Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Perfect Indian Homecoming Experience

It has been a trying week. Too much of writing to do; too much of traveling around as well. No wonder a severe back ache has been my constant companion for the last three days. To make things even more taxing, my much-talked-about-but-rarely-seen NRI uncle and aunt from the US announced their long-awaited arrival to India yesterday. And now my grandparents are hoping to host them for lunch, first at their own place, then at ours. As if one extravagant show of Indian hospitality wasn't nearly enough, there's gonna be twice as much effort now to woo them, for God only knows what. Last I checked they were just coming down for a relaxing holiday, and maybe to get a good tan. What's with all the show and hype? They're Indians at heart after all. They know our ways, our food, and our culture very well. Why parade it in front of them every time they decide to fly down to their country? Beats me. But grandparents' logic - can't surpass it. So they want to host the perfect homecoming lunch for the guests this weekend.
But the fun part begins only after. Because they've entrusted the responsibility of deciding on the entire menu and party preparations, to who else but yours truly! The only catch being that the majority of the fare needs to be authentic Indian, although I could play around with the finer details here and there. So no one's complaining.

Being a blogger has its many perks, like I often iterate, and one of these is the exclusive access to immense information and opportunities laid out there for us bloggers. As if to turn my thoughts into reality, IndiBlogger recently came up with an amazing contest in association with Kitchens of India. It was only through them that I came to know of the vast variety of ready-to-eat exotic Indian foods, conserves, chutneys and mixes that Kitchens of India have on offer at unbeatably low prices. And they're available for easy ordering online, above all. It has made my party planning easier than ever, no kidding.

So now a lunch has to be hosted on Sunday at our place for the foreign-returned entourage, comprising of a typically rich pot-bellied uncle, his wife, their two teenage boys and their American household help. We've decided to go with an all-vegetarian theme, in keeping with the fact that we, the hosts, are vegetarians. In any case the extent of my knowledge about non-vegetarian food starts from Tandoori Chicken and ends with Seekh Kebabs, with nothing significant in between. So the responsibility of treating the guests to authentic Indian non-vegetarian food has been taken up by my illustrious grandmother at her place on Saturday.

I chose our lawn as the ideal venue for a laidback afternoon of catching up over sumptuous food, good music and amazing weather that has been pleasing us Delhi-wallahs for a week now. No amounts of air conditioning in the confines of a room could ever compare with a cool breeze, ever so little drizzling, a canopy of trees all around and eating under the shed outside in nature's midst. Words aren't enough - you have to be there to soak it all in and realize the true beauty of what I speak. As for seating, I have decided on having a number of padded chairs and cushioned mattresses with pillows strewn all around the floor, to make for a comfortable space to lounge around. Music is my biggest forte and I've also heard one of my NRI cousins is a pro guitarist, so there's going to be no dearth of entertainment either. What remains to be seen to is - well - the food.

Given the ongoing Mango season and every Indian's undying love for mangoes, they have been kept as the theme of the meal. [The entire lawn is covered by a dense canopy of mango trees, so the ambiance and food compliment each other only too well].

 Here's a glimpse of the menu I've prepared:

~ Welcome drink: A refreshingly cool Mango Panna drink to welcome the guests

~ Starters: My all-time favorite Nachos (Tortilla Chips) as well as crispy potato fries with a choice of two dips: a tangy Tamarind and Date Chutney, and a sweet Shredded Mango Chutney.

~ Main course: Vegetable Biryani (Using the Vegetable Biryani Mix), an exotic Mughlai Paneer replete with cashew nuts, Mirch ka Salan (a signature dish made from chillies, symbolic of the Indian love for spicy food), Peeli Dal Tadka made by mom, Lachha Paranthas, along with traditional Punjabi accompaniments including Lassi (spiced buttermilk), Sirke wale pyaaz (onions marinated in vinegar), Green salad and a spicy Hot Mango Chutney instead of the usual mango pickle.

~ Dessert: (This one's the course everyone in India actually waits for throughout a meal!) Moong Dal Halwa is like heaven on a plate, literally. No other delicacy surpasses it in its royality, at least for me. But keeping in mind the possibility of varying preferences, I'll also keep various flavors of ice cream and topping syrups on the menu.

~ Conclusion: A traditional Indian meal, a la the ancient maharajas' style, is seldom complete without a meetha paan in the end. So that's how I'll sum up the yummilicious, lip-smacking gastronomical experience I've put together.

I am hoping the guests feel as tempted, and salivate in the mouth as much at the sight of the meal, as I have while putting the whole thing together. Keeping my fingers crossed until then!


[This post is my entry for the My Weekend Party with Gourmet Food contest.]
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