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{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.

Curried Egg Pastries

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

Sweet Bites:
Cashew Burfi


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