A few years back, Rajat and I hosted a dinner party. I made palak channa, aloo gobi and Indira at Mahanandi’s pudina paneer. Each dish was my best (if you’ll indulge me and let me toot my own horn – which really, you have no choice but to let me). Really. It was some of my best cooking. Others who were present and less biased agreed. Rajat was in charge of what I’ll call “accompaniments” – raita, salad, naan and rice. So he made raita, salad and rice and heated up a few Deep frozen naans. Our dinner guests couldn’t stop raving about how wonderful the raita, salad and naan were (hell, I’m sure they raved about the rice too and I’ve just blocked it out). Not a word was said about the dishes I cooked! And, they barely ate any of the food I made. I mean, they went on and on and on.
Oh the raita is so great.
Wow this salad is amazing.
Where did you buy these naans?
What’s in the salad? How did you make it?
It was a little weird. It was a lot weird. We laughed about it afterwards and happily enjoyed the leftovers, but clearly I’m still a little bitter. I suppose the moral of that little story (because I’ll pretend I told it to you to impart a moral and not just to rant some more) is that these accompaniments, can really make the meal:
Raita – served as a condiment along with the meal and helpful for comforting your mouth in the face of spicy heat. There are many different versions of raita. Here’s two of my favorites:
- whisk the yogurt with a fork until smooth, add a little water (see below) and then stir in a sprinkling of chat masala, cayenne pepper or black pepper and a little salt.
- to make things a little fancier, follow the same steps as above and also stir in grated or chopped cucumber.
The raita should be a creamy consistency just slightly looser than regular yogurt, not watery (as it often is at lower end Indian restaurants).
Salad – Indian salads are not like what you picture when you think of American salads. Two popular variations are:
- thinly sliced onions and slit green chilies sprinkled with lemon juice, chat masala, black pepper and salt.
- cherry tomatoes, onions, carrots and cucumbers and radishes showered with lemon juice, chat masala, black pepper and salt.
A simple salad adds freshness to the meal and also helps to keep things cool.
Naan or roti – By the time I finish making everything, I have no time for making fresh rotis. I wish I did because light, soft rotis are a nice treat. But I don’t. So I keep a few bags of frozen naan in the freezer. There are a lot of good brands, but I usually pick up Trader Joe’s or Deep brand.
Basmati or Jasmine rice -fresh fragrant rice is a must!
In case you missed it, here’s my first post in this series, Planning an Indian Menu, about What to Serve with What.
Let me know if you have any other show stopper raita or salad variations in the comments.