Have you experienced “biryani fatigue” ever? I am in the middle of it now.
I don’t want to eat biryani ever..
in the next 2 months.
We were about to have a large family get-together of nearly 30 guests. We decided to order biryani and make everything else at home. I’d make carrot kheer, gulab jamun, mangalore ghee chicken roast, mutton kola urundai, rice, rasam, vegetable biryani, mixed vegetable jalferazie and curd rice. We wanted to make sure the biryani was top-notch. So the week leading up to the party we ate biryani daily, taste testing biryanis to decide the best place to order from.
If you had seen a woman with a faint masala scent, walking up and down the store with a notebook in one hand and a fully loaded cart, kneeling down here checking the label behind the byadigi chilli pack, going back and adding an extra pack of everything and stopping every shop assistant for help, you should have probably helped her, without judging.
I made estimations and calculated volumes of each dish and worked backwards to calculate volumes of each ingredient I had to buy. I visited the grocery store twice a day during that period. I bought extra ladles, extra-large woks and steel buckets to serve from. I spent the 85 hours of the next 72 hours in the kitchen. I cooked each dish one at a time, slowly, tasting along the way, tweaking, taking a second opinion, fine-tuning again.
I erred on the side of caution and made a little too much of everything. And about one-third of them didn’t show up. Nothing serious. In our part of the world, requesting for RSVP is considered rude. However not showing up is perfectly fine.
And so I ate biryani the whole week after the party as well. The party menu was our family menu for the entire week after that. This after I dug out all the dabbas I possessed to pack food for my maid, for my parents, for my parent’s cook and for relatives who lived close by.
This, my friends is what party hangover feels like. You’ll want to not cook even an omelette, you’ll feel like you’ve released “Bahubali”, you’ll crave a leg massage, you’ll want to eat out, watch a movie, rest for a week and want to go on a holiday alone.
I compiled a list of tips that can ease your party prep and make it less daunting. I’d love to hear your tips too. Let me know in the comments below.
- Before you even plan your guest list and menu, stock up on foil containers (or whatever eco-friendly altrnative containers are out there). Trust me on this. Even more daunting than preparing for a party is managing all those leftovers. Suddenly your endless reserve of disposable containers is just not enough. And you do not trust anyone with your stainless steel dabbas. You need those trusty foil containers to quickly toss leftovers into and pass along to guests who wish to take home your lovingly cooked food. It is so much easy to portion and share with friends and neighbours or stack up in your fridge.
- Empty your fridge. Except for your party ingredients, butter and milk, your fridge needs to be bare. No leftover gravies, rice or chutnies. You’ll need all the space.
- Create your menu carefully. You don’t want too many items that need to be deep-fried, pan fried and served hot off the stove. Choose the main dish first and build around that. Keep your guests in mind while choosing dishes. Choose as many make-ahead dishes as possible. Cut vegetables, marinate, prepare fillings, spice pastes and shape cutlets the previous day. Write down your prep plan step by step – when you’ll make the dessert, when you’ll peel garlic and when you’ll fry the cutlets, when you’ll fill your jugs with water and when you’ll take a shower to rid yourself of the kitchen smells. Start your prep work 2 days before the party. D-day is for all the stove-top action. Everything else needs to happen before.
- 1/5th to 1/3rd of your guests will not turn up, I promise. This is true for all large parties, gatherings (>10 people). Adjust your food volumes accordingly.
- Most people will tell you 1 kilo of biryani will serve 8 people. Remember that this estimate is the absolute-maximum estimate. Most of us don’t eat as much. Also, this estimate assumes biryani is the only thing you’re eating. If you’re serving your guests appetizers, drinks and sides in addition to the biryani, then they’re not going to be eating as much biryani. Remember to factor in all the dishes in your menu while estimating volumes of individual dishes.
- 2 kids don’t make an adult. Counting kids is notoriously tricky. They most likely will not eat everything on the menu, more so in a party. Leave them out for spicy dishes. For biryani, curd rice and dishes they would eat, you could safely apportion 1 adult serving for 3-4 kids. Double count them for ice cream and potato chips.
- If you need lots of peeled shallots, peeled garlic, coconut milk, tortillas, puff pastry or any of those pesky time-sucking ingredients, just buy them from the store. Don’t even think about making them from scratch. Not for a party.
- Make sure you have the right cooking tools and serving dishes. Don’t think of cooking one dish in 3 batches in 3 different kadais. That’s madness, besides being inefficient. Take stock and buy the equipment before you start your prep. One large cooker, a few good quality hot packs (casserole containers) and a couple of large kadais in your paranai (loft) will stand you in good stead.
- The day before the party, first thing in the morning pull out your juice glasses, dessert cups and whatever crockery you may need. You may need to rummage through 8 boxes on your paranai (loft) before you find your ice cream cups. Wash, wipe and keep them ready. Find two large baskets/tubs – one to drop dirty dishes in and another that you can line with a large garbage bag.
- Meticulous planning and patience are key. Write down your menu. Write down your prep/cooking plan. Write down your ingredients list. Write everything down. Cook one dish at a time. Take your time. Taste-test at every stage even if you’re Nigella Lawson. You cannot add a little extra salt to 70 shaped cutlets. You wouldn’t want to.
Don’t forget to enjoy your party! Here’s a handy little summary of my top 10 tips to help plan your next big party.
Here is the carrot kheer recipe I served at the party. Everyone loved the carrot kheer. It is the most awesome make ahead party drink you can make. I love that it can be rich and creamy yet subtle sweet and mellow at the same time. Steamed carrots and milk soaked cashews are blended to make the lovely sweet base for the kheer. Unsweetened khoa adds richness. Stir these into cardamom and cinnamon kissed milk and slow-simmer until you can bear the crazy goodness! Enjoy!
- Carrots – 12 (large)
- Whole Milk – 2.5 ml
- Unsweetened Khoa – 200 gm
- Cashews – ¼ cup soaked in ¼ cup milk
- Sugar – 1.5 cups to 2 cups (add in ½ cup increments, adjust as per taste)
- Cardamom – 3
- Cinnamon – 2 1-inch pieces
- Cloves - 5
- Soak cashews in hot milk for 15-20 minutes.
- Peel carrots, slice into thick rounds and steam until knife tender – 15 to 20 mins. Let cool down.
- Meanwhile bring whole milk to a boil in a large pot. Throw in the whole spices – cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Add about 1.5 cups sugar and simmer for 10-15 mins stirring every now and then and scraping the bottom.
- When the spices are swollen, the sugar has dissolved and the milk is fragrant, switch off. Strain through a large colander to remove the whole spices. Pour the milk back into the pot and turn heat to low.
- Puree the steamed and cooled carrots and soaked cashews to a smooth puree. Pour the milk that the cashews were soaking in to help in pureeing. Add a ladle or two of the simmering milk to help along in pureeing.
- Crumble the unsweetened khoa into smaller pieces. Transfer the crumbled khoa pieces to the mixer jar with the carrot-cashew puree. Whiz again adding milk if necessary to make a smooth homogenous puree.
- Pour the puree into a large bowl. Ladle out a cup of simmering milk from the pot and pour into puree and whisk well to incorporate. Make sure the puree is nice and pourable. This step is to make it easier to incorporate the puree into the milk.
- Now pour back the puree into the simmering milk and stir well to incorporate.
- Taste and adjust sugar according to your preference. Add in ¼ or ½ cup increments and check after adding and stirring.
- When satisfied with the taste, switch off and cool completely. Pour into container and refrigerate till serving time. Serve chilled! Enjoy.