Table Talk

Updated: May 8, 2019






I love how the festive season in India stretches for so long. In Bengal it starts with Durga Puja and in other parts of the country, it is Dusshehra. Once that is done and people are over the hangover, the countdown to Diwali begins and then it’s the New Year for some communities and further on to bhai phota or bhai dooj… so by the time people are back to normal life it is a rather long time! And this means more parties, more celebrations and more eating and drinking.

So what are you doing for your Diwali party this year? Or are you one of those who chicken out from hosting a lively gathering at home? Well, here are some tips and tricks to make you shine as the perfect host at your festive celebration.


Décor

You do not have to spend a fortune to decorate your home in line with the festive spirit. Diwali is all about light so simple diyas and tea lights around the house can create magic. Pair that with fresh orange and yellow gendha flowers (marigold) and you have a gorgeous traditional look.

The entrance to your home should give a positive first impression. Do it up with floating candles and flowers in a large dish of water or a simple rangoli on the floor adorned with diyas.




For me, the dining table is always the highlight as food is an integral part of any party. I love doing up the table based on the occasion and theme. At my own Diwali party in Bangalore, I added a South Indian touch with banana leaves, flowers from the local market and classic earthen diyas. All for less than Rs 200!





Getting Organized


We all host parties and celebrations because we want to share these happy moments with our loved ones. However, most of the time, the host ends up running around and being stressed during the party. This would not happen if you organize yourself and also reduce the burden of unnecessary tasks.

Choose a menu which you can prepare up to a day in advance. Dishes which have to be made or assembled just before serving are no-nos

For garnishes like fresh herbs, lime wedges and other such fresh ingredients, prepare them just before the party and keep them ready on a tray in the service area of your kitchen. That way you don’t have to go rummaging around in your overcrowded fridge for the “dhania” while the hot food is waiting to be served! Sounds funny but trust me, I have seen total chaos in some kitchens.

Use disposable crockery and glasses to reduce washing up. These days you get lovely bamboo and paperware which is eco friendly and look nice as well.

Ice Ice baby! How many times have you been at a party getting your drink from the bar, only to be told “Sorry we are out of ice”! There is nothing more putting off than a warm drink- be it a whisky or a coke. Do remember to start stocking up on ice cubes a couple of days in advance so that will be one big job out of the way.


Getting the menu right!


It is incredible how much food gets left over at parties and then the host family ends up eating the same thing for the next couple of days or distributing it to neighbours and domestic staff in the justification that they are not “wasting” food. Well why not just make less quantity with the idea that if one dish finishes there will always be other stuff around to eat. No one really goes hungry in a party right?

In my opinion, the appetizers or finger foods and the dessert should be the main focus. The main course could be very light or just a one pot wholesome dish for those wanting something more. People are hungry when they arrive so they tend to load up on the appetizers.

A good idea is to serve salads and rice dishes in little cups as finger foods which people can have while playing cards.






Here are some cold and healthy appetizers which you can make in advance. These are regulars on my party menus by popular demand. You can also make them for your post Diwali visits or bhai phota gatherings as by then, people are really done with all the heavy eating of the season.

So go on, get cracking to make your festivities super special.

I wish you all a shining and enjoyable Diwali!


Beetroot Hummus

When the classic hummus is passé you revive it by adding vibrant colours and veggies! Replace the beetroot in this recipe with a cup of boiled peas and some fresh mint for gorgeous Minted Pea Hummus.





What you need-

1 cup chickpeas (boiled)

2 beetroots, cut in large cubes

1 tbsp tahini

2 garlic cloves

½ tsp cumin powder

Juice of ½ lemon

Chilly flakes

Salt and fresh pepper

Garnish with toasted pine nuts or walnuts


Putting it together-

1. Steam the beetroots or bake in the oven , as you prefer

2. In a blender, blend together the boiled chickpeas, beetroot, tahini, garlic, cumin, chilly flakes and salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of water till you get the right consistency.

3. Garnish with toasted nuts and seeds. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil just before serving.


Curried Peanut Dip

This is a new addition to my recipe stash with an interesting desi touch of spices, peanuts and coriander.





What you need-

1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil

1 small onion chopped

1 tbsp garlic, minced

½ tsp coriander powder

½ tsp turmeric powder

Red chili flakes to taste

2 large carrots, finely chopped

½ cup toasted peanuts

4 tsp fresh lime juice

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tbsp crushed peanuts (for garnish)

1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (for garnish)

1 tbsp crumbled feta cheese (optional)


Putting it together-

1. In a pan, heat some oil and cook the onion & garlic.

2. Add the coriander powder, turmeric powder and red chili flakes.

3. Add the carrots with salt and pepper and saute until carrots are half way cooked.

4. Mix in the toasted peanuts, lime juice, soy sauce and brown sugar.

5. Mix well and season it with salt & pepper. Let it cool completely.

6. Grind the mixture to a coarse paste.Transfer to a bowl and garnish with coriander leaves, crushed peanuts and if you like some crumbled feta cheese.



Sweet Potato Chips




Get healthy and gourmet with these oven baked sweet potato chips.


What you need-


4 sweet potatoes

2 tbsp Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Chilly Flakes


Putting it together-

1.Peel the potatoes and cut into chips.

2.Steam half way.Heat the oven to 180C.

3. Combine the sweet potatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper.Bake on a baking dish or tray for about 30 mins, tossing in between till crispy.

4.Serve warm with any dip, sauce or chutney.




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All pictures by Natasha Celmi

For recipes, visit www.cucinamiabynatasha.com

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