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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 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