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Well, it's my team's turn to do student lunch next week. What that means is the three of us come up with something relatively quick for Tuesday, then do prep on Wednesday for Thursday's lunch. Wednesday a more advanced class makes pizza so we only have to bake those off while prepping for Thursday. I decided to go with the following for Thursday, scaled up to feed 140 people:

Murgh Musallam

-- simplified Moghul chicken baked in aluminum foil, from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking. First a yogurt marinade with ginger, garlic, turmeric, cayenne, black pepper and salt, followed by a coating of fried paste made with almonds, ginger, garlic, onions, cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, and garam masala. We will cheat though, by using chicken legs instead of whole chicken. And there definitely will not be any silver tissue pearl stuffing!

Phool Gobi aur Aloo ki Bhaji

-- cauliflower with potatoes, cayenne, coriander, turmeric and green chillies with cumin three ways, out of the same book.

Gujerati Sem

-- Gujerati style green beans flavored with mustard seeds, garlic, crushed red chilli, salt, sugar and black pepper, also from the same book.

Lal Masoor ki Daal ka Bhurta

-- Mashed and stirfried red masoor daal, cayenne, turmeric, green chillies, cilantro, and a tarka of ghee and onions, from Sameen Rushdie's Indian Cookery, and also so the vegetarians will have a protein item to choose.

Plus basmati rice, which I haven't decided what to do with yet, and a raita with cilantro, carrot, cucumber, roasted ground cumin seeds and kala namak.

I had this wild thought to also do 300 samosas plus chutneys but decided against that, given that there's three of us second quarter students with about 10 - 12 hours total prep time. Maybe someday we'll be fast enough to do that, but not next week!

This should be interesting, it will be my first time cooking on this order of scale.

Any thoughts about what to do with the rice aside from whacking it in a rice cooker? And if any of the menu items seems out of place, I'd like to hear why too, and may have a chance to change it tomorrow.

And of course, general advice appreciated as well!

Pat

Edited by Sleepy_Dragon (log)

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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Any thoughts about what to do with the rice aside from whacking it in a rice cooker? And if any of the menu items seems out of place, I'd like to hear why too, and may have a chance to change it tomorrow.

The "spiced basmati rice", the "simple buttery rice with onion" out of the same Madhur Jaffrey cookbook are easy to prep ahead of time, since they just involve sauteeing onions in advance, and possibly adding a few spices to the cooking water when boiling the rice. Both would be nice additions to your already wonderful-sounding menu.

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Hehehe, you could all come, you just have to be a student at my school!

Thanks for the suggestion, behemoth. I'll ponder further which of the two rice recipes to pick, though am leaning towards Simple Buttery Rice with Onion because we'd have to make vegetable stock to replace the chicken stock for Spiced Basmati Rice. We'll see how prep goes.

Another question for everyone: the Gujerati Sem recipe calls for black mustard seeds popped in oil, but I've only got access to brown. How would this change the taste of the dish, and should I worry about that?

Pat

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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Another question for everyone: the Gujerati Sem recipe calls for black mustard seeds popped in oil, but I've only got access to brown. How would this change the taste of the dish, and should I worry about that?

With regards to the mustard seeds, I would be surprised if your recipe requires actual black mustard seeds (Brassica nigra). Brown mustard seeds (Brassica juncea) are commonly referred to as "black" - both Jaffrey and Sahni have said as much in their books. Also, I checked my copy of "The Complete Spice Book" (Stuckey, 1997) and it says that black mustard seeds are difficult to harvest, "Because of this, black mustard has practically disappeared from the world marketplace...brown mustard has virtually replaced the black in all commercial plantings."

I guess if you know for certain the recipe is definitely calling for black, the book notes the black are more pungent than the brown so I suppose you might use slightly more (weight) of the brown.

Does that expose on mustard seeds earn me a ticket to your lunch? Haha. Good luck on the project! Looking forward to reading about how it turns out!

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Thanks for that bit of info, Richie. Didn't realize the deal with black vs. brown mustard seeds.

I'd send invites or something if I could, but maybe it's for the best that I can't. It really is the first time I'll be involved in cooking on this kind of scale, and I may be begging for a spectacular failure. Not a pretty sight to be confronted with 140 hungry or disgusted students!

The chicken dish and the potato and cauliflower dish I've made many times before, so no worries there. I'll do a test run of the other two tomorrow, and see what the deal is with the mustard seeds, if any.

Sadly, one thing I've had to do is halve the amount of green chilli and cayenne each recipe calls for so that people with more fragile palettes can eat it. Mrs. Jaffrey's recipes call for less heat than Ms. Rushdie's, so for the daal it'll be about 1/3 the amount called for. Might just go ahead and make a spicy green chilli chutney anyway just for the folks who might appreciate it.

Pat

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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Might just go ahead and make a spicy green chilli chutney anyway just for the folks who might appreciate it.

Pat

You might also want to add a Red chilli + Garlic chutney also.

Shouldnt there be some dessert?

For the rice I suggest a caramelised onion pulao with whole garam masala. It's easy to make and a lovely flavor.

I fry by the heat of my pans. ~ Suresh Hinduja

http://www.gourmetindia.com

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Good idea about a red chilli and garlic chutney. Mmmm!

As far as the rice is concerned, mostly the biggest issue right now is we do not have a kitchen to ourselves. There are other teams who will be using the two 6 burner stations, though we'll probably have the wok station to ourselves. Ideally, what I'd like to do with the rice is see if I can do a nice flavorful dish using caramelized onions and spices added to rice done in rice cookers. Low maintenance, turn it on and forget about it until it goes *ding!*. Does that seem like something acceptable?

And yes, there ought to be a dessert... I'm just worried there won't be enough time to make one. Teams generally aren't making 4 different entrees plus starch and raita for the student lunch, so I'm cognizant of piling more onto my team than would be usual.

Kheer perhaps? That would be something cooling and familiar among a group of dishes that stretch what most have tasted, though it does require some babying to make sure it doesn't form a skin or boil over.

What do you all do for quick desserts other than sliced fruit? And would also have a low food cost? Not asking for much am I! :laugh:

Pat

Edited by Sleepy_Dragon (log)

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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What do you all do for quick desserts other than sliced fruit? And would also have a low food cost? Not asking for much am I!

one of my favorite cheap and easy desserts is panna cotta. cream thickened into a fancy pudding thickened with gelatin.

course, that's italian.

but i've been looking at a couple of China Grass recipes in Monisha Bharadwaj's book, and i've been wondering just how close the two are. basically, milk thickened with agar agar, some sugar, and flavorings like rose or cardamom. they look firmer than panna cottas. looks like a snap.

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Guest nimki
What do you all do for quick desserts other than sliced fruit? And would also have a low food cost?

a suji (semolina) halwa with almonds and raisins. I don't have a reliable recipe on hand but the idea is to roast the semolina in ghee (clarified butter) and then make a syrup of a certain consistency and add it to the roasting semolina and keep stirring vigourously till it becomes like a thick paste. And then you add the toasted almond and raisins (and even saffron).

I know it sounds vague here but it's really very good when made right.

Unfortunately I always cook using approximations, so can someone help with a proper recipe?

There is a certain proportion of suji to water to be used - is it 1:2?

low food cost - I'm not sure....is this a low food cost item? suji is not very expensive is it? and you can even omit the dry fruits and saffron - theyre always optional. That leaves ghee, sugar and water. Ghee would be the most expensive ingredient then.

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Good idea about a red chilli and garlic chutney. Mmmm!

As far as the rice is concerned, mostly the biggest issue right now is we do not have a kitchen to ourselves. There are other teams who will be using the two 6 burner stations, though we'll probably have the wok station to ourselves. Ideally, what I'd like to do with the rice is see if I can do a nice flavorful dish using caramelized onions and spices added to rice done in rice cookers. Low maintenance, turn it on and forget about it until it goes *ding!*. Does that seem like something acceptable?

And yes, there ought to be a dessert... I'm just worried there won't be enough time to make one. Teams generally aren't making 4 different entrees plus starch and raita for the student lunch, so I'm cognizant of piling more onto my team than would be usual.

Kheer perhaps? That would be something cooling and familiar among a group of dishes that stretch what most have tasted, though it does require some babying to make sure it doesn't form a skin or boil over.

What do you all do for quick desserts other than sliced fruit? And would also have a low food cost? Not asking for much am I! :laugh:

Pat

In a small pan brown the onions in ghee, add the whole masalas and mix it with the raw rice in the rice cooker with the recommended qty of water and salt.

A fast dessert :

Shrikhand- sweetened hung yogurt flavoured with mango puree.

I fry by the heat of my pans. ~ Suresh Hinduja

http://www.gourmetindia.com

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The shrikhand is a really good idea.

also doing the chutney ahead of time should be a breeze since letting it stand will help the flavours develop.

The Red chilli and garlic chutney sounds really great but you might want to think about garlic breath, there are some great chutneys in the chutney thread here.

We do some very nice chutneys in my family, sesame and mooli, Cilantro and roasted tomato chutney in the hills. (They are going to be a part of my book so I wont post them here but if you'd like I could pm one of them to you.)

Rushina

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Thanks everyone for your suggestions and advice. Tomorrow is the big day.

Sadly I've decided to wimp out on dessert and go with the familiar kheer, and just arrive early to do it, just so people can have one thing that is familiar. The shrikand would have been perfect time and labor-wise if we had any mango puree on hand. Alas! Nonetheless they are all great ideas, and I'll be squirreling them away.

The chutney is still up in the air because I need to see what we have available in the walk-in tomorrow. Bonus points for using things up. :wink: Though just from research and reading posts here, I think I've got a fairly good idea of how to make one on the fly, so thanks, all. *fingers crossed*

As for richie's inquiry about prep, it was pretty exhausting. And I made requisition mistakes when scaling up the recipes.

We ended up short on cauliflower by 10 pounds (curse forgetting As Purchased vs. Edible Portion quantities!), so have made up the shortfall with more potatoes, for a Phool Gobi aur Aloo ki Bhaji dish with a 2:1 ratio of potatoes to cauliflower. Should still be fine though, students like potatoes, and it inadverdently lowers our food cost! :raz:

I also ordered way way way too much green beans. Had assumed a 4 oz. portion was reasonable per student, until I saw just how much 35 pounds of beans really was! So, we'll just be cooking half that, and the rest of the beans we will save for cooking during Friday buffet service to the public. Note to self: after lunch tomorrow, speak with team in charge of vegetables...

Thankfully my team mates were fine with coming early and staying late to get everything done. And they're fast too, faster than me.

I've been in two hours before school starts every day this week so far and will do the same tomorrow starting at 6am, and first on the agenda will be kheer, crazed improvisational chutney making, getting the chicken into the marinade, setting up the rice, onions for the rice (thank you so much, episure) and daal, raita, finding enough small dishes for the kheer, and reviewing the production schedule with the team to hopefully get everything out by 11am without too many hitches. We are in the classroom from 8 - 8:50am.

The list of main ingredient quantities for those at all curious:

10 lbs cauliflower

20 lbs potatoes

35 lbs green beans (argh...)

35 lbs boneless chicken thighs (probably less since we trimmed them too)

1 gallon masoor daal (may bump this up to two depending on the final taste, glad masoor daal cooks fast)

1 gallon + 1 quart of yogurt

4 dozen jalapenos

175 cloves of garlic

2.5 gallons basmati rice

16 lbs onions

...plus the spices, and whatever else for kheer and chutneys. Which I'm going to calculate now before going to bed. Ack, lunch is in 14 hours!

Pat

Edited by Sleepy_Dragon (log)

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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Sadly I've decided to wimp out on dessert and go with the familiar kheer, and just arrive early to do it, just so people can have one thing that is familiar. The shrikand would have been perfect time and labor-wise if we had any mango puree on hand. Alas! Nonetheless they are all great ideas, and I'll be squirreling them away.

Good decision. I think I'm coming to the conclusion that a lot of homemade Indian desserts are really not very good. Shrikhand, for example, strikes me as a dish that is just wrong. Its a way too throat cloggingly creamy and while the addition of mango pulp lightens it a bit, its usually just a waste of mangoes. Those china grass desserts sound frankly disgusting, and so it goes with a lot of homemade desserts. That's why most Indian houses don't bother with them, preferring to get something really good from a professional sweetmaker, or keeping it simple with kheer, which is always welcome,

Vikram

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Well, it's over. We made many mistakes, and also encountered drama from another class which my instructor says he'll handle thankfully, but we got it all out, and for the most part people enjoyed it. It was nice to see.

There was a mix-up with ingredients, where my batch of minced green chillies was added to the daal instead of the batch of de-seeded chillies, so it was way hot, but we improvised by cooking up extra plain daal to add to it, along with some sugar and cream to cut the heat. That ended up working ok, though it wasn't what Mrs. Rushdie originally said to do in her book. :raz:

So to compromise, I omitted the chillies from the potatoes and cauliflower, and the black pepper from the murgh musallam, and the dried crushed red chillies from the Gujerati sem. I wasn't too thrilled about this but it seemed the best choice in light of cooking for a wide variety of people. So much for carefully calibrated plans!

I also burned the first batch of daal, so had to remake it, and that pretty much torpedoed any chance of making chutney, so we took that off. But, there was kheer, made first thing in the morning and chilled by the time lunch rolled around, and all the other main dishes plus the raita came out on time, with the chicken being best IMO. The rest were good too, especially for a first time effort at cooking them in such a huge quantity in one shot, though there are plenty of things I'd do differently next time.

We also followed episure's suggestion for doing the rice in rice cookers with caramelized onions, but my team mate couldn't get the onions to caramelize at all today (three attempts!), so they were just soft sauteed onions instead of browned ones. I don't think anyone noticed though.

It sure is different cooking on a large scale. :wacko: I sure learned a lot, like:

-- make sure everyone has read and studied the recipes

-- delegate, especially during times of trying to recover from a mistake. I went into major tunnel vision mode after burning the daal. And it doesn't help that I'm already heavily wired to be an independent loner.

-- go over each and every item to ensure there is no confusion about what gets used where

-- check over my math more carefully somehow, though I guess the mistakes have to be ours to make in order to learn anything...

At any rate, it's over, and it was a success, we didn't even maim each other intentionally or otherwise, and the vegetarians were thrilled to have three whole items to choose, rather than being relegated to the "vegetarian entree" which the carnivores always pick over before they can get to it, and people liked having a dessert too, which is usually not done. The dish that went the fastest by far was the murgh musallam, and this was the item we'd made the largest quantity of. Could have used another 10 lbs of chicken I think.

Thank you all for your suggestions and advice. Everything helped, I really appreciate it.

Pat

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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Pat,

Have been following your adventures in cooking for many...Been there done that.

Even though our menu was entirely different, the process and the problems were very similar

Too much of this, too little of that...kitchen disasters requiring going to plan B...And not everyone being on the same page...

Glad that everyone was pleased with the meal...

Giving you High Fives for your performance :smile:

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Hehehe, thanks for the kind words, Monica, but I don't think I'll be turning this into a Daily Gullet thing. I'm really wiped out, and need some distance and serenity from the whole ordeal. (Yes, there were a couple burst-into-tears moments. Christ I hate that... when all was said and done, I couldn't even eat any of it due to the stress.)

No regrets though, and I did learn a lot and enjoyed it too when I wasn't just freaking out. And even managed to apologize to my team mates afterwards for snapping at them, albeit with a mental promise to always double check whether or not everyone has studied the recipes next time.

Overall my entire class has done some nice student lunches this quarter, and it's good to set an example of sorts for the first quarter students, though I'd warn any of them who'd try to attempt something like this when they become second quarter next October. :wacko:

It all stemmed from wanting to make the most out of each opportunity, and also a vow I made awhile back after being served something which clearly had been prepared with apathetic uncaring hands, and I intend to stick with it as best as I can for the rest of my years: never, ever cook something without care for the staff meal.

And of course its corollary: care does not equal 32 pounds of green beans!

All of our cumin, mustard seeds, and garam masala is gone. I'm sure what we used up in a day would have typically served for two quarters, hehe.

Pat

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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