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Curried Away Buffet!

Feeding a troupe of healthy, young dancers for a birthday dinner required a little bit of thought & planning…as usual it was the day before! My daughter’s 16th party was being attended by eight fairly health conscious young ladies, a few of whom were vegetarian. It needed to feel special, appeal to a wide range of tastes and because there was so much going on that day, and guests were arriving at different times, I wanted to be able to have dishes I could pre-make and re-heat.

One of our family favourites is butter chicken, so I started there…gathering various flavours that would compliment. These are the recipes and items that I came up with for Cay’s Curried Away Buffet. Some are my own, developed over the past few years and some are based and inspired by my two favourite Indian chef’s Bal Arneson and Vikram Vij. Both cookbooks are well worth investing in! I found Vij’s to be a little more time consuming but wonderful for special occasions or when you want to challenge yourself and Bal’s is an easy to follow family-friendly cookbook, that I refer to often. Do click on their names to see the links to their cook books . Any of these recipes can be used on their own, but I have listed them in order of when I prepared them for the buffet style dinner. It looks as though the dishes are complicated, but mostly its just a lot of chopping and seasonings. Since many of the dishes share similar spices and seasonings, it made the prep and clean up a bit easier…ahhh, who am I kidding…it was a huge mess! Definitely well worth the effort though…

*This is what I made the night before:

Cucumber, Mint Raita ( a cooling yogurt sauce)


  • 1 english cucumber
  • 3 tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • juice of two limes
  • 2 cups plain yogurt, the thicker the better
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tsp ground fennel seed


1. Rinse the cucumber, remove ends and grate (using a cheese grater) onto a paper towel/cloth covered plate, remove as much moisture as possible with another towel/cloth and then sprinkle with salt and allow to sit.

2. Mix all other ingredients together well in a medium sized bowl, add the cucumber, stir in. Add extra salt to taste.

3. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hrs. Even better if left over night!

My kids absolutely love this dipping sauce, especially since it combats the heat of many of the dishes.

*Easy “cheat”: buy ready to eat Tzatsiki , add extra garlic and fresh mint

Avocado Chickpea Salad:


  • 1 398 ml can  chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 avocados, chopped into chick pea sized bits
  • 2 cups red peppers, chopped
  • 8 mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • ½ cup mango juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • sea salt to taste


1. Combine first three ingredients in a medium size serving bowl, stir gently.

2. Combine remaining ingredients, mix well & pour dressing over salad and toss thoroughly to coat.

3. Cover and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

Although this sounds simple…it was surprisingly delicious and a crowd favourite !

Mango Chutney:


  • 3 ripe mangoes, cubed
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • Juice from one lime
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (or golden raisins…I just really like cranberries colour & flavour )
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsps chili peppers
  • pinch each of nutmeg & cinnamon


1. Combine sugar and vinegar in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, keep stirring until sugar dissolves.

2. Add remaining ingredients and stir until thickened.

3. Pour into a serving dish, cool, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

* Another sanity saver: there are plenty of wonderful pre-made chutney’s available, or save a few steps and buy canned mango!

*The night before I also:

-boiled the golden beets for the Powerhouse Fruit & Veg Salad

-marinated a family size pkg of chicken wings in a sauce made out of pre-made Tandoori paste with 2 cups yogurt and put it covered in the fridge

-cooked three cups of brown basmati rice, in half coconut milk, half water

*The day of the party:

Easy Butter Chicken:

Ingredients (serves 8)

  •  1 family size pkg chicken breasts (or thighs), cut into bite sized cubes
  • juice of one lime
  • ½ large white onion minced
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger root…just a pinch!
  • 250 grams salted butter
  • 1 cup chopped red pepper
  • 2 156 ml cans tomato paste
  • 3 tsp medium or hot curry paste
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • 3 tsp coriander
  • 4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 796 ml can diced tomatoes
  • 2 398 ml cans coconut milk (not light)
  • ½-1 cup fresh chopped cilantro


1. Melt ¼ cup butter in a large sauce pan, add onion, garlic and ginger, stirring often until softened. Add remainder of butter, once melted add chicken cubes, turning often until browned. Pour lime juice over chicken & stir in.

2. Once all the chicken has been thoroughly browned (about ten minutes), add the cup of red pepper to the pan, stir fry for a few minutes then turn down the heat and let simmer.

3. Whisk together in a small bowl: 1 can coconut milk, 2 cans tomato paste, curry paste, paprika, coriander, cumin & garam masala

4. Add paste to chicken & peppers, increase the heat to medium and mix together until chicken is coated.

5. Transfer entire mixture to a large casserole or roaster, add can of tomatoes and  mix together.

6. In 350° oven , cook covered for 1 hour. Remove lid, stir in remaining can of coconut milk and cook uncovered for another ½ hour.


Coconut Edamame Stir Fried Rice


  • 3 cups cooked brown basmati rice (see above)
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • a few strands of saffron
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp whole mustard seed
  • 2 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 2 cups cooked, shelled edamame beans (available in the frozen foods section)
  • ½ cup finely chopped green onion
  • ¼ cup vegetable broth


1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok. When it is hot, add the mustard seeds and ground fennel seeds, keep stirring add the saffron, turmeric, paprika and cumin .

2. Add shelled edamame beans and green onions, stir to coat with spices, slowly add chicken broth, cook for five-ten minutes until broth has reduced to about half.

3. Slowly add rice to mixture in batches, stirring constantly to coat with spices… add salt to taste, serve warm.

*I finished this about an hour before dinner was ready to serve and just kept it warm on the stove, it was one of those dishes that tasted great despite the fact that it wasn’t piping hot…the edamame was a wonderfully tasty counterpart to the mild rice & soo healthy!

Powerhouse Fruit & Veg Salad: serves 8


I was inspired by a few different salads in Bal’s book and then I saw yellow beets at the grocery store & had to try those too!

  • 8 mini cucumbers, chopped into medallions
  • 4 kiwi’s peeled and sliced into ¼” wedges
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 6 medium sized yellow beets, boiled, peeled and cubed (I cooked these the night before, but didn’t peel until I needed them)
  • 1 bag of kale super food salad (Costco) or a mix of fresh kale & various greens, you could really use any lettuce you have, chop finely
  • juice of two limes
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp medium curry powder
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp sea salt


1. Line a large salad bowl with the freshly rinsed and dried greens.

2. Mix together all of the chopped vegetables and fruit in a separate bowl, toss with lime juice and gently stir ( the lime will ensure all of the veggies keep their bright colour).

I often will do a chopped style salad that has intense flavours and serve it on a bed of lettuce. Then when people are dishing up they can choose their preference. Most of my kids like spices, but can temper it with a bit more lettuce to dilute the flavours a bit. Others like the more intense creaminess and can just add a bit of lettuce for extra crunch. Serving dishes this way has been an easy way to please a large family with varying tastes without making extra dishes!

*About an hour to before serving:

  • got the kids to pull out enough plates, cutlery and napkins for the whole crew
  • pulled out the Tandoori chicken that was marinating in the fridge & put it in the oven on 350°
  • lightly grilled the store bought naan bread on the barbque, they have some hand pulled naan at Costco right now that is very tasty, try different brands…see what you like!
  • heat up the store bought pakoras, we are very spoiled in Nanaimo because we have an Indian restaurant that makes fresh batches of these veggie pakoras and sells them at…you guessed it…Costco! I love that they are made locally. In your centre, check into different restaurants, are there any appie dishes that you can order ahead & save your self a step at a dinner party?
  • take the Tandoori out of the oven and grill on the barbque for ten to fifteen minutes
  • start putting out all the salads on one end near the plates, the rice next to the butter chicken, the naan with the raita
  • Let the feeding frenzy begin!

IMG_1252 We tucked in and all the different ages and tastes were happy. Each dish was a varying level of heat and there were plenty of vegetarian options. Although it sounds like a lot of work…considering the number of people and the age range of the guests, it was really quite fool proof . I didn’t have to worry about keeping things at the perfect temperature and all the different flavours mingled together beautifully.

It was very satisfying hearing all the ‘oohs and ahhs’ as they polished off their meals…and even better…there was so much help, all the dishes were done in no time at all!

Even though they were crazy full, it was amazing they still had room for birthday cake…and that is another post altogether, please check it out at Sweet Tooth Surprise.

Disclaimer: I am an intuitive cook, which means I taste and adjust as I go…if any of the flavours above aren’t your style, I encourage you to add a little of this or a squeeze of that. Cooking is about playing & experimenting for me!

Please share what your favourite Indian inspired dishes are, do your kids like spices? What tips and tricks do you have to get them to try a variety of foods?

“I don’t stop eating when I’m full. The meal isn’t over when I’m full. It’s over when I hate myself”~Louis C.K.

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