Serious Entertaining: Dinner and a Movie, 'Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India'

Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.


[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

February is, in my mind, unofficially Dinner and a Movie Month. But if you've already watched all of this year's Oscar nominated movies and caught up with Downtown Abbey, don't worry. Just try out Bollywood movies, which typically outperform in the fun-to-watch category thanks to the choreographed dance scenes and beautiful costumes.

Of course, many Bollywood films are simply well made, such as Academy Award nominee Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India. The film is set during the time of the colonial British Raj and follows the story of a small village that is offered freedom from taxes if they can beat a British team at cricket. It's a fun and inspiring movie that would be great at a dinner party, especially if preceded by this easy, Indian-themed menu.


This yogurt-based condiment goes well on pretty much everything. It's got a bright tangy flavor that's subtly spiced with cumin, cayenne, and paprika. You can eat it plain as a cold salad or drizzle it over the main dish to add a creamy counterpart to the heat.

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Pickled Onions

The day before your dinner, start these pickled onions. After just 24 hours, the onions take on a pleasingly sour note from the vinegar and a bit of heat from dried chili flakes. They make a nice acidic accompaniment to the shrimp.

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Shrimp with Ginger and Peas


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This dish may look simple, but it packs a ton of flavor. The key is to start by making a paste from fresh ginger and garlic. This paste creates a flavor base for the shrimp, which are then pan-fried with a generous dose of turmeric. Tomato paste adds body and creates a background for the flavors of the cilantro, peas, and green peppers. Cayenne pepper makes the dish a little spicy, but raita will cut the heat. Serve it alongside a pile of nutty, floral basmati rice.

Fruit Plate


Many Indian meals end with a plate of fruit. Dates and oranges are the perfect winter duo: The deep sweetness of the dates is refreshed by the bright citrus fruit. Plus you can eat them on the couch.