Serious Entertaining: An Indian Buffet

Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.


I woke up earlier this week to the first real bite of cold haunting the air and, to my own surprise, felt a shiver of excitement. I don't exactly cope well with wintertime, but fall! And more specifically, fall foods. Because what is fall for if not eating big bowls of warm things? And who does big bowls of warm things best?

Okay, well, lots of people. But Indian food's definitely at the top of my list (no offense, grandma!). So get into the kitchen and shake off that chill—it's time for a hearty, warming Indian-inspired buffet. Curries, rice, breads, and more, right this way!

Indian-Style Stir-Fried Spiced Carrots


Photograph: Prasanna Sankhe]

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Spiced doesn't mean spicy in the case of these stir-fried carrots. It's flavored with curry leaves, mustard seeds, turmeric, red chili powder, and green chilies, but only enough to deliver a mild undercurrent of heat that highlights, rather than overwhelms, the carrot's earthy flavor.

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Chole (Indian Chickpeas in Spiced Gravy)


Photograph: Prasanna Sankhe]

This take on chole is prepared in a North Indian style. It's loaded with cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf, cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, and more. With some bite from ginger and garlic, and a fruity undercurrent from dry mango powder, it's a fresh, flavorful approach to chickpeas.

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Prawn Patia (Indian Sweet and Spicy Shrimp)

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Photograph: Prasanna Sankhe]

Shrimp patia has a delightfully unique flavor profile that's at once sweet, spicy, tangy, and hot. For vegetarians out there, the shrimp can be substituted with eggplants or another vegetable of your choosing, with equally delicious results. To serve it in the traditional fashion, spoon it over a bed of fluffy white rice smothered in yellow lentils. Which isn't to say it isn't pretty much perfect on its own.

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Gavthi (Indian Village Chicken Curry)

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Photograph: Prasanna Sankhe]

This chicken curry is laced with spice and served with a copious amount of gravy, so it's best alongside a bowl of fluffy white rice. The recipe itself is relative straightforward; the most time consuming element is likely the homemade spice paste. It may be more work, but it's well worth it. The fragrant combination of coconut, sesame seeds, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon lends a deep richness to the dish.

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South Indian Lime Rice


Photograph: Prasanna Sankhe]

Hearty, tangy, and bright, this South Indian rice dish can be dressed up or down to your liking. Mustard seeds, curry leaves, and chili impart a mild spiciness that compliments the sourness of the lime quite well, but you can also add coconut shreds, roasted nuts, or a protein of your choosing.

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Grilled Naan


Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Yes, that's right. Naan. Because it's delicious and just happens to be the ideal vessel for soaking up all that extra hot, saucy curry. This version is adapted to work in your average home kitchen. Since most domestic ovens don't reach high enough temperatures to get that crisp, crackly exterior surrounding soft, chewy bread, we went with the grill (or grill pan) instead. If you're looking for something a little more authentic, though, this potato-based bread, aloo paratha, may be just the ticket.

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Dessert: Phirni (Indian Rice Pudding)

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Photograph: Prasanna Sankhe]

Creamy, light, and not too sweet, phirni is a dessert most commonly served during Muslim festivals in India. Dry fruits add texture to the base, and if you want to get adventurous, you can add your favorite fruit pulp for extra flavor.

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More Dessert: Chocolate Chip Gulab Jamun


Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

This classic Indian dessert of cakey doughnut-like balls is drenched in a sweet syrup of honey, saffron, and cardamom. Here, the batter gets a modest addition of bittersweet chocolate for a restrained but inventive twist.

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Not sure what to drink? See what wines sommeliers recommend drinking with Indian food!