Have dinner, movie with friends

Photo by Amy Phelps Homestyle Chicken Curry was the main dish featured at the Bollywood Night party.

Back when The Star of India restaurant was in Parkersburg, several friends and I would go almost weekly for lunch. Not only was the food good, but they would many times be playing scenes from Bollywood films on the television screens. The films were not subtitled, so we had to make our best guess as to what was going on. We came up with some pretty outlandish story plots, with no idea really how far off the mark or how close we were.

A new cookbook takes the fun of a dinner party and an outrageous movie and melds them together with “Bollywood Kitchen” by Sri Rao.

Rao, a filmmaker himself, is one of the few Americans that have worked in the mainstream Indian film industry, The son of emigrated Indian parents, he has spent time in both America and India and worked on film and television. Rao invites the home cook to do exactly what we did at the restaurant, enjoy some Indian food paired with some Bollywood films. And, as he says in the introduction, Bollywood films are meant to be a communal experience, so criticism and running commentary about the plotlines are welcome!

Rao divides the book into categories by movie, giving the reader a look into the featured movie, recommendations of other movies like it and dishes to enjoy while reading it. For example, there is a lavish melodratic love story, Devdas, paired with Keema, a beef curry, Naan Crisps, like pita chips and Rajma, kidney bean stew.

Loving the sound of this, I invited a couple of friends over for Bollywood Night, using one of his suggested Girls’ Night films that was available on Amazon to rent, Band Baaja Baaraat, a romantic comedy about wedding planners, and mix-and-matched the dishes I wanted to make from throughout the book.

Photo by Amy Phelps Chana Masala, which is chickpeas cooked in a sauce.

We ended up eating Chana Masala, which is north Indian chickpeas, Homestyle Chicken Curry, which is chicken braised in a rich tomato gravy, Gobi Matar, which is cauliflower sauteed with peas and tomatoes, Cucumber Raita, which is a cool yogurt and cucumber sauce and Mango Cheesecake for dessert, as well as microwaveable rice (I was making enough already!) and purchased Naan, a flatbread, to go with our meal (ditto.)

Now the first thing a home cook might think is that much of the ingredients will be hard to find. Not so. Most of the ingredients were all found at our local grocery. I ordered garlic paste and ginger paste off of Amazon and it got there without a problem and the only other spice I couldn’t find either locally or on Amazon was Indian red chilli powder. Everything just kept coming up as our chili powder, so that’s what I used. You will also find that once you have the spices, the other dishes pretty much use the same spices.

Also, for the cheesecake crust, it was recommended to use regular supermarket tea biscuits, which I also couldn’t find and was unsure what to use in place, so I ordered the Nabisco Social Tea biscuits he recommended off of Amazon.

For those thinking of doing this themselves, I recommend doing what I did and making the cheesecake and the raita the day before. I then made the chana masala and gobi matar first on the day of the party –I will be honest I have a terrible time timing out everything to be done at the same time — and then kept them warm in a divided slow cooker set on warm and left the chicken curry as the last thing to finish before the guests arrived. Honestly, you could also make them all the day before and heat up the next day as with Indian food the spices continue to mingle. Rao even rcommended making the chicken curry a day ahead.

Now on to the movie — Band Baaja Baaraat, which translates to Horns, Drums and Revelry and has a theme song that is probably stuck in my head forever, is about two wedding planners who find they have to work together to make their business a success. As they plan one lavish wedding after another, they end up falling in love, but their relationship comes into doubt and it wrecks everything, including their business. When they are both hired by a wealthy client, they must work together again, and may find their way back together as well.

Photo by Amy Phelps Gobi Matar, which is cauliflower, peas and tomatoes.

We all enjoyed the movie, which had gorgeous scenery and visuals with all of the weddings, and its definitely great Girls’ Night fare. The movie we rented was subtitled, so we could read the dialogue, but we were also amused to find out how many times at random English was spoken, especially for swear words.

Everyone had plenty to eat, and there was enough leftovers that my husband and kids got to enjoy the next day. One of my friends had eaten Indian food before, and loved it again, and the other hadn’t, but was willing to try anything and really enjoyed it.

I would definitely make dishes out of this cookbook again, and would check out some of the other recommended movies that are available to me. It made for a really fun dinner party that I’d like to do again!

“Bollywood Kitchen” is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It is $25.

Contact Amy Phelps at aphelps@newsandsentinel.com