Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Fantasy Dinner Party!

Someone asked me, what would be my ideal dinner party menu.

Now, I've cooked for and hosted multiple dinner parties - from sit down dinners for 4 to buffet style dinners for 50+ people. The largest party I've ever hosted though was in 2006 for Diwali in Cairo. Our house was an open house throughout the day - with our closest friends coming in early for a late breakfast and staying on until late night for cards and groups of people who were invited throughout the day, for lunch, tea, puja, dinner or late night snacks. I think the number of people who ate at home that day crossed a 125. And except for a few friends who brought in some dishes for lunch, everything was cooked at home, by me with some assistance from my friends and my aunts who were visiting us.

But coming back to my ideal menu, I considered multiple options, but finally realised that the star of the evening would have to be biriyani - my absolute favourite dish and the rest of the menu would have to revolve around it. Also, my ideal dinner party size would be 10 (including us) - so we could have great freewheeling conversations together, rather than breaking up into smaller groups.

As soon as our friends arrive, we would greet them with chilled strawberry flavoured iced tea in tall Glasses. This will be a lovely way for them to cool down from the blazing heat of Ahmedabad, before the procession of heavy food to follow.

A few bowls of honeyed coconut nuts would be scattered around on the side tables, so people can help themselves to some sweet and spicy, crunchy goodness, while waiting for everyone to arrive and for the hot snacks to be freshly prepared.

The tiranga chicken tikka kebabs would be previously marinated for around 24 hours and freshly grilled when all the guests arrive. Juicy succulent morsels of boneless chicken in 3 flavours. A delicate red chicken tikka in a chilli + ginger garlic paste and yoghurt marinade, a creamy white malai tikka marinated in ginger garlic + cashewnut paste and cream with some kasuri methi and a hariyali tikka with a green chilli and fresh coriander marinade. These would be served in alternating colors in a beautiful chip and dip bowl with a spicy mint chutney in the center.

Next to follow would be beautifully soft and smooth Shikampuri Kebabs in individual Mini Plates. A crisp coating, followed by smooth spicy mutton paste and a surprise of crunchy onions marinated in lime juice at the center.

Jugs of non-alcoholic mojitos and chilled badam milk (we are currently living in a dry state) would be on hand, to cool the mild burn of spices in the kebabs and chutney.

The next course that I would like to offer my friends would be the exotic Hyderabadi speciality of haleem. Mutton and wheat cooked together for hours with special spices until it all blends into one creamy mass of deliciousness, topped with some crisply fried onions and freshly torn mint leaves. Since its easy to get stuffed on just haleem, I would serve it in Individual portions.

The main course of biriyani would be served on the dining table. While 10 people would be a bit of a squeeze, biriyani is meant to be shared at a table. I love assembling the biriyani in a glass Cook and Serve dish, before the final dum. This tends to show off the beautiful layers of milky white rice and rich delicious chunks of chicken in spicy masala. The transparent glass top, gives a peek into the mild yellow saffron stained top layer of rice. And this dish has to be opened at the table. The aroma that escapes when the dish is finally opened is meant to be shared by all and not just a guilty selfish pleasure of the person cooking it.

Bowls of birasta - crisply fried onions with a crunchy texture and sweetish taste and kachumber - a cucumber, tomato, onion and coriander salsa would be on the table, so each guest can serve themselves according to their personal preferences.

Individual katoris of creamy piquant onion and green chilli raita would be served to all.

Given that dinner has only biriyani on the cards, I would go a bit overboard on dessert. A light and airy Mango and Cardamom Cheesecake served in a Fluted dish would be a dessert with Greco-Roman roots, but with Indian flavours.

A large Bowl each of gooey Gajar ka Halwa with crunchy slivers of almonds and a smooth, creamy and soothing Sevvaiyan Paysam / Vermecilli Kheer with little nuggets of fried raisins that pop in the mouth with a burst of flavour.

Our guests could serve themselves, their choice of desserts and I would hope that they would try all 3.

Knowing our friends, we still wouldn't be done talking by the end of dessert, so after such a heavy meal, they would definitely need something to wash it down, while we continued gabbing into the night. While I think that a pot of Suleimani chai or the Bedouin Shai with their minty fresh taste and digestive properties would be perfect for this purpose, I would also offer my guests a selection of green teas.

We would be forced to say goodbye around 5am, so that we could get a couple of hours of shuteye before the next days program begins.

So, what would your ideal dinner party be?

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This is my entry for the My beautiful food contest on Indiblogger.

Happy to share that I am one of the 50 bloggers shortlisted for Round 2 from over 350 entries.

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