Around 75% of professionals cook at home every day, according to a survey conducted by Cookpad. If you are one of India’s many budding chefs and you are excited about the breezy summer nights setting in, no place appeals more than outside – but is your garden swagged up enough for a stylish al fresco lunch or dinner party? If you are planning a party with family and friends, or you simply wish to swish up your outdoor space to make it more inviting, the following tips might provide you with a little spark of inspiration!
Creating the Perfect Shady Spot for Lunch
If you live in a hot city like Delhi and you are lucky enough to have a pool or terrace on which to dine outdoors, make sure your guests are protected from the sun’s rays. Retractable awnings which are motorized are a popular shade solution choice owing to their flexibility and motorized/remote control functions. Other solutions include permanent awnings (ideal if you live in a very hot area) and shade sales (which can also be motorized). Whichever solution you use, make sure it is large enough to cover the entire dining space, and consider whether flexibility or permanent solutions are more suitable to your needs.
Starry Starry Night
Fill your backyard with light, using a blend of different lighting types for the many areas in your yard. If you have a stunning oak, sugar maple, or redbud (or indeed any other tall, beautiful tree), make the most of its branches by hanging star, round, and other shaped lanterns – either filled with candles or electric lighting – on them. Balance large lanterns out with delicate fairy lights in other parts of the garden, and consider large statement solar lighting in key areas of your garden. Place candles on spots you wish to highlight, including stone pathways, steps, and of course, the dining table itself. If you will be using electric lighting, consider hanging oddly shaped pendant lights at different lengths above your dining table, using a tree branch to hang the lighting.
Setting the Table
Your table should ideally celebrate the beauty of nature. This can be achieved with gorgeous wild flower arrangements, nature-patterned table runners and mattes, and patterned crockery. If you wish to make it a cosy affair, use a low-lying table and lay it on one or more Persian-patterned carpets. Use large cushions instead of chairs and hang fairy lights above the dining table. Think of ways to celebrate nature in many ways. Use plates made from bamboo leaves, and cutlery made from recycled material to highlight the importance of sustainability. If you are yet to buy a dining table, by all means go for wood for both tables and chairs. Nothing else quite suits an outdoor garden party to the extent that wood does. You can either opt for solid wood chairs/benches, or rattan. The latter is particularly suitable to homes with Asian influences in their décor. If you have a pool, why not surprise guests by holding a daytime dinner in the pool itself? You can purchase an affordable pool patio table set for next to nothing, with its own little parasol to keep the sun away while you are enjoying your aquatic feast.
Here are two quick and easy recipes (Thai beef salad and easy Thai basil and mint cocktail) you can prepare for your next al fresco party.
Thai Beef Salad (Serves four):
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3 limes, juiced
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tsp brown sugar
¾ tsp red chilli flakes
Fresh red chilli to taste (if desired)
25 oz steak
3 shallots, chopped
7 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 red pepper, sliced finely
1 yellow pepper, sliced finely
½ cup peanuts, toasted until golden over a hot pan
4 cups lettuce, chopped
For the dressing, mix the garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, and chilli flakes. Taste and add a little fresh sliced red chilli if desired. Grill the steak over medium heat until done then slice finely. Add the shallots and cilantro on top of the meat, throw the fish sauce and garlic over, as well as the pepper and peanuts, and serve over lettuce.
Thai Basil and Mint Cocktail
Ingredients: (Serves two)
1 oz. Agave syrup or homemade sugar syrup
5 mint leaves
4 large Thai Opal basil leaves
4 oz white rum
4 oz club soda
Juice of one lime
Muddle the leaves with the syrup and add rum, lime juice, and two cups of small ice cubes or crushed ice. Divide into two long glasses then top with club soda.
Your next dinner party can easily be one to be remembered. By turning your backyard into a paradise of lights and flickering candles, you can surprise guests with something a little out of the ordinary. From dining picnic-style on the grass to sitting at an elegant table filled with floral arrangements, there are so many ways to make the most of nature and the Great Outdoors.