Focus on accompaniments

While paying attention to our mains, we often forget to focus on the accompaniments. Typically in Indian cuisine these comprise of raitas, salads, pickles or relishes. Ever tried making a pomegranate and mint raita to go with your pulao or biryani?  Or how about “pickling” your onions in some salt, sugar and vinegar instead of serving them raw? People take notice of interesting twists like these simply because they least expect to find them.

You need not ignore this principle while serving other cuisines. For example, if you serve a roast chicken, why not substitute boring mashed potato with cauliflower rice? Simply boil florets of cauliflower, grate them up and fold with some butter and cream. Season well and before you know it, plates will be licked clean. Likewise how about instead of serving simple boiled carrots, you “candy” them by pan roasting them in some butter and sugar?

A cucumber and onion raita with a tempering of mustard and curryleaf, served with a chicken pulao


Always have some garnishes handy

Seldom do we realize that restaurant food looks and tastes different from home food because of a simple trick. The secret lies in their garnishes that are part of their presentation. Deep fry garlic and store in an airtight jar for days inside the refrigerator. Deep fry onions till crispy and store similarly.  These two condiments will make you come up with many ingenious hacks of your own. A shower of fried onions on top of your curry will not just enhance its flavors it will also add that finesse to make some jaws drop at your dinner table. A wee bit of fried garlic has the power to give a makeover to your bland mashed potato.  Chopped spring onions or bean sprouts on top of homemade noodles or fried rice add color, crunch and loads of extra flavor. The key to choosing garnishes comes from understanding how different it makes the original dish taste.

Garnishing like fried onion and garlic can add a boxful of flavors to any curry


Serve dishes that can be prepped in advance

This slightly different hack is about choosing the right dishes to serve. If you have a menu that can be par cooked or prepped in advance, you will be stress free when you entertain. Guests love to see a chilled out host enjoying themselves with others, leading them to think of their hosts as confident cooks!  So opt for dishes that you can cook on your stovetop or oven without too much supervision. For example, marinate meats with spice mixes and chill overnight or choose a make ahead dessert. Working on this idea will not only give you plenty of prep time the previous day, you will also have enough time to correct mistakes, if things go wrong.

Cover Picture : Fried onions and garlic

Photo Courtesy: Subhasree Basu


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