Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What's on the menu?

Warning : Its a looong cooking / foodie post..

I love cooking, especially for friends. There's very little cooking we do on a day-to-day basis since we switched a while back to salads and soups for dinner to lose weight (this works really well btw).
Perhaps it is this occasional cooking which also keeps my interest in it going. Not sure how much I would enjoy cooking if I had to do it day-in-day-out. All my cooking creativity comes out only when we have friends over. After a month of friends from out of town staying with us we have a two week break . . . so we're finally having a couple of the welcome parties which are long overdue from us. I am rubbing my hands in glee thinking of all the exciting new things I can try. I'm really bad .. I often try a totally new recipe when I've called people over and then am very tense at how its going to turn out.

I try stick to one type of cuisine in the menu .. but given my limited knowledge it sometimes is a problem. .. that's where I turn to the Internet for inspiration. When it comes to books .. I have two favourites. The Naked Chef and The N.I.A.W Cook book. I love recipes by Jamie Oliver - they don't have a million fancy ingredients, easy to prepare and most importantly .. even if its something I've never tried before ..its usually a success. The N.I.A.W cookbook is another wonderful source. Someone had presented it to us at our wedding .. and at first sight it looks very boring. Published in black and white with no pictures it has 2-3 recipes crammed into a page. The books has sections covering various different cuisines. While at first look the book does not look very promising .. it has rarely failed me. I've only tried the Indian recipes from it .. and even when some of them have had ingredients I wasn't sure would go well together.. they've turned out fine. I also like checking this site for ideas .. and I love the pictures.

Now I need to decide the menu for Saturday. Its a group of our friends from India. I can't decide if I want to make Indian food or something else. The problem with Indian food is that most of them make it regularly at home .. also they have a benchmark for comparison and since I don't make the best Butter Chicken and Chole .. am not too confident. On the other hand I assume that they all like Indian food and so can't go too wrong. . especially if that's what they are expecting. The other option I've been considering is Italian based ..so here's how that would look ...

For starters - with the drinks

# Bruschettas - Its really easy to make and I have a basic recipe which comes out very nicely
# Bread with dipping oil - I still need to develop local knowledge on where to get good bread. .. in the worst case M&S has some interesting options. For the dipping oil - I had got some really good olive oils on a trip to Paris and there's some nice Balsamic vinegar too. The best part - its practically no effort on my part!

For the dinner - am a little confused here. Some of them are vegetarian and I am fairly clueless about using local vegetables like artichoke, asparagus, avocado etc which can add some variety to the veggie options. I must try them sometime to get an idea of the taste and how to use them. In the meantime .. here's the plan

# Risotto - I have a very good basic risotto recipe by Jamie Oliver. I've used it in the past and its comes out really well. My addition to it is adding mushroom and for non vegetarians mushroom and chorizo. Problem with risotto is that it has to be made just before dinner, otherwise it becomes too dry. Maybe if I cut everything and keep it ready, I might manage to put it together really fast. I generally don't like being in the kitchen cooking when there are guests at home...unless its very informal and I can ask them to hang around with me in the kitchen.
# Cannelloni - Well actually I make a variation of it. Instead of the pasta, I use crepes. Its an old recipe from my mum and I quite like it. Also its easy to make and can be prepared in advance.
# Penne in pesto sauce - I love pesto sauce and the good thing is it goes so well with a lot of things. A dash in soup or a sandwich really perks it up. Bee is the resident pesto sauce expert and makes it in bulk. Penne with pesto is one of my favourites and for the non vegetarians I usually keep bacon along with it .. the flavours go together very nicely.
# Salad - Ever since we've started having salad dinners we've been loading up on interesting ingredients. We now have nearly one shelf dedicated to salad ingredients. Also with all the other 'heavy' dishes, I think a light salad would balance it out.

So I can't decide which it should be .. India or my mixed-up Italian. .. also with including penne and risotto and crepes .. I feel it might be too much of carbs giving all of them a similar feel. Will need to think about this some more ... at any rate will have some fun cooking this weekend.


Me said...

Cook anything which is non indian, that way they got nothing to compare.. and hey butter chicken, chole you say?? I'm game for it aaaaaaaaannyday.

So, you gonna fedex it to me?? :D

Pea said...

So see that's why am thinking of butter chicken and chole kind of food.. everyone seems to like the idea.

Btw .. Me, since I can't see your profile.. where are you from? Do you have a blog too?

Me said...

You can't see my profile.. blame it on the beta :(


Grafxgurl said...

oooooooooh i SO know what you mean!!
i LOVE cooking too and i enjoyed my timein chennai inviting friends over for a great home cooked meal!




Pea said...

[Grafxgurl] That was a lot of food and movies for one weekend !!(ref to your post)

I started cooking only after moving out of India...till then had the luxury of a cook! There were a million initial disasters because no recipe tells you exactly how much water to put in dal and how long to pressure cook it. Have now got the hang of things...though still make panic phone calls to my mum and g'mums. I also like a lot exotic ingredients you get here.. . but I suppose most importantly .. its not a routine thing.. so keeps the interest going.