Ten top tips for hosting an Indian summer garden party

It’ll shortly be the last long weekend of summer, and, with September waiting in the wings, you should use it as an excuse for a final hurrah and host a big fat Indian summer garden gathering to see the season off in style. Not sure where to start? The great big guide which follows should offer a little inspiration.

Rally the troops, plan your party, and get a decadent Desi feast on the cards – for with autumn fast encroaching, this might be the last chance to truly put the spice in summer.

The drinks

Dishoom's Bhaang Lassi

By all means offer the underage, the infirm and the designated drivers a long, tall lassi or a cool glass of nimbu pani, jal jeera, or fresh lime soda; but to make your party really hearty you’ll need something somewhat stronger. Try Bhai or Blowhorn cider, Bangla Beer, or even Indian wine – Soul Tree and Sula are solid options.

The nibbles

Angus Denoon front Jhalmuri Express streetfood close

Go beyond Bombay and try some other destinations in the chevdo category. Ready-made snack mixes come suffixed with all sorts of origins – Gujarati Mix, Delhi Mix and even London Mix are just a few of the crunchy-munchy creations you’ll find on supermarket shelves. Think Pringles are addictive? Just you wait…

The cool customers

Damn Good Curry supperclub sev puri

In hot weather, serve some cool dishes – think traditional, with big fat chaat platters and salads of mixed sprouted pulses, or put a little modernism on the menu with broad bean raita, cold roasted veggies tossed with toasted panch phoron, or sliced fresh paneer and tomatoes dressed with coriander pesto and roasted ground cumin.

The sarnies

Devnaa sandwich pakoras bread deep-fried Indian vegetarian recipe Afternoon tea Roopa Rawal

Fancy ribbon sandwiches are an English garden party essential – and should be so if you’re doing one Desi-style. Try triple-decker tiranga chutney sandwiches on simple white bread; slathered with a layer each of orange-hued chilli-garlic and herbal green chutneys, their colour palate references the Indian national flag.

The DIY delicacy


Getting hands-on can be hands-down the best thing about any party. Self-assembly snacks allow guests to tailor to taste, and also serve as splendid ice-breakers. Pani puri are perfect – simply set out trays of the crisp semolina shells, katoris containing myriad fillings, shakers of chaat masala, and small jugs of imli pani to pour in.

The serving solution Hattie Lloyd Franjipani Tiffin.htm-500x500

Paper plates or mismatched crockery dragged from the deepest depths of your cupboards are all well and good, but if you’re really feeling fancy, you can’t beat individual, multi-layered tiffin tins like these from Hattie Lloyd. Hosts with the most should set their spread out buffet-style and invite attendees to fill their tins, find a perch, and fill their boots.

The bit on the side

That Hungry Chef mojo risin chilli relish Indian

Never take a risk – always keep a condiment to hand. To really come over as a caring host, cater to all tastes with a diverse collection of tasty examples – check out this post for the relishes everyone will happily get in a pickle with. Along with his Mojo Risin’ chilli sauce (pictured), That Hungry Chef Pratap Chahal has a few top dip tips:

  • THE FRUITY ONE Blend ½ a pineapple with ½-1 tsp That Hungry Chef’s Green Mojo Risin’ chilli relish, 2 tsp sugar and 1 lime. Fold in finely chopped coriander.
  • THE GREEN ONE Blend a bunch of mint and a bunch of coriander with 1 tbsp ginger, 2 cloves garlic, a touch of green chilli, 1 tsp sugar, and a little water, oil and salt.
  • THE SOUTH INDIAN ONE Blend grated flesh from ½ a coconut with ½ tbsp tomato purée, 1 tbsp chopped ginger, 1 clove garlic, 1 tbsp peanuts, salt, and equal quantities of water and oil. Fry 1 tsp mustard seeds and 10 curry leaves in coconut oil and pour on top.

The Desi decor

Spice Kitchen sari bunting silk recycle handmade Indian fairtrade decorations

Whatever the weather, gorgeous garlands of tropical flowers will provoke sunny smiles. Strands of sari bunting are equally-evocative – Spice Kitchen’s silk stuff is hand-made, customisable and Fair Trade. Whether you choose to eat directly from them or not, green banana leaves make beautiful table toppers.

The soundtrack

Momtaz Begum Hossain Ashanti Omkar Zoe Perrett The Craft Cafe The Spice Scribe

Ashanti Omkar, far left

You could go for Bollywood songhits and bhangra beats – in which case you could do worse than streaming The Official Asian Download Chart – or you could go a different route entirely: down South. Ashanti Omkar’s BBC Asian Network show focuses on the classic and myriad modern sounds of South India – check it out here.

The sweet finale

Cocoa Hernando Indian masala chai chocolate bar

Cocoa Hernando is a a sort of global Milk Tray Man; each of his flavoured chocolates inspired by a destination. The Masala Chai bar tastes exactly what it says on the tin, and is decadent enough to call dessert. For something extra sinful, melt it down and pour the hot choc over ice cream.

  • To read more about all sorts of Indian drinks, click here
  • To read more about That Hungry Chef, click here
  • To read more about Ashanti Omkar and South Indian food, click here
  • To read more about Indian-inspired chocolate, click here and here
  • For Indian barbecue inspiration. click here
  • For Indian Afternoon Tea inspiration, click here

Image credit: Chaat – Tim Keremezo

4 responses to “Ten top tips for hosting an Indian summer garden party

  1. Hi Zoe! I really do like your Blog. I enjoy cooking Indian food and rely on your Blog, and books by Maunika Gowardhan, Anjum Anand, Madhur Jaffrey and Mrs. Balbir Singh. In my part of the world, it is difficult to find unusual ingredients, Indian restaurants are a rarity, as are Asian grocery stores, and online ordering takes weeks and weeks with no guarantee of delivery. I have had to make my own Pav Bhaji and Fruit Chaat Masalas, and quite enjoy doing that. I sometimes return to the UK and manage to stock up on Dried Mango powder, Black Salt, And Ajawan seeds.
    Gujarati Mix, London Mix and Delhi Mix sound amazing and I would like to ask if you could post a recipe for them, as I have never seen them in the shops here.
    I love your blog which always has something new and I would like to hear more about good cookbooks if there are any nice ones you know of.


    • So pleased to hear this, Fiona – and to be listed in such esteemed company! Where in the world are you based? Despite the effort, I think you’re doing yourself a kindness making your own masalas… so many commercial ones lack balance and vibrancy.

      Those ‘chevdo’ snack mixes are all made with various proportions and combos of sev (gram flour noodles), crunchy-fried dals and green peas, pea(and other)nuts, curry leaves, kala chana, and much more according to region and taste – even cornflakes in some cases. In Sri Lanka it’s just called ‘Mixture’.

      I don’t have any of my own recipes (it’s one of those things that’s a labour of extreme love when it’s so available to me), but you might like to take a look at these…

      As for books, I have many, many recommendations. Pop ‘books’ in the search bar, or let me know what regions you’re most interested in and I’ll post some suggestions. 🙂


  2. Great article Zoe! Shame we aren’t having an Indian Summer weather wise! We wholeheartedly second what you say about (well everything) but especially the snacks – there is so much more to Indian nibbles than just Bombay Mix! They are a labour of love to make though you’re right. We sell a range of mixes and are in fact adding more this weekend, take a look http://www.delhish.com/collections/snacks 🙂 Would love to see the photos from this party! Dip, Delhish


  3. Pingback: Moving forward, looking back – 2015’s best bits & greatest hits | Culinary Adventures of The Spice Scribe·

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