Whenever my daughter comes home from university for dinner, I like to make her a special meal. The table quite often looks like a banquet on those nights and Indian food is a particular favourite. I love the balance of the plate, all the little dishes and the combinations of savoury, spicy, cooling and sweet. In our house, the secret to a great Indian feast is to have lots of options and to make things easier on yourself, try to make some dishes ahead.
In this feast - the salad and the chutney can be made earlier that day, the chicken tikka can be prepped and marinated the night before, and I adapted the dal to the slow cooker. That way you also have time to socialize when you guests are over.
I included all the recipes - adapted from Mark Bittman's book The Best Recipes in the World - except for the parathas (bread). I didn't care for the texture and would like to find a better recipe for paratha in the future.
Everything else was wonderful though, and thoroughly enjoyed. Don't forget the basmati rice! Nothing else compares to its beautifully fragrant addition to the meal. I use a rice cooker, so that I can concentrate on other things.
A light sorbet would be the perfect ending to a meal like this, and a sparkling rosé pairs beautifully with the spice and sweetness of the dishes.
Yogurt Chickpea Salad
3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas
1 cup lightly toasted cashews
1 sweet onion, diced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 tbsp toasted ground cumin
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup well drained yogurt
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Toss everything except for cilantro into a medium sized bowl. Keep tossing til combined and refrigerate. Take out of the fridge ½ hour before serving to take the chill off, toss in cilantro.
Chicken Tikka with Red Peppers
Start the night before
1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup Greek yogurt or strained yogurt
¼ cup ground almonds
Pinch ground mace
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 red peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
Combine everything except the red peppers in a freezer bag, squish around until combined. Refrigerate overnight.
Thread chicken and peppers alternately on skewers and grill until chicken is cooked through.
This is a simple version, I spiced it up a bit from Bittman's. Usually the pulses are cooked and then added to a buttery fried melange of aromatics. This one is more of a stewed version and was easy enough to do in my slow cooker on high for 5 hours. I left the lid off for the last hour to let some of the liquid evaporate.
1 lb dried green lentils
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 tbsp hot curry powder
2 tsp ground cumin
hot chili flakes or cayenne to taste
3 or 4 tomatoes, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Garam masala, to taste
Combine in a large pot, just cover with water and simmer until soft. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Mint Chutney with Yogurt and Mango
Juice of 2 lemons
1 garlic clove
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup whole-milk yogurt, strained
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups fresh mint leaves
1 cup chopped mango
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste.
Purée everything up to the mint leaves and mango and then add them by hand. Season to taste and refrigerate until serving.