Little nibbles for lovely people

Mallika Basu - Little nibbles for lovely people

Posted 16th October 2007

party-snacks.jpgSome days I have inspired ideas. Offering to cater for my colleague’s party was not one of them.

On the surface, it seemed like a bloody brilliant idea. I would cook. My colleagues would eat. I would win employee of the month.

Three grocery trips later, I realised my mistake. Feeding 20 hungry but weight-conscious PR people is tricky on most days. A Thursday night is pushing it…

Worse still, the jokes were on me:

Chez Mallika

Looking forward to a Mallika kebab

I’m going to Buckingham Balti instead

But there was no way out. I decided on a selection of nibbles that would be easy to cook and fill hungry stomachs at the same time:

  • Murgh Malai Kebabs – boneless cubes of chicken baked in a double cream, cheese, yoghurt and saffron marinade
  • Aloor daum – New potatoes in a spicy, sweet and sour masala
  • Vegetable kebabs – Grilled lentils and vegetable bites cooked with whole spices, ginger and onions

With two dips and strips of readymade naan, I was ready to stage the Mallika show.

The trick, I have learnt, is to make nibbles that don’t need to be shaped or cooked in small batches and can be served cold. Keep them simple and bake/grill/stir fry large quantities instead.

Also, rope in a perfectly domestic colleague to help serve.

Another to pour you a glass of chilled wine.

The third to lavish generous praise on you.

Finally, get drunk and pass out before you notice whether anyone is actually eating anything.

Next time someone has a party, I’ll keep my big mouth shut. If I don’t – shoot me will you?

Recipe for Murgh Malai Kebab to serve 20:

3 kg boneless chicken breasts

500 gm thick yogurt

568 ml double/heavy cream

300 gm cream cheese

Half a nutmeg

1 tsp saffron, soaked in 1 tbsp hot water

3 tsp meat tenderiser

6 inches ginger

Cloves of 1 garlic bulb

6 green finger chillies

3 tbsp sunflower oil

salt to taste

Puree the garlic, ginger, green chillies with the oil in a blender. Cut the chicken into chunks slightly larger than bite sized, bearing in mind that they will shrink as they cook.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients apart from the chicken. Taste it to make sure the marinade is a pungent mixture, as it will lose some of its strong flavour when cooked.

Now, add the chicken and coat it evenly with the marinade. Leave it for at least two hours. I did this on the Tuesday to save preparation time on the Wednesday before the party.

Just before you need them, preheat the oven to gas mark 5 or 190 degrees centigrade. Line three baking trays with the chicken and cook the chicken in two batches for about 20 minutes each.

When cooked, the chicken will be cooked through with a warm brown surface. You may have to rotate the trays to make sure each of them gets a chance in the hotetst part of the over (the top).

Pile them up on to a platter and serve with dhaniya pudina chutney, mint and coriander sauce. Recipe to follow.

Recipe for aloor daum to serve 20:

3 kg small, new potatoes

6 tomatoes, chopped fine

3 inches ginger, chopped or grated

3 tsp turmeric powder

3 tsp chilli powder

Half tsp asafoetida

3 tsp garam masala

6 tbsp thick natural yogurt

Salt to taste

3 tbsp sunflower oil

In a large wok or karhai, bring the oil to heat over a high flame. When the oil is hot, add the asafoetida.

As it sizzles, add the tomatoes, the ginger and all powders bar the garam masala. Stir for five minutes until the tomatoes disintegrate and the raw smell of the spices gives way to a more pleasing, subtle aroma.

Now add the yogurt and stir vigorously for another five minutes until it is well incorporated with the masalas.

Now stir in the potatoes, mixing the masalas well into them. Add salt at this stage as well.

Next, add a cup of hot water, cover the wok and leave the potatoes to cook and the curry to dry up. You need to lift the lid every couple of minutes and give the potatoes a good stir.

When the curry is completely dry and a fork can be inserted through the potatoes easily, the dish is ready. Mix in the garam masala and take the wok off the flame.

This dish is spicy and infinitely more delicious when served the next day.

PS = Needless to say, the potatoes were not nearly as popular as the rest of the nibbles as obviously fatty carbs. Little did the PR folk know that the chicken had been cooked with cream and cream cheese. Ouch…

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