We want you to throw big parties and win big (big!) prizes from Le Creuset. (Find out more here.) All week, we've been featuring Liyna Anwar and Anum Arshad as they plan, prepare, and host a backyard South Asian-inspired feast for their mothers.
Today: The big day! Anum and Liyna throw their Mother's Day feast. This is the fifth and final post in their Big Feast -- check out Shopping for Spices, Building the Tandoor Oven, All About the Hyderabadi Biryani, and Making the Sooji Ka Halwa.
It was Saturday, the day before our big day, and we were stressed. We headed out to the grocery to pick up a few more last minute items for our Big Feast. There was no time to waste, so we made a detailed grocery list -- a list so thorough that it was organized based on the layout of the store so that we wouldn’t be hopping from aisle to aisle. We even marked when to place our meat order at the butcher so it would be ready to pick up by the time we finished getting all the other items.
It was a great list. Naturally, we forgot it at home. Thankfully – and kind of miraculously – we remembered everything we needed, and we came back ready to cook.
We decided to have our lunch in the backyard, and in addition to both of our moms, we invited Liyna’s cousin, Sama (who Anum is also very close with), Sama’s mom, and Anum’s little sister, Samar. We wanted our menu for the lunch to be traditional, since we were trying to wow our moms, but also a little modern to flex our creative muscles.
While browsing the Internet one day, we saw a picture of a unique way to serve a popular sweet and spicy snack dish called papri chaat. Traditionally, the dish uses crushed up flour crackers called papri as the base, but the recipe we saw online served the papri crackers whole, with all the toppings piled on top of each individual cracker. They were little towers of cracker, potato, onions, tomato, cilantro, sev (an Indian topping made from gram flour), and homemade chutneys. We loved it because it instantly became a colorful finger food.
Our moms loved how cute they looked and more importantly, the snacks kept them satisfied while lunch was still getting ready. They also munched on our second appetizer, a savory dish made out of garbanzo beans called chole.
We knew it was going to be a sunny day, and since we would be outside we thought that mint ginger lemonade would be the perfect drink to pair with the lunch.
A little before the guests rolled in, we fired up our tandoor oven for its inaugural debut of tandoori chicken. After the coals got hot, we placed the chicken on long metal skewers and popped them into the tandoor.
In addition to the tandoori chicken (and naan), we also wanted to serve a light side dish with the biryani. Oftentimes, Hyderabadi biryani is served with a spicy dish called mirchi ka salan, a peanut and chili curry. Although it is delicious, we wanted something lighter. We decided that grilled eggplant would be nice. We rubbed some slices with Indian spices and threw them on the grill—a super easy deviation from the regular side dish, and, really, who doesn’t like grill marks? And even though our moms were a little confused that we were serving eggplant with biryani, they seemed to really like it!
Something that we were nervous about for out Big Feast was the change to our biryani. Because we were already serving chicken, we decided to make lamb biryani instead – something that we’d never tried before. But luckily, the lamb stayed moist and succulent.
Finally. every dish was ready (we were a little behind schedule) and we were ready to sit down and eat.
That brings us to another funny part of our party planning: table settings and decorations. Nice table décor always looks so effortless – but believe us, it’s not. At all. Our lunch was meant to be casual – a plastic cups and bare feet kind of affair – but we still wanted our table to look inviting and special. But when it came to decorating and styling we were completely clueless! All we knew was that we wanted to use one of our dupattas (those colorful, long scarves worn with desi clothes) as a table runner. We used that as a starting point and after some brainstorming and experimenting we came up with this:
After everyone finished eating, we cleared the table and brought out the desserts. We had made a huge batch of sooji ka halwa the night before and served that with crushed pistachios. Our second dessert, called qoobani, is another Hyderabadi specialty. It’s made by soaking dried apricots, then cooking them down with sugar until they become dark and give off a rich, caramelized aroma.
The dish didn’t turn out as dark as it’s supposed to be, but our moms said the taste was just the same – deeply sweet and tangy. This apricot dessert is traditionally served with custard, but growing up we would always swap the custard for ice cream. This time, we chose pistachio saffron ice cream. The creaminess of the ice cream goes really well with the slightly tart flavor of the qoobani.
After desserts, everything was over! The event was a success.
Of course there were some chaotic moments (we broke a dish, our chicken took longer than expected) but in the end, our moms ate everything on their plates and had a wonderful time. We could tell they were impressed that we pulled this Big Feast off, and it was nice seeing them crowd around the oven in excitement as they watched us prepare fresh naan for them to enjoy.
They look all sweet in the photo but we’re pretty sure they were making fun of us for something when this photo was taken.
People make hosting parties look so effortless; we guess that’s the art of being a great host. But really, there are days and days of planning for something that’s over within a few short hours! This was our first time ever hosting a party where we made an entire menu on our own from scratch, and seeing our moms enjoy the party made the challenge and its accompanying bumps along the way more than worth it. From the day we pitched our idea to the end of the lunch we had a great time putting this together, and we hope it was a Mother’s Day that they remember for a long time.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!
A big thanks to Liyna’s cousin Rahil, Anum’s cousin Rushane, and Liyna’s dad (gotta love the dads too) for all their help behind the scenes!
Le Creuset has generously offered to reward our Big Feasters for all their hard work, and as our third Big Feast, Liyna and Anum will win, in the color of their choice (flame, cherry, fennel, Caribbean, dune, Dijon, or Marseille): a 5-quart braiser, a 4-quart stainless saucepan, and a large serving platter. Pitch us your Big Feast at [email protected] for a chance to win up to $500 in Le Creuset booty.