The holidays are almost here and personally they couldn’t get here sooner.
With festivals come gatherings of friends and family and, food- lots of it. That’s where it gets tricky.
How do you plan a menu that pleases the eyes, satiates the taste buds and also serves all food preferences from vegetarians to vegans and everything in between?
Here are some easy tips to create a colorful spread.
Food Restrictions: Planning starts with invites, duh. (I know!) Beyond that, if your friends and family can be clubbed into groups with food preferences then do that. It will help you plan. By no means skip anyone essential. Always be sure to ask guests about their food preference and restrictions.
Use Color: Once the food categories are sorted it’s time to select snacks, entrees and desserts. This is where I decided to follow advice that my father passed on- entice the eyes with color to make a plateful look and smell beautiful. I took his word and tried it out. It works! Not only was I challenged to think beyond the obvious but the spread looked inviting.
Be Fair: What does this mean? Be fair to the guests you are serving. If the majority are non vegetarians, don’t keep just one entree for the others and vice versa.
KISS: As in writing, cooking also benefits from the rule of “Keep it Simple Stupid”. Try a mix of things without breaking yourself. Planning and cooking for a gathering is a tough and often thankless job. Keep things simple – choosing recipes that can cook themselves on low heat while you do other important stuff.
Anchor the meal: When following KISS, try to think of an anchor entree that will make the meal cohesive. How do you do this? As an example, if the only food groups you are catering to are vegetarians and non-vegetarians or omnivores, then cook one special main for each.
Go by Flavor: Should you or should you not mix cuisines? Can something south asian be paired with a mediterranean dish? My answer to your cuisine conundrum goes back to KISS again. Firstly, think of which flavors and foods you enjoy eating together. Do not be afraid to showcase your quirkiness and uniqueness. Secondly, choose to cook or put together (with pre-cooked ingredients) mains and sides that do not take a massive toll on your time and peace of mind.
Dessert: One simple, elegant and understated dessert is always more successful than a complicated medley of options. Choose this sweet something based on the cuisine you have channeled and do not be afraid to serve a pre-cooked, store-bought or special order dessert.
Drinks and snacks: Cater to a few basic categories: sodas – a regular and diet, red and white wine, beer and a category or two of hard liquor. You aren’t expected to be as well stocked as a bar!
Welcome the BYO culture: The ‘bring your own’ culture and attitude is collaborative and appreciative of a the hosts’ intent as well as generosity in welcoming guests to their home. Accept food, drinks and help that your friends and family offer as their thanks. I can’t think of a better gift than a helping hand when I am in a crunch.
As much as these few pointers are helpful, they can also seems like a heady mix to follow. Fear not! Let your personality shine through in your event and make it feel as inviting and warm as possible. To help you further is compilation of recipes that will cover your dinner needs from snacks to dessert. As they say, keep calm and carry on, better still party on! You can also head to our Recipes page for a category-wise breakdown.
- Snacking Ideas: Guacamole or Hummus or use a mix of fruit preserves like Ginger-Cherry Chutney with cheese and crackers. Homemade Pita chips or store bought.
- Vegetarian entrees: Mahn Di Dal with Paneer from the Quick Indian Dinner. Or Sabz Kadhi– a curry with vegetables.
- Non Vegetarian: Gingered Chicken or for a leisurely prep- Gosht Do Piaza Lal Mirch. Replace with Awadhi Biryani as an anchoring dish.
- Dessert: Nothing says comfort like a warm cake with ice cream. Choose from- Mandarin Apple Cake , Upside Down Pineapple Cake or a simple Vanilla Cake served with chocolate sauce. Or do a homemade ice cream- Banana Ice Cream