Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Indian Feast!

Planning a dinner party with little ones around is no easy task. From a little get together with friends to an elaborate dinner party for a big crowd. It's a bit hard. But with some advanced planning, it is certainly doable!
Cumin seeds my favorite.
When Becca and I planned to have an Indian style dinner party, I was all excited and ready to go. Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines to eat and cook. From the sounds of the popping seeds, to the aromas of the warm spices with the fresh vegetables, the beautiful contrasts of colors with the red chillies with the green coriander/cilantro. It is a party in the kitchen while getting everything together. Then serving this glorious food and seeing the reactions from the guests is just phenomenal.
Toasting fenugreek 
Turmeric key ingredient color and flavor

For first dinner party, I made a total of 12 dishes from Thursday evening to Saturday evening. My kitchen was as crazy as it was fragrant, but the hard work certainly paid off. I planned my menu a week ahead; first I made the menu from past loves, to knew discoveries, to ideas I thought were original, and they were done and then some! Next I made a grocery list and double checked it twice. As I have cooked Indian food many times in the past, I had a lot of the spices on hand, but luckily there is an amazing Indian grocery store close to my home that sells fresh produce, seeds, and spice mixtures to fill in any blanks at an amazing price. If you live in the Heidelberg area PLEASE check out Masala. As I said, I made a total of 12 dishes and it all came to a whopping 100 bucks! I spent $60 at the commissary and about 28 euro on the economy which totals $100 or less! Was quite proud of that. What helped was that the menu was mostly vegetarian, I had half of the meat on hand, plus my pantry is stocked with seeds so it helped with costs. Since seeds stays fresher longer than pre-grounded spices, it lasts a lot longer. And you can easily ground seasonings with a spice or coffee ginder/mortar and pestle/plastic bag and a heavy kitchen item.

The Menu
So what did I prepare? Below is this the list of dishes, links and helpful tips. The BEST thing about Indian food is it gets better and better with time. Leftovers tastes better than freshly made!

Cheddar Curry Puffs- Can be made in advance and frozen for up to a month.

Homemade Samosas- I made this a day in advance. I made the dough fresh because I can not find spring roll papers anywhere. It was extremely easy, though! I placed them on damp paper towels, then covered samosas with lightly damp paper towels. I fried them the next day. They can also be fried in advanced and frozen as well.

Homemade Naan bread with garlic/nigella/coriander topping- I made the dough a day earlier, baked them fresh that night.

Butter Chicken- I marinated this a day in advance and cooked the morning of. I did not add the cream until it was time to warm it up and serve.

Green Bean Curry- can be made fresh or a day ahead! Add yogurt before heating up if prepared in advance.

Hokkaido Squash Stir Fry-  best fresh, but I made a couple hours in advance. Was even more tastier as leftovers, though!

Steamed Saffron Basmati- rinse rice and soak hours in advance.

Tadka Dal- this just gets better and better with time!

Coconut-Cardamom Rice Pudding- made a few days in advance. Add a lil coconut milk before heating up to serve!

Spiced Fruit Salad- let the spices and rind for fruit infuse the sugar syrup for a couple hours, makes great color and amazing flavor!

Almond-Cardamom Cookies- make a day in advance and don't let you little kids (or big kids aka husband/partner) see them!

Most of the recipes I made with no changes.

The Green Bean Curry I didn't use peppers because I didn't have any. The Almond-Cardamom cookies I substituted almonds for pistachios and added some vanilla (i am obsessed), the Hokkaido Squash Stir-fry I used Hokkaido instead of Butternut because I am flipping obsessed with Hokkaido Squash. If I were you, I'd make all of these, separately or altogether! 

Normal and toasty naan! Both garlic and butter
Dos and Don'ts
Learn from my triumphs and mistakes!

Do take photos of the finished food. Things do get hectic, but it only takes a minute! I learned from this heft mistake. I do this with most big dinners....but this will be the last. Especially as they will be documented, d'oh!

Do read the recipe thoroughly. I totally forked up my basmati by adding too much water for the last part of cooking. Looked more like saffron scented baby rice cereal.

Do buy food throughout the month of your dinner party. Last minute scramblin' aint sexy, cool, or good for stress-free party planning.

Do get down with your bad self

Don't be nervous. Your guests will appreciate your hard work!

Don't let your guests know if you made a mistake. They may not know that you made a mistake. Tell afterwards, though....if you want.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. A lot of guests are willing to help out!

I learned so much from the experience and will do it again in a heartbeat. Well, I actually will!! Look forward to next month's party! Please share your tips, thoughts and experiences in the comments below! I obviously have so much to learn! Thanks for reading, wish you all were there.