I used to write travel guides for Lonely Planet and my most exciting, challenging, eye-opening, enlivening job was a three-month stint in India. I visited temples and palaces, I counted bed bugs in cheap guesthouses, I rattled my bones on two-day train journeys.
Of course, I also ate. Indian food varies a lot from place to place and I’ve tried to reflect a few regional dishes here. What is consistent is the humble vibrancy of this food and the flavours coaxed from simple ingredients with time-honoured techniques.
Indian music mix
Indian music is as vibrant and varied as the cuisine. I’ve collected some tabla (hand drum) tunes, classical flute music, perky Bollywood rhythms and some very insistent Indian pop-rock. Let me know what you think!
My friend Sam plays in Fine Blue Thread, a contemporary Melbourne trio with a multicultural outlook. Sam has devoted himself to the tabla and spends much time in India learning from masters. They’re great, and the music makes a lovely backdrop to your Indian feast.
Colourful textiles are all you need and a mix of coloured napkins will do the job. I love the rusty red, earthy tones we used for the book and I’ve collected a few ideas on a Pinterest board.
If you want to remember your Indian feast for a while, you could consider some henna hand decorations (available in all Indian grocers), and there’s a fun activity here to bling up your bangles, Indian-style.
Ingredient tips & more recipes
When making the Pappadums look for these lentils. (Urad dal is a black lentil but it’s white on the inside; you want the dehusked, white version.)
I’ve got a super simple Emergency Lentil Soup right here on the site, available to all my lovely subscribers. It’s a 20-minute dinner winner, or you could serve it as an entree with your Indian menu.