D-(wali) Day

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I know you either cringed, facepalmed or smiled (while mentally typing out LOL) at the title. I warned you about my puns in The Secret Ingredients of This Site.

But, jokes (and puns) apart, it's Diwali! Or Deepavali! Whichever spelling you prefer, because it's the food celebration that counts!

So, here's how I planned my at-home-broke-Diwali-party. Now, before you get all skeptical on me, let me tell you that it IS possible to have a budget friendly Diwali party, that involves minimal clean-up and not a lot of effort. Really.

"But Suki, 'broke' and 'party' can't go together. It's just logical", I hear you whine from your comfortably laidback slouch. And now, you'll see how it's done.

Step 1 : PLAN PLAN PLAN... Or cheat and follow the guideline below

Guest-list : Planning is everything. And lucky for you, my OCD kicks in, on cue. So, start with your guest-list. Usually, I'm guessing, it's going to be made up of equally frazzled young, hungry and barely-adulting friends. Once you get your guest list confirmed (for sure, without them dropping out at the last minute {because we're a generation of biscuit-givers, a term I will delve into with anecdotal references in another post}), start making a menu. 

Menu : Broke, young, hungry and barely-adulting adults, are usually craving comfort. Especially around festival season. So, give them comfort food. This was my menu for my party -

Starters - Bhel Puri

Main Course - Jeera and Ajwain Rice

Sides - Aloo Jeera, Chole Masala, Raita

Dessert - Atta Ladoos

Contrary to what you might think, you CAN get all of this done, quickly and efficiently and still make things taste great. All it takes is a little bit of preparation.

Preparation : First things first, set aside an approximate amount of food you will need to eat. Then multiply it by the number of guests you're going to have over. It isn't rocket science. Once that's done, get your shopping list ready. Think of it like a one-time investment for the week/month that follows. Here's what I used.

Basmati Rice - 1/2 kg
Whole-wheat flour (atta) - 1 kg
Plain puffed rice - 1 packet
Potatoes - 1 kg
Kabuli Chana - 1/2 kg
Onions - 1/2 kg
Tomatoes - 1/2 kg
Cucumber - 1/4 kg (roughly about 1 large cucumber or 2 medium/small sized ones)
Sev - 1 small packet (about 250 grams)
Oil - 1 l
Ghee - 250 ml
Curd - 500 ml
Garlic - 100 grams
Green chilies - 100 grams
Ginger - 100 grams
Tamarind - 250 grams
Pudina/Mint - 1 bunch
Coriander - 1 bunch
Sugar - 1/2 kg
Salt - 1/2 kg
Turmeric - 250 grams
Chilli powder - 250 grams
Coriander powder - 250 grams
Chana Masala - 1 small box (I used MDH's Chana Masala, this does make all the difference, trust me)
Chaat Masala - 1 small box
Cardamom - 1 small packet
Cinnamon - 1 small packet
Cloves - 1 small packet
Bayleaves - 1 small packet
Cumin /Jeera - 100 grams
Ajwain / Carroway Seeds - 100 grams
Dates - 1 small box (deseeded, because it's just easier, roughly around 250 grams)
Pomegranate - 1/2 kg (roughly 2-3 whole pomegranates)

Considering you're not going to be finishing all of this in a single cooking session, you're going to be set for at least a few weeks with this grocery list. Welcome to adulting. Successfully. If you want to go the extra mile, also get an assorted mix of ready-made snacks like salted nuts, mixtures and fried local food stuffs.

Time : Here's where you're going to find it a little difficult. You're going to need to set aside a few hours to cook on the day of the party. But remember, this is a party. Just one that replaces alcohol for food. Ask a few of your friends to chip in and help, if your guest list is huge. You could even ask if a few of them can get some drinks. For my party, we had home-brewed wine to set the tone for the evening. Comforting, relaxed and least worried about morning-after-hangovers. Cut down on cooking time by soaking the rice and the chana, boiling the potatoes while the rice, tamarind and chana soak (separately, of course), and getting all the chopping work done and dusted, the night before. You can even soak the chana while you're at work, during the day and cook the chana the night before. This significantly reduces cooking time. By the time you get to bed, you're going to have your game face on for the morning of D-day!

Step 2 : Cooking

Here's how I go about cooking, once my ingredients are prepped and ready. I work backwards. The logic here is that my guests would love fresh tasting delicious food. And since this particular menu begins with bhel puri, and bhel puri is in essence, a street-food-snack requiring more assembly than cooking, I can finish that right at the end. The only cooking involved in the dish would be in making the tangy tamarind sauce and the spicy and fresh pudina chutney. The dessert in this menu calls for atta ladoos, which is extremely simple to make, and requiring minimal clean-up. It provides the perfect start to getting into the zone of cooking some fantastic food. This was my order of cooking (including preparation).

Day before Party-Day: 
Soak the chana in the morning. Go about your daily routine.

Night before Party-Day:
Come back from work and put the chana to boil in your pressure cooker. 
As the chana cooks, soak the rice and soak the tamarind.
Prepare the onions, tomatoes and garlic as per each recipe and set them aside for the next day. This also lets you know what to use for which recipe.
Once your chana is cooked, wash and boil the potatoes.
As the potatoes boil, prepare the pudina chutney and the tamarind sauce. With this, you're halfway done for the next morning!

Morning of Party-Day :
1. Prepare the ladoos.
2. Prepare the raita.
3. Make the raita and leave it to chill in the fridge.
4. Cook the chole masala.
5. Cook the aloo jeera.
6. Make your rice.

1 Hour to Your Guests Arriving :
Prepare the Bhel Puri and set it to chill in the fridge.
Prepare your snack platter, ready for your guests to attack.
Prepare YOURSELF. You are the host after all!
If you have the time, decorate your house with a few lamps and candles, lit around the house.
Warm the chole, the aloo and the rice once your guests begin to wander into your house to get those familiar scents of old-fashioned home cooking hitting their nostalgic spots.

Obviously, I don't have to tell you to enjoy yourself. 

Happy Diwali, everyone!

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