Sunday, June 22, 2014

On the Homefront: Passage to India Table

Three Williamson Tea Elephant caddies make a colorful
centerpiece for my India-themed table; tea light candles are attached
to the tops with putty.

When we eat out, my cuisine of choice is usually Indian food.  I love the flavors of the spices, the variety of dishes available, and most of all the fact that I always feel so satisfied after eating.  There is something about Indian dishes that seems to please all of the senses while nourishing the body in a relatively healthy way.  I don't know if I will ever be able to replicate all of my favorite Indian dishes, but I have recently mastered a couple of recipes, so I thought I would celebrate by setting a table reminiscent of India.  I also purchased some table linens from Pier 1 Imports not long ago that were made in India and feature elephants, so I decided to emphasize these amazing creatures as well on my table.  Although the darker colors proved difficult to photograph, I was quite happy with the results.

Elephant Parade table runner and napkin from Pier 1; dark red velvet placemat; black dinner plate, appetizer plate, teacup, and saucer from MacFrugal's (now Big Lots); stainless steel flatware; clear water glass; elephant place card holder from Pier 1 a few years ago.

Another elephant tea tin (Darjeeling from My Cup of Tea)
with white ceramic elephant sugar bowl and
 cream pitcher; elephant salt and pepper shakers
are from Pier 1.

Two elephant tea pots that we have had for years.

A closer look at the Pier 1 elephant place card holder.

The menu for my table features the two previously mentioned India-inspired dishes.  Both taste very similar to authentic restaurant versions, with just the right spices and combinations of ingredients.  The easy Kachumber Salad is a staple at most Indian restaurants.  Since my husband is not fond of cilantro, I add it as a garnish, but if you like this herb then it can be combined with all of the other ingredients.  I am a big fan of any sort of rice pudding, so Kheer was the perfect dessert choice for me.  I leave out the raisins since my husband does not like them, but this is one of those recipes where you can add just about any fruits, nuts, and/or flavorings that suit your tastes, so feel free to experiment!  Of course the meal is served with tea, and my favorite is Darjeeling, which is an Indian variety.

Passage to India Menu:

Darjeeling Tea
Samosas or Samosa Pie/Mango or Peach Chutney
Basmati Rice
Kachumber Salad*
Kheer (Rice Pudding)**

*Kachumber Salad

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 English cucumber, diced (peeling is optional)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced, or 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp. ground cumin
zest and juice of 1-2 lemons
sugar and salt to taste
cilantro sprigs

Combine all of the ingredients except the cilantro.  Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to meld.  Serve topped with cilantro sprigs.  Serves 4.

**Kheer (Rice Pudding)

4 C. whole milk (can replace up to 2 C. with coconut milk)
3 T. sugar
1/2 C. Basmati rice
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. rose water (optional)
1/4 C. raisins (optional)

Bring the milk and sugar to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the rice, reduce the heat to simmer, and cook until the mixture thickens and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir in the cardamom and any other additions, and cook for a few more minutes.  This pudding will not be as thick as traditional rice pudding, although it will thicken a bit more as it cools.  Ladle the pudding into bowls and serve, topped with chopped nuts (such as almonds and/or pistachios) if desired.  Serves 4.

As usual, a bowl full of Lindt Lindor truffles, coconut-flavored this time, completes the tablescape:

But of course no table of mine is ever truly complete without a Dalmatian dog somewhere in the vicinity!

Dalmatian Yogi demonstrates the Downward-Facing Dog Pose.

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