Summer time usually means a lot of spontaneous entertaining and I love having friends over on the spur of the moment. Then often a time it will be something quick, easy and put together with simple ingredients not requiring too much fussing over. A tapas or mezzeh menu, barbecued meats and fish or quick roasted and moist poultry are some of the ideas I tend reach for from my repertoire.
My cooking is very deeply inspired by the Indian and Middle Eastern, in particular the Levantine cuisine, reflecting the two major influences in my life. Sprinkled within my Indian roots are the pungent and aromatic spices that have created a robust and poignant foundation for all my cooking experiments. But a generous slathering of Middle Eastern upbringing has shaped my style of cooking into a creative and bold new route. I will easily pair flavors and ingredients from both cuisines side-by-side and present a mix of tastes and fragrances to my guests, hoping to always create a memorable experience for them.
The kitchen is a place where I often get lost in my own memories. When it comes to food – my memories are grand! And I want to share this grandness with my friends every time we sit together at the dinner table.
There are many similarities in the Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Be it the common spices used liberally in both cuisines like cumin, coriander, saffron or herbs like mint and also produce like okra or egg plants – which leaves plenty of room for new interpretations or using new ingredients in traditional dishes. This meal very much reflects the way I cook and entertain at home. The beautiful organic whole chicken boasts flavors from both cuisines, while the tabouleh, a traditional Levantine salad, makes use of quinoa instead of the coarser bulgur it is typically made with.
Little details and decorations on the table are a nice way to add a small personal highlight. Nothing extravagant – the meal and your friends are the stars of the evening - but I do like creating a personalized table setting for my guests. It is a warm welcome message and makes my guests feel special. These small highlights become a signature that makes my friends look forward to the dinners I give. I will use whatever I have on hand, often going to my herb garden for inspiration.
In the video I shot for Dima Shariff’s Ramadan Special I share these simple ideas including thoughts on dinnerware, tablecloth and napkins, how I balance colours and set the mood. I also share my food inspirations and how I evolve my recipes to fit my lifestyle. My nature inspired summer table is perfect for enjoying great convivial meals with your friends outdoors and creating grand memories with good down-to-earth food with big flavors.
While we are on the subject of videos and TV, here is the clip for Germany’s MDR TV who are accompanying me for the Kulinarik project I told you about in my last post. The clip focuses on my cooking, blogging and photography and how I am incorporating my cooking style into the Thüringian cuisine. Hope you enjoy a peek into my kitchen, studio and prop closet!
The chicken is rubbed generously with a garam masala spice mix, this one in particular is Masala Monsoon’s Jasmine Petal Garam Masala, an inspired aromatic spice blend that bring together the flowery note of Jasmine to green cardamom and cumin creating an exotic mélange of flavors. Masala Monsoon spice blends are a passionate creation of Sumaya Usmani from My Tamarind Kitchen (formerly Pukka Paki). Sumaya says “Masala Monsoon is created to bring to you the best memories” and as I am passionate about sharing such memories from my kitchen her spice blends fit perfectly! My nani (grandmother) always said that saffron was the pinch of extra love for your friends and guests, so I have added a generous pinch of beautiful saffron strands to the rub. The chicken roasted on medium heat to keep it moist and succulent and then basted in honey, hazelnuts and a drizzle of rosewater. It awakens all the senses! A minty and refreshing quinoa tabouleh brings the main meal together, keeping it light but adding to the exquisite flavors.
Hope you all enjoy your summer with friends and family! I would love to hear what your favorite meals are, how you set your tables and what signature dish do you often serve when friends come over – please feel free to share your thoughts.
You might like these great dishes for your summer entertaining from WFLH:
|Mint Lamb Meatballs with Spelt Risotto and a Coriander Pesto||Grilled Salmon with Ras El Hanout and Za'atar||Mussels in a Creamy Garlic Sauce|
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