Growing up, I saw my mother throw the most extravagant dinner and lunch parties. She invites more than one family at a time and single-handedly cooks for up to 25 people! Her dinner menus are always elaborate–appetizers, salads, chutneys, multiple main courses, an assortment of bread, dessert, and chai that is served from the beginning to the end of her parties. She’s a dream hostess in every which way.
Last year, she asked us to invite some of her distant family visiting Amsterdam over for dinner at our place. As we inched closer to the dinner, she kept adding items to the menu we should cook. On the day of the dinner, Noor and I were running around like headless chickens without a clue about how to enjoy ourselves.
In retrospect, it’s hilarious but we were exhausted and irritated at the time. That day we swore to each other: never again. Now we keep our menus simple, so we can enjoy ourselves and go to work the next day without feeling drained. We also don’t invite out of compulsion–as common in our culture. We choose to host out of love because that is how it should be, right?
Yesterday, I gave a peek of what my simple dinner menu for four-six people looks like on insta story, and I was overwhelmed with messages asking to share details in a full post. I wasn’t aware there would be so much interest in my simple dinner menu, hence did not take any high resolution pictures that I usually take of all the food I share on the blog.
I will share the few pictures I have from my phone and compensate with as many details and important tips as possible. In its entirety, this menu comes together in about two hours.
Firstly marinate 500 grams of thinly sliced chicken breast in 3-4 tablespoons of tandoori masala. I used this one, but whatever is available at your grocery store will work. Keep it aside.
We shall move to dessert now because this has to be refrigerated for three hours before serving.
French Chocolate Mousse
I first enjoyed this chocolate mousse at a French friend’s house–how could she make it so delicious! I was even more surprised when she said it was only two ingredients: chocolate and eggs, wow!
- Semi-sweet chocolate 200 grams (52-60% dark)
- Eggs 6
- Pinch of salt
- Break the chocolate and place in a bowl.
- Place the bowl in warm water and cover until chocolate melts–about fifteen minutes–stirring occasionally in between. Don’t use hot water, about 40C is good temperature to melt the chocolate–you should be able to dip your finger in.
- Separate whites and yolks of eggs. If you don’t know how, watch this simple video tutorial.
- Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat on high until they form a mousse like texture–about ten minutes. Make sure you do this step in a large bowl so there is room for the egg whites to fluff.
- Stir in the melted chocolate into the egg yolks while rigorously mixing. Make sure all chocolate is well combined–no lumps.
- Now fold one third of the egg white mousse into the chocolate mixture. Repeat twice more until all the egg white mousse is folded into the chocolate.
- Pour into serving bowls and refrigerate for three hours.
- If the chocolate has gotten all over the bowls, clean it up. Once it comes out of the refrigerator, mousse would have hardened making it difficult to clean up.
Chicken Tikka Pizza Casserole
Now we move to the main course. Pizza Hut in Pakistan served a chicken tikka pizza that I was mad about. I tried to recreate those flavors from my childhood in this dish.
- Pasta 500 grams (I used rigatoni, but penne or fusilli will also work well)
- Chicken breast 500 grams
- Tandoori masala 4 tbsp
- Olive oil 3tbsp
- Green bell pepper 1-2 chopped
- Tomato pasta sauce 1-2 cups (depends on how saucy you like) and I used store-bought
- Black olives 1-2 cups
- Cheddar 1 cup shredded
- Mozzarella 1.5 cups shredded
- Parmesan 1 cup shredded
- Thinly slice the chicken and marinate it in tandoori masala for 30 minutes. We did this before starting the dessert prep.
- Boil the pasta according to package instructions and preheat oven to 400F/200C.
- Cook the marinated chicken in oil. Five minutes in, add the chopped bell pepper and cook for another five minutes. Then add the pasta sauce and cook until chicken is no longer raw.
- Strain the pasta and layer it with the cooked chicken, olives, and all three cheeses in an oven-safe dish. Make sure the top layer has enough cheese to form a crispy, crust.
- Place the dish in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.
- Wait to do the fifth step until the guests have arrived. You can just pop the dish in the oven and go back to chatting with your friends. This will ensure the casserole comes hot out of the oven when you are ready to eat!
- If you make the casserole too much in advance then you will have to heat it up when guests arrive and the top crust will harden a little more than desired.
Cheesy Garlic Bread
Now that the main course is out of the way, we can focus on the sides. I love a cheesy, garlicky bread to go with my chicken tikka pizza casserole. So that’s what we are going to serve!
- Bread loaf 1 (I used spelt, but any loaf is fine)
- Unsalted butter 1 cup softened
- Shredded parmesan 1/2 cup
- Garlic cloves 3 minced
- Italian seasoning 3tbsp
- Garlic powder 1/2 tsp
- Heat the oven to 180C/350F.
- Slice the bread into pieces of your desired size.
- Combine all ingredients to make a paste.
- Slather one side of the bread pieces with the paste and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
Keep the slathered pieces of bread aside and don’t bake them until after you have baked the casserole. All you will have to do is pop the bread to bake in the oven after the casserole has been baked and everyone is settling in on the dining table. By the time you put the main course and salad on the table, fresh garlic bread will be ready to serve!
Easy Side Salad
And now we come to the side salad. This is the easiest yet fresh and delicious salad which in my humble opinion goes with everything!
- Lettuce 750 grams (I used a mix of different kinds, but you do you)
- Cherry tomatoes 400 grams halved
- Olive oil 3tbsp
- Balsalmic vinegar 4 tbsp
- Salt and pepper as desired
- Combine lettuce and tomatoes in a bowl.
- Pour over the oil and vinegar.
- Add salt and pepper as needed.
- Keep at room temperature until guests arrive. The flavors will pierce into the lettuce and tomatoes! So fresh.
- You could top this with shredded parmesan and toasted pine nuts to make it more extra if you want!
I hope you will enjoy this menu and the tips will help minimize the time you spend in putting the whole spread together. Let me know if you have any questions and have a great week ahead, lovelies. xx