What to Cook: Quick, Simple Family Dinner

Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

I love getting emails from all of you, especially ones that request help with planning a menu. I’m a big advocate of hosting regular family-style dinner parties, and love to see others do the same. Here is an email I received from Dana a few days ago:

Hi Meena,

I have been following your blog for quite some while now and absolutely love it. You delight my foodie heart! :)

I am hosting a family party this weekend (there are around 6-7 of us) and I can’t think of a suitable menu. I’m keen on doing an Indian themed dinner, since we’re all into Indian food big time! I would prefer it to be healthy (with possibly, one “unhealthy” item) and without any naans/parathas/ rotis. I don’t want to sweat it out in the kitchen in this hot weather. If you any suggestions, they are very much welcome. Please help!!

Thanks so  much!

- Dana

Well Dana, what can I say. You spoke to my heart! Whenever I plan a meal for my closest friends or family, I always go for recipes that are simple, wholesome and delicious. Comfort food is definitely a crowd-pleaser, and not to mention pretty easy on the cook too, in most cases. 6 is a nice intimate number for a dinner party, and here is what I suggest:

For appetizers, you can never go wrong by laying out a platter of bite-sized treats. I would pick an assortment of Alu Dahi Puri, Corn Chaat, and Potato Parcels. If you’d like to keep it really simple however, then a tray full of piping hot Samosas served with Chutney will definitely please your guests. Most of these recipes are fairly easy to prepare and the Potato Parcels and Samosas can even be prepped a few days ahead, frozen, and fried fresh to serve. Just remember to thaw them out in the refrigerator overnight though.

For the main course, lay out a buffet to served family-style. My go-to combination always consists of one main curry like, Coconut-Lime Chicken Curry (recipe follows), or Lamb & Potato Curry, or Hot & Sour Fish Curry. Again, all these dishes are a breeze to cook and taste even better a day later. So they are all perfect candidates for cooking a day in advance!

You can then pick any dried vegetarian dish like, PaneerTak-a-Tak, Baingan Patiala, Masala Mushrooms, or Alu Palak; a lentil/bean dish like, Chana Dal Masala or Chana Masala; and top that off with a side of rice like, Mushroom & Peas Pulao.

Dessert can always be plain good ‘ol ice cream, or something fancier like, Gajar Halwa.

Hope this helps you Dana. I’d love to hear details on your party planning process. Happy cooking!

Coconut-Lime Chicken Curry
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 30 min | Serves: 6

Ingredients:

4 large chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cube
2 medium potatoes, quartered
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups coconut milk
1-2 dried chillies
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
4-5 green cardamom pods
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper, to taste
2 tbsp light cooking oil

Directions:

Toast dried red chilies, cumin seeds and coriander seeds till fragrant. Grind in a food processor to fine powder and set aside.

Heat oil in a deep pan and saute cinnamon, star anise and cardamom till fragrant. Add in onions and fry for a few minutes till tender and pink.

Add in garlic, ground spices and turmeric, potatoes and fry for a few seconds before adding in coconut milk. Allow it to come to a boil, and then add the chicken pieces.

Season with salt and pepper, and cook covered for 10-15 minutes till chicken is done and potatoes are cooked through, adding water if necessary. Squeeze over lime juice and serve warm.

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