13 June, 2013

An ethnic Indian evening ...

(Pic courtesy : shopping.kitchensofindia.com via Google)

Planning a dinner meet is something that comes naturally now.  There is nothing that can beat that feel of good friends, meeting up over good food and having a good time – enjoying the camaraderie and highballing that feeling of fun with some good games thrown in. 
Usually, we tend to invite friends over based on their food preferences – because this makes it easier to plan the menu and cook.  Vegetarian families invited over together or families that preferred non vegetarian food invited over together makes it easier to plan the menu.
This particular dinner party, however, is going to be a bit of a challenge.  This dinner party is the one we’ve planned to introduce our non-Indian friends to the culture and the culinary delights that India is home to.  Why did I say this was going to be a challenge ?  That is because some of the couples invited over are vegetarians who are looking forward to some taste bud tickling Indian vegetarian fare while many of the other couples are non-vegetarian, the likes, for whom, an Indian meal would be incomplete without say Chicken Tikka Masala or Rogan Josh or some such meat dish that is simply bursting with the flavour of Indian spices.
Ambience : I am planning to use a traditional Indian theme which would help set the mood for the fantastic Indian food to follow.  Starting with the dining table – am planning a base of creamy silk tablecloth with a bright red kanchivaram table cloth runner running through the centre of the table.  This band would also help demarcate the dishes – so that the vegetarians do not inadvertently end up eating meat dishes.  Dimmed lights, sublime sitar music would be playing as the guests arrive.  Later the music would be a mix of santoor, jugalbandis or if the pace needs to be pushed a bit, the one and only bhangra.  The only lights in the living room would come from the diyas or the candles at strategic places in the living room. 
Since most of the guests are musically inclined, one game that we are planning to incorporate is "guess the musical instrument".  We have a huge collection of Indian instrumental music and this can be put to good use for this game. 
I’ve always been the kind that plans a lot of starters or appetizers.  Two reasons – one, it goes very well with drinks being served.  If you have your guests sipping their whiskies or a glass of good wine or guzzling a pint of beer or sipping Nimbu Paani, the one thing that people enjoy with their drinks is spicy, tangy tidbits to munch on.  With snacks, what is most time consuming is getting the various chutneys and condiments ready.  This is where Kitchens of India is going to be a life saver. Kitchens of India, whose recipes have been crafted by Masterchefs of ITC hotels, from recipes that have been closely guarded over the ages. 
 The menu planned is :
Appetizers
Spicy mango chicken drumsticks – a variation to the more common chicken tikka or tandoori chicken, I’m planning to take things to the next level by basting the chicken with a spicy mango baste as it cooks in the oven.  One of the main ingredients for basting the chicken is going to be Mango Jeera Chutney from Kitchens of India.
Paneer Tikkas – for the vegetarians, am doing a tandoori paneer tikka on skewers with green peppers, onion  and marinated paneer chunks.  This starter is going to have a hint and the heat of mango as well, with the skewers being drizzled with the Hot Mango Chutney also from Kitchens of India.
Corn Bhel – a starter that never ever fails to tantalise the taste buds with a myriad of flavours bursting through in every mouthful.  Making bhel has never been easier, especially since I’ve laid my hands on the ready Tamarind Date Chutney from Kitchens of India.
Shammi Kebabs – another one of those starters that usually leaves our guests asking for more.  This time around, I’m planning to serve these with the Tomato Chilli Chutney from Kitchens of India.
Mixed Pakoras – again something that is enjoyed by children and adults alike.  Served with two chutneys – the traditional mint chutney and for the more adventurous, the Tomato Chilli Chutney from Kitchens of India.
Did I not say that the most time consuming part in dishing up appetizers is the chutneys and sauces that complement the dishes.  With such a wide variety of chutneys and preserves on offer from Kitchens of India, life has indeed become a lot simpler and easier.  Here's to more dinner parties, I say :-)
Main Course
An assortment of Naans cut into manageable sized pieces – plain naans and garlic naans
Saffron Peas Pulao – delicately flavoured with saffron and a hint of sweetness from the peas, would provide a lovely base to showcase all the flavours of the gravy dishes that would accompany the rice.  This pulao is also a feast for the eyes, with the colours complementing each other very well.
Dal Bukhara – to complement the saffron peas pulao and face it, no Indian meal is complete without a smooth, rich dal complementing the dishes.
Murg Methi – Tender succulent pieces of chicken and fresh fenugreek leaves (methi leaves) are a marriage made in heaven.  The Kitchens of India’s Murg Methi would be a wonderful addition to the menu since we don’t get good fresh fenugreek leaves out here, in HK.
Mirch ka salan – this is one of my signature dishes.  Made from scratch with long green chillies, I tend to retain the seeds in the chilli instead of discarding them.  This lends a wonderful heat to this tangy dish which incorporates tamarind, jaggery, a healthy dose of cumin and a home made peanut/sesame powder to complement the other flavours in the dish.  This one is capable of creating an orchestra in one’s palate. 
Cucumber Raita – yet again, no Indian meal is complete without yoghurt being incorporated at some point of time in the meal.  Chilled cucumber raita with a sprinkle of red chilli powder and amchoor is a feast for the eyes and a good palate cleanser as well – not to mention a sure fire douser if anyone happens to find the dishes spicy.
Dessert
Usually, at dinner parties, I make it a point to have atleast two desserts – one warm and one cold.
The cold dessert planned for this dinner party is yet again one of my signature dishes – rasmalai. 
The warm dessert cannot be anything else but the Jodhpuri Moong Dal Halwa from Kitchens of India. 
No Indian meal is complete without the traditional mouth fresheners like saunf at the end of the meal.  Aside of cleansing the palate, these mouth fresheners also aid in digestion.  As a fitting finale to this ethnic Indian evening, we are planning to serve chilled, authentic paan at the very end.  We have already placed an order for paan leaves with one of the stores here and they've promised to deliver the paan leaves a day ahead of our dinner party.  We are, however, planning a small twist in this paan.  We are planning to substitute the more traditionally used Gulkand with the Strawberry Mint Conserve from Kitchens of India.  The tanginess of the strawberry with the coolness of the mint should give the paan a modern twist, a supreme blend of tastes that result in a crescendo of flavours.  It would be a good way to end an evening of gastronomic delights.

With such immense help from Kitchens of India, this dinner party should prove to be one smooth hit with the guests.  I do hope it is the kind that leaves them with beautiful memories of India and the multitude of flavours that Indian cooking encompasses.

1 voice(s) said so:

Bhavya said...

ATB for the contest :)