Us Mannings are lucky. We have some awesome friends, some of whom like food as much as we do. So when our chums Zoe and Dave – fresh back from three weeks eating their way round Goa – invited us for an Indian feast at their house, we knew we were in for a treat. After a week of hints, including a few tempting photos of some of the food being prepared, we joined them for an evening of the obvious great company, but incredibly tasty food.
With Zoe being a pescatarian we knew it would be an evening of meat-free fare, but when dishes are this packed with flavour it’s not a problem, even for carnivores like us.
For starter, they’d spent the night before preparing homemade samosas. Potato, onion, peas and carrots, with Indian spices, reduced for an hour then encased in a light, crispy, handmade pastry and fried in coconut oil to beautiful golden, tasty triangles. Forget any ‘cook from frozen’, oven baked supermarket snacks. These were the real deal. Perfect little parcels of spicy goodness, bulging with filling, not too wet, not too dry, and wrapped as neatly as any traditional samosa.
The starter doesn’t end here. The samosas came alongside tikka paneer – chunks of Indian cheese coated in spices and grilled. For those who haven’t tried paneer, imagine the texture of halloumi, then the slightly crispy outside from the grill, and the flavour of fiery spiciness.
In case you’re wondering, I’m still not done. And yes, we’re still on the starter! Green lentils, cooked with coriander, onion, tamarind, and punch-packing Kashmiri chillies and mustard seeds. Our clever hosts served them alongside a homemade raita of creamy natural yoghurt with fresh cucumber, salt, sugar and lemon juice – the perfect cooling accompaniment to the spicy treats on the table.
So, with bulging bellies, we moved on to the main event. Keralan Seafood Biryani, from veteran King of Fish Rick Stein’s ‘India’.
To the untrained eye, you might think this is just a big badass bowl of basmati rice. Oh no, fellow foodies. Hidden under this fluffy, beautifully cooked rice lay a rich seafood curry of prawns, seabass and calamari. With restaurant-style theatre, the first dig into the pot revealed a steaming, fish-filled pot of goodness.
With this dish, each mouthful guaranteed a gift of light, melt-in-the-mouth bass; fat, juicy, spice-infused prawn; or tender not-rubbery-in-the-slightest squid. Any one of these, with delicate, fluffy rice and a delicious sauce. Add a homemade chapati to scoop it all up, and you’ve got yourself a delicious dinner party dish.
And so, onto the final chapter. Whenever we go out for an Indian meal, we rarely have dessert, partly because the offerings aren’t usually that great. Perhaps they need some Zoe and Dave advice. Mango coulis served with cardamom shortbread, all presented in a traditional teacup and saucer. The coulis was creamy and packed with fresh mango, while the biscuits just the right balance of spicy cardamom and sugary sweet shortbread.
The aforementioned bellies now beyond bulging and moving onto bursting, we finally stopped the feeding frenzy and wobbled off home, raving all the way about the so-far hidden culinary talents of our pals. Yes, we love eating out, but when the restaurant in your friend’s dining room is this great, you wonder why you’d bother…..