I am celebrating!
Aside from making it into the 3rd round of Project Food Blog – thank you all for your votes! – I am celebrating the release of a new book by my favorite fiction author, Deanna Raybourn. Her Lady Julia series, set in Victorian England, feature the exploits of Lady Julia and private inquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane. In each book they must discover who is behind any number of nefarious deeds. They are beyond compelling!
Her new book and fourth in the Lady Julia series, Dark Road to Darjeeling, is set in India and it is wonderful! To celebrate its release I am having a dinner party! It works out that this party can also be my third Project Food Blog contest entry:
Challenge #3 – Luxury Dinner Party
… the next challenge is to hold a party for your friends and family (at least four guests, you can include yourself in the 4 person count). Whether you’re an experienced host or an entertaining newbie, get creative and host a luxurious dinner party where your guests will discover new tastes and exotic flavors.
The first thing I did was write out a plan for my party. Like my mother, I am addicted to writing lists, which means I am usually organized. I say usually because sometimes I have two, or even three, lists for an event and then things can get a bit nuts. I have attached my organizational outline here:
Honestly, aside from Christmas and an occasional dinner with friends, I do not often have dinner parties. Planning for a more formal event has been a real challenge.
I started with what I was comfortable with. The menu. Right off the bat I decided a few things:
- I did not think strict adherence to the cuisine of the setting, North Indian, would work for my event. Most of my guests are only vaguely familiar with Indian food, so I went with things I knew would not be too challenging but would still be rich, spicy, and exotic.
- Second, whatever Indian dishes I did decide to make I wanted to stay as true to authentic recipes as I could. I tried to find dishes that originated in India and not in British curry houses.
- Third, I wanted to do a couple of fusion dishes. By fusion I mean take a dish that the main characters (Victorian era Britons) might have had in their London dining room but with an Indian accent.
Below is what I came up with.
All the dishes are served with fresh baked Naan, found here, and I am serving iced tea and beer to drink.
With a menu in place I then had to decide on the decor. This is where things get a little tricky. Obviously I wanted to tie into the book but I had no real ideas. So, I went shopping. Having no real plan my cart was loaded down with anything that struck my fancy. While browsing among the table decorations I stumbled upon a glittering feathered peacock holiday ornament. In The Dark Road to Darjeeling one of the characters is given a rather grumpy peacock as a gift. It was meant to be!
So, with an ornament as my guide, my table came together in shades of vibrant peacock blue, silver, and – to match a rose on the book’s cover – red .
I had my brother and his lovely girlfriend over to share this dinner. We wiped the plates clean … and then stuffed ourselves with dessert! All in all, it was the prefect evening with lots of laughs, good food, and many ribald peacock jokes. As a side note, I think Mr. Peacock will have a permanent place of honor in my dining room from now on!
If you are curious about the food I made, never fear!! You know I would not leave you with out some delicious recipes to try. Below are the main dishes from each course I served. The first and third courses are my attempts at traditional Indian recipes. The second and third are, therefore, my fusion dishes. Next time you are planning a dinner party with an Indian twist I hope you try some of these recipes, and enjoy them as much as we did!
Paneer Pakoras Serves 4
Paneer paoras are an Indian snack that really pleases. The cheese, a whole milk cows cheese, does not melt when heated so there is no worry about the fritters exploding in the hot oil, or that the fritters will loose their shape. Chickpea, or garbanzo bean, flour has a lovely, nutty taste that compliments the earthy garam masala and fresh from the oil they are lovely and crisp. Served with a tangy, yet sweet, tamarind sauce and you will be sure to whet your guest’s appetites!
1 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2/3 cup warm water
8 ounces paneer, cut into 1/4′ sticks
Oil for frying
Heat the frying oil in a deep pot until it reaches 375 F.
In a medium bowl whisk together the chickpea flour, garam masala, and salt.
Add the water and oil and whisk until smooth. It should be the consistency of pancake batter. Add more water if needed.
Dip the paneer into the batter with tongs, letting any excess drip off. Fry the paneer until golden brown, about 2 – 3 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.
Serve immediately with tamarind sauce. (I used this recipe)
Curried Shrimp Scampi Serves 4
I wanted to turn a traditional dish on it’s ear, so I decided to take a favorite of mine – shrimp scampi – and give it some oomph! This is a great dish for those who are wary of curry since shrimp scampi is very familiar. You could use any curry powder you like in this, but I opted for garam masala to keep the flavor consistent from one dish to the next. Dipped in some hot mango chutney, these shrimp are heaven!
1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp, 26/30 preferred
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 – 5 tablespoons white wine
Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. Once dry season with the coriander, garam masala, paprika, lemon zest, and salt. Let stand ten minutes at room temperature.
Heat two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat until it foams. Add half the shrimp in one layer and cook for 1 – 2 minutes per side, or until curled into a ‘C’, pink and opaque. Remove the shrimp and repeat with the remaining butter and shrimp.
Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the lemon juice and wine. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits. Cook until the sauce reduces slightly, about three minutes.
Pour the sauce over the shrimp and serve with hot mango chutney. Enjoy!
Chicken Korma Serves 4
I’ve had chicken korma in curry restaurants and I have never been a fan. For some reason they feel the need to add golden raisins and cashews and I find them, personally, vile. When researching this dish I discovered that in India they do not use raisins or nuts so I decided to give it a go. You can use chicken thighs here, if you prefer, but the slow braise the chicken gets in the yogurt sauce keeps the meat tender and incredibly moist. This may be my new favorite curry recipe!
4 large chicken breasts, cut into 1″ cubes
2 tablespoons garam masala, divided
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1″ piece peeled ginger, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1 large, or two small, sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground red pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup 2% or higher Greek style, or strained, yogurt
1 cup milk, 2% or higher
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Cilantro, for garnish
In a medium bowl combine the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of the garam masala. Let stand at room temperature for thirty minutes.
In a heavy skillet heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the chicken and cook until it starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside.
Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until they start to soften. Add 1 tablespoon of the garam masala, cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, red pepper, salt, and cinnamon. Add the chicken and toss to coat.
Add the yogurt and milk. Stir well, then reduce to low and cover the pan. Let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the lid and raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garam masala, sugar, lemon juice, and cream. Stir well.
Enjoy with fresh naan and rice.
Spiced Golden Syrup Steamed Pudding Serves 6
Adapted from here
Nothing says British Dessert to me better than a steamed pudding. This is not exactly a traditional steamed pudding, but in the spirit of fusion I gave it a go. Steaming a cake was new for me, and is darn fun! I adore golden syrup, with its buttery flavor, and combined with the earthy spices it is pure bliss. Softly whipped cream and fresh berries make this a wonderful dessert after a spicy meal!
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
1/4 cup golden syrup, plus more for serving
Whipped cream and fresh berries, for serving
Spray a 1 quart glass bowl with non-stick spray. Pour the 1/4 cup golden syrup into the bowl.
In a large dutch oven with the lid on, with a small metal rack or ring of aluminum foil at the bottom, heat two cups of water until it boils. Have additional water simmering to replenish the pot.
In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until well blended and slightly lighter in color. Add the eggs, one at a time, and blend well. Add the vanilla and stir to incorporate.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Do not over-mix.
Pour the batter carefully into the bowl. Line the top of the bowl with wax paper, then cover with aluminum foil crimping the edges tightly. Place the bowl into the dutch oven and cover with the lid. Allow the cake to steam for 1 1/2 hours, adding additional water as needed.
Once ready turn off the heat, remove the lid and allow to cool in the pot for ten minutes. Carefully remove the bowl and remove the foil and wax paper. Turn the cake out onto your serving plate and garnish with a drizzle of golden syrup, fresh berries and whipped cream.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!