Raita Here, Raita Now

Apologies to the owners of the two pairs of phantom hands

Apologies to the owners of the two pairs of the hash-tagging phantom hands

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a tipsy man in possession of a good hunger, must be in want of a curry.’

Amen.

I had started to rack up an increasing food debt with a few friends of mine so I decided to wipe the slate clean and have an Indian themed bash. Amongst these friends (above) lurks a vegetarian and I had been somewhat nervous about how to cater for a majority of carnivores with him in the midst. My main issue was that my go-to dishes for entertaining normally involve a massive hunk of meat with trimmings bringing up the rear.

I’ll admit in my weaker moments planning this evening,  part of me wanted to fob him off with a Linda McCartney Bean Burger and be done with it. However, as he had put on two stellar Mexican evenings round his in quick succession, I thought I had better step up. And what better cuisine to step up with than Indian; the home of vegetarianism. So here’s what I did:

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Starter

Poppadoms with homemade raita, homemade piccalilli and mango chutney

Piccalilli presence - raised a few conservative eyebrows

Piccalilli presence – raised a few conservative eyebrows

Raita - simples

Raita – simples

Main

Roasted Veg Vindaloo with Curried Chicken Skewers

Dry Chili Paneer

Mushroom Bhaiji

Homemade Naan Breads with mango and raisins (not exact recipe on link but more or less, real one in Bread)

Basmati rice

Paneer - didn't quite soak up the flavours as I'd hoped

Paneer – didn’t quite soak up the flavours as I’d hoped

But came out OK I suppose (for a veggie dish)

But came out OK I suppose (for a veggie dish)

 

Mushroom Bhaji - suprising star of the show

Mushroom Bhaji – surprising star of the show

Dessert

Haagen-Dazs (apparently all that was left at Sainsbury’s on the way up…but at 1 a.m. was pretty decent)

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The food got demolished which is always a good sign. Unbelievably the whole meal only cost £52. It fed 8 but could have stretched to more.* No wonder people decide to be veggie!

Post-dinner it was into the lounge for a heated game of Trivial Pursuit (won by yours truly and the veggie, our erudite pairing seeing off two other teams of three). The question that swung it: who was Darth Maple?

Then as the evening wound down we tried to make a cocktail out of what remained in the fridge and our eclectic collection of half-drunk spirit bottles. Three different rums, concentrated lemon juice, soda water, caster sugar and a huge amount of mint might have tasted good at the time, but it made the tidying up the next morning a Herculean task.

*George – if you’re reading I am truly sorry.

 

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Maneesh Flat Bread with Baba Ganoush / Chunky Chilli con Carne

Laura (girlfriend and occasional fussy eater) hates minced meat and lamb. Minced lamb, don’t even go there. If I ever suggest eating mince, I get a face that looks like I’ve just asked her to swallow slug pellets. Apparently its the texture.

I, on the other hand, think mince is one of the greatest comfort foods available to mankind. Spag bol, shepherd’s pie, chilli, lasagna, moussaka, meatballs, tacos etc. Needless to say, its a bone of contention and I frequently find myself, like a thief in the night, rustling up a bolognese sauce if she’s ever away for a weekend to get my fix.

As hideous things like Quorn substitute don’t even bear thinking about, I’ve been forced to do some bobbing and weaving to find some of the favourite recipes above, but adapted for mince-racists. We had some marked success with this Cheese and Bacon Lasagne but I’ve been meaning to make the title dish (Chunky Chilli con Carne) ever since I had it at a mate’s house a while back. The key to the dish being its use of chunks of braising steak rather than mince.

I’m aware I haven’t mentioned the bread yet and that this is rather arse about face as its in the photo above. I made these two dishes separately, the bread and dip for a (slightly laborious) Saturday afternoon snack and the chilli for a slow-cooked Sunday dinner, but in retrospect I think they’d partner really well as a starter/main for a shindig.

Browned stewing beef - is there a more promising sight?

Browned stewing beef – is there a more promising sight?

But back to the chilli if I may. I normally find Ramsey’s recipes a little on the arduous side for home cooking as they involve too many ingredients/steps. However, this one was pretty straightforward and bloody delicious.  I’d say its more of a cross between a beef bourguingon and a chilli as it uses half a bottle of wine. Ramsey wants you to use Pinot Noir (flash bastard) but I just dumped in some Gallo left over from having people round the night before (cooking minesweeping = classy).

Coriander creme-fraiche offsets the cayenne pepper like a TOWIE reem

Coriander creme-fraiche offsets the cayenne pepper like a TOWIE reem

I like my spice and this was pretty bang on. If you prefer things a bit milder, I’d put less cayenne in the beef marinade to start with though. Critically, it passed the Laura taste test and I have to say it was much better than a regular CcC, although is more of an effort.

Baba ganoush - the poor man's caviar

Baba ganoush – the poor man’s caviar

Apparently (according to Paul Hollywood) Maneesh bread has been around for thousands of years in the Middle East. I can see why they persevered with it. Its bloody tasty.  Hollywood has put the recipe online here.

Likewise with the Baba ganoush, quick/easy to make and full of flavour.  Just roast some aubergines and mash it up with salt, plenty of garlic, tahini, parsley, lemon and oil. Job done.

I did have a bit of a mare with this though as by the time I actually finished the bread/ganoush I only had time for few mouthfuls before going out for dinner. It was fairly rank reheated the next day. Eat it fresh and don’t store it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sneak a lamb chop before Laura finishes watching Revenge…