A dinner for four

I love having people over to my house for food. I guess it is part of my Indian upbringing. A good part of my growing up years has seen my mom meticulously preparing meals for relatives, friends, guests who have been invited to be a part of the big Indian eating tradition. Even today at home, a meal is not complete unless it is a feast. Curries will be served piping hot, accompanied by a side of dry vegetables, rice and yogurt. You grow up having this notion of meal-hood :) Even after moving to LA, that part of me hasn't changed.

S and me had some guests over on friday, and I cooked up a meal for four in 2.5 hours. This is what the spread looked like.

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While you are busy admiring my pretty FabIndia curtains, let me give you a run down of the dinner spread (from L-R): Mango thokku pickle (red jar with yellow lid, bought from India Sweets and Spices, Glendale), masoor dal with tadka, kadai paneer, roasted brussel sprouts, baingan vindaloo, espinacas con garbanzo, a side of white rice, vegetable biriyani, and cucumber-dil raita (and some garlic naan and rotis, which I forgot to photograph). So, I made all these in 2.5 hours which obviously means I multitasked and hence forgot to take photographs while making each of the items. You obviously don't want to see my super messy kitchen too :) But, you probably want to make some or all of the items for dinner or lunch, hence, I will provide the recipe's below (apologies for the lack of photos, I promise I'll take some next time).

Recipe 1: Masoor dal tadka

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Dal is the easiest thing to make. But not necessarily the quickest thing to make. So start with the dal first.

Ingredients Serves 4

Masoor dal      1 cup (washed) Onion                 1 cup (sliced) Red chilli          2-3 Cumin seeds   1 tsp Potato               1 (peeled and cubed) Turmeric powder  2 tsp Asafoetida        a pinch Salt                      to taste Oil                        1 tbsp

In a pressure cooker (if you don't have one, you can use a saucepan), add the masoor dal, turmeric powder, potato, salt and add water (1: 1). If using pressure cooker, cook for three whistles. If using saucepan, cook for about ten mts. In a skillet, heat oil and add cumin seeds. Next, add the red chillis and onions. Saute for 3 minutes. Add hing. Take off fire and pour the contents into the cooked dal. Check for consistency, if the water is too much boil the dal for 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves. This can be served hot with rice or roti.

Recipe2: Kadai Paneer

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While the dal is getting cooked in the pressure cooker, you can start working on this yummy looking paneer dish. S loves anything made with paneer. So, I do experiment quite a bit with it. This one though is easy to make and the dish will be loved by your guests.

Ingredients

Paneer (Indian cottage cheese)   1 cup Capsicum                                               1 (cut into squares) Onion                                                       1 (cut into squares) Tomato                                                   3 (pureed) Ginger-garlic paste                            1 tbsp Fenugreek leaves dried                    2 tsp Turmeric powder                                1 tsp Coriander powder                               1 tsp Red chilli powder                                1 tsp Salt                                                            to taste Oil                                                              2 tbsp

Whole spices Cinnamon                                              1 inch stick (broken into smaller pieces) Cardamom                                            2 Cloves                                                     4 Dry red chillies                                   2 (broken into smaller pieces) Bay leaf                                                  2 (broken into smaller pieces) Cumin seeds                                        1 tsp

Method

1. Cut the paneer, capsicum (bell pepper), tomato and onion into squares. Puree the tomato in a blender. Keep aside. 2. Heat oil, add the whole spices and roast for 2 minutes. Add onions, ginger-garlic paste, and saute till the onions turn translucent. 3. Add the tomato puree, salt and let it boil for 2 minutes. 4. Add capsicum, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, a little water and let is boil. 5. Add the paneer, and the fenugreek leaves. 6. Let this cook for about 8 minutes and serve garnished with cilantro leaves.

Recipe 3: Vegetable biriyani

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This is a very easy side to make. A difference from the usual white rice accompaniment to Indian food, which I also served by the way.

Ingredients

White basmati rice                4 cups Peas                                             1/2 cup Carrot                                         1/2 cup Onions                                        1 Biriyani mix                             2 tbsp Salt                                               to taste Ghee                                            1.5 tbsp

Whole spices Bay leaf                                     2 Cardamom                               2 Cinnamon                                 1 inch stick Cloves                                        4 Black pepper                           4

Method

1. Soak the rice in water and little salt for at least an hour before cooking it. I soaked the rice first, before I started to make the dal. 2. In a pan, heat the ghee and fry the whole spices. Now add the onions and fry till translucent. 3. Add the peas and carrots and mix well. 4. Add the salt, and the biriyani mix. 5. Add in the rice, mix everything well. Add in water to cover the rice and let it boil. Once the rice is ready, serve hot.

Recipe 4: Roasted brussel sprouts

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S doesn't like brussell sprouts. But I love them. So, I'm always looking for interesting ways to make them yummy. Roasting them is by far my favorite way of devouring brussell sprouts.

Ingredients

Brussell sprouts                   1 cup Lemon juice                           2 tbsp Garlic                                        1 tsp (minced) Salt                                             a pinch Olive oil                                    1 tsp

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. 2. In a small bowl, mix the minced garlic with the lemon juice and salt. 3. Spread the brussell sprouts in a oven friendly baking dish and sprinkle the mix prepared. Coat the sprouts nicely. 4. Pour some olive oil on top of the sprouts. 5. Roast them in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, turning them over at least once in between.

Recipe 5: Cucumber and dil raita

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Last but not the least, serve the food with a delicious raita. Cut some cucumbers, mash it with some dil and dunk it into yogurt, sprinkle in a little salt, whip it up and serve.

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And there you go, a simple Indian meal for four is ready. I also made two other dishes, eggplant vindaloo and garbanzo beans with spinach (also called espinacas con garbanzo) but those recipes will have to wait for another occasion! I also served a side of mango thokku pickle (bought from India sweets and spices, Glendale).

To finish it off, my guests dug into this Rava Kesari and a slice of this cheesecake.