Serving a brilliant Indian meal

Serving a brilliant Indian meal

By
Anjum Anand
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849491693
Photographer
Jonathan Gregson

You can relax; there are no ‘rules’ about how to serve curry. Even traditional Indian dining mores were as fragmented as the country itself and every region - even every family - had its own customs.

In our Punjabi home we ate one-course meals with either rice or flatbreads, not both. Pickles were only brought out when the meal was very simple, and chutneys only served with snacks. At the other end of the spectrum, Bengali meals had a succession of courses, each dish eaten only with rice. Yet again, my husband’s Marwari family ate three courses, the first something sweet, then flatbreads with vegetables and raita, then rice with lentils or a yogurt curry. They finished with poppadoms, used to cleanse the palate.

As India has evolved, all such dining norms have been further diluted. The modern generation have their own rules, based loosely on how they grew up, but tailored to suit their lifestyles. As is the case all around the world, time is now at a premium, so dishes will be simplified, though the meal will remain well balanced, containing protein, carbohydrates and - if possible - fresh seasonal vegetables, even in the poorest families. These days we cook to the beat of our own drum, even if that drum has on it a faded (in my case), Made in Punjab stamp.

Entertaining the indianway

When Indian people entertain, it is with huge generosity of spirit. Guests are always served the best food their hosts can afford. Punjabis are known for their love of food and people, and my childhood had an abundance of both. My parents entertained large groups of people regularly and my mother always made enough to feed her guests twice over!

The evening would start with drinks and appetisers which were bite-sized pieces of heaven: kebabs, mini samosas, crisp little potato cakes and more, all served with our family’s spicy Tangy Herb Chutney. As a girl I would have helped my mother in the kitchen earlier in the day, carefully filling samosas or shaping tiny potato cakes. These wonderful appetisers were the inspiration for my exciting and tempting ‘bites’, and the recipes for them start overleaf!

When we got to the table, there would be three or four curries, two of them always vegetarian, containing lentils or paneer. There would follow an array of vegetable sides, all carefully chosen for their different colours and textures, breads, rice and raita. There was always an Indian dessert, but also fresh or cooked fruits.

Entertainingmy way...

I have inherited my mother’s entertaining style but have adapted it to be a little simpler and more practical for a modern way of life. My parties are smaller - and I have less time than my mother did - but my menu will still have a wonderful variety of vibrant colours, textures and flavours. There will always be rice and warm breads (some bought in, to achieve a good broad selection) and pickles... if I remember! I make only one appetiser, but often also provide a dip with crunchy crudités and some spiced nuts. I like fruity desserts after Indian meals, to refresh the palate.

... and your way

Everyone has their own style and you must be true to your own. Don’t overextend yourself with a complicated menu; it will just cause stress, which is not the point of having people over. Serve just one great curry, a vegetable or two, a raita and some rice or naan. That’s more than enough to make your guests feel special and enjoy a great evening. The good news is that most curries improve overnight (though I would advise making those with vegetables, fish and seafood on the day of serving). Even a pilaf reheats really well in the microwave, covered with damp kitchen paper, while breads and dessert can be bought in. Entertaining should be a pleasure. It is about showing love for your friends, having a good time and living life according to your own rules.

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