The Spice of Life
Theme nights are a great way to attract customers and drive sales at your business. This issue, we bring you some great ideas and recipes to help you plan an Indian Night.
“Indian food has to be one of the simplest, yet most rewarding foods to cook, as well as eat,” says Darren Chapman, Nestlé Professional business development chef. “As a nation, we enjoy foods from around the world and expect them to be healthy, tasty and above all authentic.”
Why it works
Who doesn’t love Indian food? A British favourite, spices are readily available meaning that as well as serving the familiar kormas, bhunas and biryanis, you can venture out and experiment with less common or more regional dishes too.
What to do
Hold a regular, weekly curry night to help boost mid-week trade. If you regionalise it, you’ll have lots of options. You can start by holding an event or having a curry of the day during National Curry Week (22-28 October).
What to serve
“Sharing platters and small plates of food are becoming increasingly popular; they allow customers to pick and choose as opposed to being faced with a set menu,” says Mark Rigby, executive chef at Premier Foods. “Make sure there are a variety of different spice levels on offer as well as a range of mains which cater for all needs and preferences, including fish, meat and vegetarian based options.”
• As well as your bhajis and pakoras, samosas are a must. Very versatile you can fill them with paneer, lamb, chicken or vegetables. They are a healthier option baked, rather than fried.
• Biriyani – a one-pot wonder! Done correctly, they are the perfect dish to serve due to the fact that they can be prepped earlier.
• Chicken tikka masala is a customer favourite, however, ditch the chicken – and prawns – and serve it with white fish instead. Tilapia, cod, bass, grouper, haddock, catfish, and snapper are all great in a masala.
• Marinated chicken on the bone works well and save lots of time in a busy kitchen because it can be prepped the night before.
• Chana daal with smoked blackened aubergines will suit vegan and vegetarian customers. Full of lentils and pulses, it is very budget-friendly and by adding vegetables makes for a hearty, well-balanced dish.
• Chapattis – known as Roti in Indian households – take time to perfect, but are a must when serving Indian food.
• Fried banana and rice flour balls
• Spiced Indian cake balls
• Indian rice pudding
• Punjabi-style carrot pudding
by Anjula Devi, chef and author of Spice of Life
• Brown onions – an important ingredient for Indian cuisine, so any other won’t do. An alternative is banana shallot.
• Whole spices – use freshly ground whole spices not old or pre-ground ones.
• Finishing spices – these have to be added at the end of the dish, not the beginning – an error lots of chefs make.
• Use your palate – keep tasting your dish while cooking to check seasoning. Garlic and ginger should be added at the beginning or towards the end of cooking and if the recipe uses mango powder or pomegranate powder, add less salt.
What to drink
Keep it authentic by offering a selection of hot and cold Indian beverages…
Noon Chai – A bright pink brew that combines tea leaves, cardamom and baking soda.
Gud Kai Chai – A tea brewed with hot milk and sweetened with jaggery.
Madh Ka Pani – Simply, lemon juice and honey stirred into a cup of hot water
View for Kashmiri Kahwa recipe
Nimbu Pani – Available from Rubicon Street Drinks, it is a combination of lemon juice, sugar, salt, iced water and mint leaves.
Jal Jeera – Often served as an appetiser, it is made from pre-prepared spices and lemonade.
Coconut Water – Unsweetened and natural coconut water.
Thandai – A mixture of peppercorns, aniseed, almonds, saffron, cardamom, poppy seeds, rose petals, milk and sugar.
View for Aam Panna recipe