The title sounds very intimidating, right? But there’s nothing like that. It is just going to be a long rant post… 🙂 Before I start, a special thanks to HD’s cousin for clicking the pics. I had none and I was worried what I would be sharing in this post… hehe…
We Indians are so used to having guests over for lunch or dinner. Any special occasion, or any special people come over, we have to call them over our home for a “small” meal. When my parents were around, any family that comes for a visit to Dubai is guaranteed to be fed from our home. It was actually a good feel – the panic on umma’s face, the helping her out to cut the vegetables and fruits, to washing plates and waiting for them to leave so that you could eat up all the left overs! 😀 As of now, thanks to my ultra-tight routine, I try not to call too many guests at home. HD is not a very social person and has very limited friends. Being busy with his activities is also one reason why he doesn’t encourage any invitations, whether up or down. At times I do miss the fun of having to plan and cook up a meal. I have always mentioned before that umma would always ask me to take care of the dessert while she would cook up the rest of the meal, with only helping touches from me. Now, I need to do it from top to bottom. I know being a working woman, many of them won’t really mind a limited meal, but I am not comfortable doing that way. Nor do I like the concept of ordering in from restaurants when guests are called.
Most of the time, I prefer calling guests over for lunch rather than dinner. For us Malayalees, lunch is rice, period! We don’t eat anything apart from rice during lunch time. Therefore it becomes easier to cook up for lunches. For dinners, you are lost for choices, especially with the flat breads to offer – chapathi, porotta, poori, vellappam… I have seen my cousins cook up three different variants at a time – I would rather not do that at all! There is also another factor with lunch – you are kind of guaranteed that you wouldn’t have much leftovers. Dinner is a time when many tend to eat less or skip altogether, whereas lunch is a meal that nobody wants to avoid. So you can overcook but still have only little leftover, just enough for you to take rest the next day! 😉 Another pointer, I feel, is that dinner can go in too late into the night and having school going children plus myself to move out to office, I do not prefer sleeping so late that I can’t wake up the next day morning, especially if it is a working day. Having said that, it is personal choice as to whether you prefer to have your guest over for whichever meal.
Moving on, naturally a get-together would have guests. It is very important to know your guest, their preferences at least on minimal level. Why is this important? You would not want your guest going hungry at your home and you having to scramble through a delivery order from the restaurant to keep them filled. We may need to go a bit further to make some effort, but it does save a lot of time in planning our dishes.
I am going to sight the example of a recent lunch I had at my place of our relatives and a newly wed couple as well. We finalized and called all who were coming. I could have done a chicken biriyani as it is much easier to cook, but since HD’s cousin’s wife does not have chicken, I decided not to make it. Taking into account that there were no other special requirements, I finalized on the below menu:
Welcome drink: Kamaruddin drink
Lunch menu: Malabar Vegetable Biriyani
Nei Choru (was a last minute addition)
Pepper Chicken Roast
Dessert menu: Banoffee Pie
Broken Jelly Pudding
I wrote down the menu and the ingredients required. So the next step is to have your grocery list ready. Write down all the ingredients that would go into it, what is there with you in stock and what more will be required. It will make life easier by limiting your trip to the supermarket to one or maximum twice, not more than that!
The lunch was on Thursday, since it was a public holiday, so I started my activities on Tuesday. As soon as I got back from office, I directly went ahead and bought the grocery. The next thing I did was to jot down what I am supposed to finish each day. This gives a good idea of how you move about your activities. Just peeping into how my list looked like:
I added much more points to this initial list but that is the whole point – to get you organized so that you are not in for any last minute surprises! 🙂
Always try to finish the toughest part first – ie. sobbing while chopping the onions! 😀 Another part I always finish first is the dessert. The longer the dessert sits, the better it tastes as you would want the flavors to intermingle and settle down. This is what I completed on Tuesday night, starting from 8 pm:
- Peeled and soaked 16 onions in water for 10 minutes.
- Put in two can of condensed milk into the pressure cooker for converting into Dulche De Leche for the Banoffee Pie. Cooked for 7 to 8 whistles and switched off, leaving it overnight to cool.
- Started slicing the onions and put them all into the bag.
- Mixed up the jellies for the Broken Jelly Pudding and dumped into the fridge for setting.
- Prepared the Dates Pickle (hardly took 25 minutes from start to end)
- Soaked the chickpeas for the salad.
Wednesday morning, as soon as I woke up in the morning, these are what I did:
- Washed the chickpeas, put into the pressure cooker and cooked it for three whistles. Switched off.
- Took off the milk cans from the cooker and kept it into the fridge.
- Boiled water and soaked up the kamruddin sheets for the drink. Kamaruddin is nothing but sheets of dried apricot, that is mainly used for preparing juices, especially during Ramadan.
The above was done in the 30 minutes I was in the kitchen while warming the kids’ milk and packing their boxes. I then left for office.
Once I was back home, I took a little break and was in the kitchen till late night finishing off the tasks that I had put up on my list to do. Those included:
- Started preparing the base masala for the biriyani
- Finished preparing both the desserts.
- Prepared the salad.
- Marinated the beef and chicken.
- Adjusted the fridge umpteen number of times to accommodate all of the above.
- Prepared the chammanthi.
- Sautéed the beetroot for the raita.
- Chopped up all the vegetables for the biriyani and boiled them till they were half done. Drained them and set aside.
Even though I was dead tired, I made sure that I finished off all so that I would be more relaxed on the day of the lunch. I was in the kitchen from 7 to 12, with only a 15 minute prayer break in between. 🙂
The next day morning, I was up by 8. The first thing I did was pull out the marinated chicken and beef so that they would come to room temperature. I then proceeded with frying the birista for the biriyani, followed by frying the cashews and raisins. On the other side, I started sauteeing the masala for the beef roast and the entire recipe. I added the cooked vegetables to the base masala and cooked them on simmer till it became warm and the vegetables were all covered. It is then I realised that I didn’t have a big enough vessel to hold that much of biriyani! I had to cook 8 cups of rice, drain them and then put them on dum, however I didn’t have the facility for it. Since HD has a hotel close by, he took the masala and the dum ingredients and got the remaining procedure done there, which made my life much easier! 🙂 That is a cheat step really… In the mean time, I finished the tadka for the beef roast, put in the chicken into the oven to be roasted. I also finished mixing the yogurt into the cooked beetroot and put it back into the fridge to get cold.
When I thought I was all done and it was time for me to freshen up, HD asked, “Would everybody eat biriyani? Why don’t you make some neychoru?” So there you go, the next 40 minutes went in quickly putting it together. Alhamdulillah, by the time the guests started arriving, I was already fresh, my Dhuhr prayers done, all the vessels in which the dishes were to be served were all out. We had a fantastic time, the guest enjoyed the food, Alhamdulillah. Though I had some leftovers for the main dishes, the desserts were wiped out. That always happens at any lunches or dinners in my home! Hehe… 😀
I hope this post gives you a hint on how to go about it. It is only about planning and scheduling, and sticking much to your plan. For some cases, also ensure that you have plan B in place. For example, on Wednesday, while whipping the cream for the Banoffee Pie topping, it got over-whipped and converted into butter! It was the first time I was experiencing this and I had no stock of Dream Whip, which I normally have in stock always. Thankfully, the supermarket close by had a couple of packets, but which cost me much more than what it would have been, had I bought in from the bigger chain, but still I got it done in time to finish my scheduled activities.
So that’s it from my side. I hope that this post will help you plan your little parties with some ideas on how to go about it. Do let me know your suggestions and feedback in case you feel that I could have done some improvements in my process. 🙂