A Subcontinental Feast

We had a wonderful dinner party on Saturday night with a selection of Indian subcontinental food. The dinner was to celebrate the announcement of the secret marriage of a couple of friends and to give a former Londoner some of the curry that he so sorely misses. The meal was also a rewarding end to a couple of days of cooking by yours truly. In truth, I’ve been working this dinner for a couple of months. I made the mango pickle a couple of months ago, the vindaloo paste two weeks ago and the chutneys several days ago. Despite all the work, I simply love hearing that the shrimp in spicy tamarind-tomato sauce with hints of mustard and fennel is, “amazing” to one of our guests. Our menu included:

Appetizers
Spicy Cucumber Wedges
Pakistani Bean Salad
Pakistani Riata (Yogurt and Cucumber Dip)
Cashews with Black Pepper
Punjab Snacks

Bread, Condiments and Rice
Naan (plain)
Papad (cumin seed and chili)
Mango Pickle
Tomato Chutney
Cucumber Chutney
Rice with Garlic and Pine Roasted Nuts
Spiced Saffron Rice

Main Dishes
Lamb Vindaloo
Bangladeshi Chicken and Pineapple
Shrimp in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Sweet and Sour Okra
Butternut Squash in Coconut Cream

Desserts
Gulab Jamun
Bengali Rasgulla
Cardamom and Rose Lassi

Chicken and Pineapple Curry

The Pakistani Bean Salad is an all-time winner with its grapeseed oil sweetness blending with chili peppers and white vinegar for a sweet and sour treat, and for the cucumber wedges, I used a garam masala to flavor them instead of ground cumin for a sweet but spicy surprise. The spicy Pakistani Riata, the chutneys and the pickle were also enjoyed with the selection of breads while we waited for the mains to heat up. My favorite of the three is the cucumber chutney with malt vinegar and ginger bringing a great zing to the natual cool of the the cucumbers.

The main dishes were served with two contrasting rices. The mild Pakistani rice with loads of garlic and roasted pinenuts brought a gentle flavor that origninated in the Arab world and traveled to Pakistan along with goods, beliefs and ideals, and the spiced saffron was flavored with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves was well as saffron and sweet butter. For our London friend, I made a proper lamb vindaloo that made him sweat after a few mouthfuls. For his new American wife, who has less of a taste for spice, I made a sweeter Bangladeshi curry of chicken and pineapples. For myself, I prepared one of my favorites: a curry of shrimp in a tamarind tomato sauce with dashes of mustard and licorice-like fennel. The vegetables on the omnivore table were a lovely butternut squash with mustard seeds in sweet coconut cream and a sweet and sour okra served a sides – but they could easily have been enjoyed as part of a series of main dishes on a vegetarian spread.

Our guests were serious Whovians, the desserts – two subcontinental sweets in syrup were an afterthought – eaten in near silence while watching the second “Weeping Angels” episode of the Matt Smith Dr. Who series. We also had good chardonnay and Williamsburg mulled and plain ciders flowing all night

A lovely evening with some happy people. Good food, good friends, a shared interest – a wonderful evening which I am happy for, but still tired from as I look forward to another week of work. Still, these are the moments that sustain us. Leftovers, however, will also sustain both families for some time to come as well! (All recipes from the Silk Road Gourmet Volume 1; Words by Laura Kelley; Photo of Chicken and Pineapple Curry borrowed from Google Images).

Hail Mary!

Bangladesh - Madonna and Child

 

In sorting through my old photographs recently, I was struck by this one and its timeliness – even though I snapped it more than a decade ago. Although completely unposed, the graceful curve of the neck, the adoration of the child by the mother, and the child’s alert but peaceful gaze at the viewer reminded me of dozens of European Renaissance paintings I’ve seen of The Madonna and Child. The colors in the photograph differ from the heavenly blues and royal golds used by Western artists and instead are pure rural Bangladesh – a sea of greens mixed with sunlight dappled through the forest canopy, and glowing café-au-lait accents of south Asian skin.

For me, this photo is a reminder that faith is not found in a church, a synagogue, mosque or temple. Those are places for education, reminders and sharing with communities of believers. Rather, faith is found on the streets and in the villages and towns of the world – places where our actions as faithful people matter most. For some, faith can even found in an old photograph of an ordinary farmer’s wife and son from Matlab, Bangladesh. (Words and photo “Hail Mary”, by Laura Kelley).