the next round! :-) You have my vote!

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  43. Asha,

    I love Indian food, one of my closet friend is name also Aasha, she has an extra "a" at front.

    I can see you have great many indian meals recipe here. I love Tadka daal with Mango powder!

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  44. I've never seen Indian food photographed so beautifully!! I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog on the voting page. I'm looking forward to following your future posts!!

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  45. I've never seen Indian food photographed so beautifully!! I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog on the voting page. I'm looking forward to following your future posts!!

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  46. amazing. voted for you! hope we both move forward. :)

    http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/3/view/1080

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  47. Asha, this looks like a delicious meal. Any time you need a taster, let me know! - Charmaine

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  48. We got to see a lot of Indian dishes in last week's challenge, but nothing like this. Your ice cream shot is gorgeous, I want to see you perfect picture. You've got a vote of mine this week, good luck!

    Lick My Spoon

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  49. Lovely lovely lovely. This post is so well written and so creative. Indeed my idea of luxury is my Nana's cooking..now that she is gone I really miss it. Cheers! You definitely got my vote, hope we both make it to the next round! :D http://bit.ly/cNNCrR

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  50. What a great post! I bet this party was so special to you and your guests- I love the menu!! You've got my vote!

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  51. Great post! The food looks great and your photos are stunning! Nicely done. I voted for you!

    Good luck!

    Fingers crossed that we both advance to the next round. =)

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  52. i just made your coriander chicken korma....i mean like i finished making it two minutes ago, i cannot stop licking the spoon...i did squeeze in half a lime at the end cos i felt the coconut milk was too sweet for my taste....but overall just yummy..we will be having it with rotis tonight. thanks!!

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  53. Double comment :-( As I tried to say in my comment that disappeared was that I accept your open invitation to stay with you whenever I come to NY to visit. Simply amazing meal and recipes that I have bookmarked. Stunning!

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  54. I love that you chose to do traditional Indian food that you grew up with... so beautiful and elegant. Great job with this challenge! Good luck!

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  55. Your photos are amazing. You have my vote! Good luck!

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  56. The minute I looked at the rasmali I know I had to vote for you. Wonderful clicks.

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  57. Although I was born in the south in the US, Indian food is truly my comfort food. I so would've enjoyed this meal! I know what it's like to miss the tastes of home; so glad you were able to recapture some of that w/your menu! You have my vote:)

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  58. congrats on winning this challenge. good luck on challenge #4 =)

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  59. So yummy! really a winning piece. Woops....my stomach is growling!

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  60. Oh and you forgot to mention coming late to the party is fashionable, LOL! Loved the post

    -a (very) fashionably late guest to the party! ;)

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