Indian

Bhartha (Spicy Indian Eggplant)

Generally speaking I’m an unashamed carnivore at heart, but when it comes to Indian food I’m more than willing to forsake my love of meat and go 100% vegetarian. Not only is this advisable whilst eating in India, the reality is that Indian food is truly a culinary-nirvana for the non-meat eaters amongst us.

Your rogan joshs and butter chickens aside, Indian food is perhaps the most karma-conscious cuisine in the world with a mind-boggling array of vegan and vegetarian dishes to choose from, one is never short of tasty delights from the sub-continent. At any rate, this diversity of dishes make an Indian feast a great option for a dinner party as it allows you to cater for a wide range of tastes and needs, all without compromising the overall success of the meal. Generally speaking, whether the dish be vegan or laden with meat, all Indian food goes well together.

I’ve always thought of eggplants and Indian cooking as being the perfect partners. It was almost as if the silky opaque flesh of the eggplant was specifically designed to absorb the rich flavours of Indian cooking and as such could withstand even the boldest of spices.

Personally bhartha has always been my favourite way of preparing eggplant and is often a stalwart of any Indian meal of mine, largely for three reasons: it is easy to make, tastes amazing and can be made days in advance. Traditionally the eggplant is deep-fried resulting in a dish that is often swimming in oil and that should come with a health warning. I prefer to steam my eggplant in a microwave instead of frying it which makes for a far healthier and more palatable dish.

As with most Indian dishes bhartha can, and should, be made in advance and gently reheated before serving – again highlighting why Indian food makes the perfect dinner party option.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Aloo Mutter (Peas & Potato Curry)

I’m not sure many people can say this, but I owe my sanity to aloo mutter…or at least my sanity in India anyway.

Travel has always been a huge part of our lives. From Tokyo to Kathmandu, down to Ushuaia and all the way back up to Kirkenes, we are blessed to have trampled the globe together. For me our travels have always been synonymous with seeking out new food experiences. For my flavourphobic partner, however, the mere notion of culinary-tourism is unpalatable. In spite of being the most well travelled person I’ve ever met, my partner holds scant regard for sampling foreign flavours in foreign climes. This is, after all, a man who ate nowt but Big Macs in Beijing, Whoopers in Bergen, doner kebabs in Florence…and then there was India.

Ah, dear Mother India!

Aloo Mutter (Potato & Pea Curry)A land defined by fierce fragrances, earthy hygiene and spicy flavours; India is a culinary destination that should strike fear in the hearts of even the bravest of world travelers, let alone those of limited culinary bravado i.e. ‘you know who’…or so you would think. Little did I know that, culinarily speaking, the sub-continent would prove to be one place in the world the Flavourphobe would have no problem finding something to eat – all thanks to aloo mutter! Who knew a man could almost exclusively live on peas and potatoes for a month, but that he did. With the exception of the occasional aloo gobi, he had it in the South, he had it in the North, he even had it somewhere in the middle and he loved it every single time…but not as much as I did! No one was happier than I when we saw aloo mutter on the evening’s menu; not because I wanted to eat it myself, but rather because it meant we could actually enjoy a meal together whilst on holiday! For the first time on our travels I had been spared our usual dinner-time routine of depositing him at the nearest KFC whilst I sampled the local delights on my lonesome. At last, we could eat at the same restaurant every day. What travel bliss! Indeed what a privilege!

So did aloo mutter prove to be that watershed moment when he would finally open his taste buds to the favours of the world? Hah, don’t make me laugh. With the exception of Japanese Curry, his culinary ‘awakening’ was as short-lived as our time in India. Soon enough we were back to traveling together, but eating apart. Alas, the dream couldn’t last forever and the aloo mutter bubble had to burst at some stage. We will, however, always have dear Mother India and the days she granted us the simple pleasure of  enjoying a meal, together.

Oh…did I forget to mention that aloo mutter is also incredibly delicious and cheap to make? Don’t just take my partner’s word for it, it really is possibly the best way to jazz up a couple of potatoes and those long-forgotten peas at the back of the freezer! Aloo mutter is definitely a worthy addition to any Indian meal.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Makhani Murgh (Butter Chicken)

The chances are, this recipe is nothing like the butter chicken you’ve ordered countless times from your local Indian takeaway. I too have ordered it more times than I care to admit, so I know what passes for butter chicken these days and most of it is pretty dismal. So much so, I have actually stopped ordering it altogether, for fear it would put me off Indian food completely.

Makhani Murgh (Butter Chicken)As you might have gathered, I’m somewhat disillusioned about the state of butter chicken these days – especially when I consider what a wonderful dish it truly is! Unfortunately, this venerable dish has largely been reduced to being the poster-child for unimaginative and pedestrian Indian fare. When made well, however, butter chicken undoubtedly deserves its place amongst the great Indian classics. Rich, decadent and wonderfully spiced, this dish is a real winner and should feature in any Indian feast.

As tasty as it is, the real appeal of butter chicken is how easy it is to make! Primarily cooked in the oven, the dish frees up valuable stove space – a godsend when you’re trying to juggle up to six dishes on a 4 plate hob! Like most curries, butter chicken can also be made in advance and gently reheated before serving. In the case of butter chicken though, it should be placed under a grill to be heated through and lightly browned, rather than on a hob.

Note: Please do not ever be tempted to make butter chicken with anything other than chicken thighs, especially not breast meat, which will come out completely dry and taste terrible.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Gosht Shahajani (Rich Lamb Curry with “Roast” Potatoes)

Gosht Shahajani (Rich Lamb Curry with "Roast" Potatoes)I’m always looking for new curries to make and this one fits the bill perfectly! Rich and tasty, this unusual lamb curry makes a nice change from my tried and tested favourites of rogan josh and chicken kadhai.

Whilst gosht shahajani is in many ways similar to gosht aloo, I love the idea of adding the precooked “roast” potatoes to the dish, instead of boiling them in the curry’s sauce. Of course, the potatoes inevitably lose their crunch when added to the sauce, but they do add a texture and flavour to the dish that sets gosht shahajani apart from similar curries.

My version of this dish has evolved quite significantly from the original recipe, as I found the quantities a tad excessive – 150ml of tomato purée and 10 tablespoons of chopped fresh coriander for 800g of lamb? I adore flavour, but even my palette has its limits! I also prefer to fry my potatoes and onions in ghee rather than oil, as this gives them a fuller flavour and consequently, a greater presence in the dish. If you don’t have any ghee or prefer not to use it, you can just substitute it with vegetable oil.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Keralan Fish Molee

The concept of a fish curry seems to freak people out. So much so, the mere suggestion of it usually elicits looks of suspicion and a chorus of “ugh!” and “ewww!“. Such reactions have always confounded me because fish curry is, in a word, delicious. Over the years I have tried to introduce my sceptical dinner guests to the delights of fish curry and I have found the most success with molee.

Keralan Fish MoleeA speciality of Kerala in Southern India molee is, strictly speaking a fish stew, but with its rich and fragrant coconut sauce it can still be considered a curry. Simple to make and requiring very few ingredients, molee is surprisingly complex in flavour and makes a great addition to any Indian meal.

Aside from the fish, the key ingredient to molee are curry leaves. The dish benefits immensely from fresh curry leaves, but if you can’t find these then dried leaves will do at a pinch. Whenever I manage to find fresh curry leaves I always make sure I freeze some, as these will still be superior to dried.

Still not convinced about fish curry? Give molee a go and trust me, before you know it you’ll be tucking into some Fish Head Curry!

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Tarka Dhal

Tarka DhalDhal is perhaps the unsung hero of Indian cuisine. All too often dismissed as a poor man’s curry or a dreary side dish, dhal is in fact so much more. Nutritious, simple and varied, dhal deserves to feature in any Indian meal. Personally, I could happily tuck into just a bowl of dhal and rice!

This recipe is dhal in its purest form. Flavoured with turmeric and seasoned with a tarka, this dhal recipe is delightfully simple and incredibly tasty.

The recipe uses two different types of dhal, red and yellow, but feel free just use 150g of either.

Unlike curries, dhal is best eaten on the same day it is made.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms)

Sometimes the best meals come into your life quite unexpectedly and they stay with you forever – this is such a dish!

Many years ago I was planning a dinner party and one of the guests came with a painfully long list of dietary restrictions, chief amongst them being the double-act of inconvenience that is veganism and gluten intolerance! As I suffer from neither affliction, my instinctive response was just to cancel the dinner altogether, problem solved! Never one to back down from a culinary challenge, however, I decided to go ahead with the dinner after all and serve the mother of all vegan cuisines – I went Indian.

Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms)Your rogan joshs and butter chickens aside, Indian food is perhaps the most karma-conscious cuisine in the world. With a mind boggling array of vegan and vegetarian dishes to choose from, one is never short of tasty delights from the sub-continent. An Indian feast is always a great option for a dinner party as the multiple dishes needed, allow you to cater for a wide range of tastes and needs, all without compromising the overall success of the meal. Generally speaking, whether the dish be vegan or laden with meat, all Indian food goes well together.

Which brings me to this particular recipe. Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms) is a great addition to any Indian spread, be it part of a full-on feast or humble midweek meal. Hearty, wholesome and filling, this dish is so good it could almost turn me vegan! Whilst the black-eyed beans add an earthy undertone that balances out the spices, the mushrooms are actually the star of the dish, adding a “meatiness” that appeals to both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. Add some tarka dhal and rice to the mix and you have a meal fit for the most pious (and discerning) monk. Who knew that good karma could ever be so damn dharma-delicious.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Note: this dish also makes an excellent alternative to your traditional sides dishes like mash potato, as it is mild enough to “fit” comfortably alongside most flavours. I recently served it with some pan-fried fish, sautéed kale and a tomato lemon butter sauce and it was absolute fusion-heaven!

Click here for the recipe

Kadhai Murgh (Chicken Kadhai)

One of my staple Indian curries, Chicken Kadhai regularly features in almost all Indian meals I make; big or small.

Kadhai ChickenThe key ingredient in this curry is the kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) as it adds a distinct flavour that is both delicious and alluring. Although widely available from spice markets, kasoori methi isn’t a flavour many are accustomed to and makes a nice change from the typical curry flavours most people normally encounter.

A personal favourite, to my mind this curry tastes and smells of India herself; a heady blend of fragrant spices, the earthy tones of the kasoori methi – all marry into a potent assault on the senses. Just like India this curry will charm you, its flavours will linger and it will invariably leave you wanting more.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here

Click here for the recipe

Rogan Josh

Rogan JoshArguably the King of Indian Curries, Rogan Josh is one of the most recognised Indian curries outside of India. Sadly, its ubiquitous stature has done it no favours beyond the borders of the sub-continent. Like many noble dishes before it, Rogan Josh has suffered from the inevitable gentrification that comes with Western popularity. Along with its equally maligned cousin Butter Chicken, Rogan Josh has been largely reduced to a synonym for a generic lamb curry. This is an absolute tragedy because Rogan Josh deserves its enduring popularity, it just shouldn’t have to suffer because of it.

In its true form, it is an amazing curry; incredibly tasty and surprisingly easy to make – it is my top pick for any Indian feast!

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here

Click here for the recipe

My Indian Feast

I love making curry.

Which is just as well, because once I start making curry I just can’t stop. In my house a simple curry invariably turns into a full-on 4 dish Indian feast…for two. It doesn’t matter how humble my initial intentions are, the simple fact of the matter is that Indian curries need companions; what is a rogan josh without a dhal, a korma would be lost without a sambar. Seduced by the alchemy of spices and my insatiable need to feed; it all gets out of hand very quickly, but that’s okay, because I really do love making curries!

One of the best things about making curry is that it always benefits from being cooked the day before. Dhal and vegetable curries aside, I would never dream of serving a curry on the day it was made. To do so would be a shame, a wasted opportunity to allow your guests the experience of tasting the full array of flavours of the curry, which can only develop if given the necessary time. Far from being an impediment, a curry’s need for advanced preparation is, in fact, one of it’s greatest conveniences and makes it a dinner party favourite at our house. An Indian feast allows you to make the various elements days in advance, all the while giving the curries time to mature to their full potential. This advanced preparation makes for a stress-free meal, giving you more time to spend with your guests.

The other important element is choosing the right dishes for your feast. I tend to work on a ratio of two meat, one or two vegetable and one side dish – this gives you a good mix of dishes and should cater to all tastes and dietary needs. One of the great things about Indian food is that it is easy to accommodate vegetarian/vegan guests, you can all enjoy the “same” meal together. Now what curries to make? There are a myriad of choices out there; Indian food is wildly diverse, at times bewilderingly so, but I tend to stick to a few classic dishes what most people know and aren’t afraid of.

These are my top-picks of an Indian Feast:

Meat Curries:

Lamb:

Rogan Josh

Gosht Shahajani

Chicken:

Kadhai Murgh (Kadhai Chicken)

Makhani Murgh (Butter Chicken)

Fish:

Molee (Keralan Fish Curry)

Vegetable Curries:

Aloo Mutter (Peas & Potato Curry)

Aloo Gobi (Cauilflower & Potato Curry)

Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms)

Accompaniments/Side Dishes:

Tarka Dhal

Chole Chaat (Spicy Chickpea)

Sambhar

Like all feasts, planning is key. Read through your recipes in advance and plan accordingly. If necessary, marinate your meats overnight in preparation of cooking the curry the day before serving. Most curries will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator, so stagger your cooking over a few days so as not to become overwhelmed!

On the day of the meal, organise any last minutes flourishes by each individual dish, so everything is where you want it, when you need it. Slowly reheat you curries at least an hour before serving, they can always been heated up again just before serving. Of course, don’t forget the most important element of your feast – the rice!