Indian cuisine lends itself well to the vegetarian diet. Different combinations of vegetables and spices can produce a range of dishes limited only by imagination, each with its own identity. The wonderful people at my local Indian restaurant have a perfect understanding of this.
In a recent blog post, my sister wrote a very damming decsription of the town where we both live. She is desperate to move away saying that the high street was a depressing collection of charity shops, bargain shops, kebab takeaways and not much more.
I have to agree that we have more than our fair share of charity shops but far from depressing me, I love to have a leisurely browse and often find a good bargain. As for the 'not much more' I have to disagree. I always stop to look at the beautiful window displays of lovely things for the home in Lloyds Interiors and the mouthwatering chocolate creations in the specialist chocolate shop, Tuesday's. I dream of my next manicure or facial when I pass by the sumptuous Ivy Suite and search for an excuse to stop for coffee when I see the warm and welcoming Jones' Coffee Shop with their displays of original art works. There are many shiny gems in Market Drayton's (albeit slightly shabby!) crown.
The gem to which this particular post is dedicated is my local Indian, Oruna Cuisine.
Monday night is a quiet night for Oruna but as Monday this week happened to be the anniversary of my wedding day two years ago, it was the perfect night for my husband and I to treat ourselves to a meal out. We are regular customers to Oruna but despite the extensive menu that caters really well for vegetarians, I have been guilty of choosing the same main course, Paneer Tikka Massala, time and again. I choose it because I love it .
Paneer Tikka Massala is described on the menu as cottage cheese skewered in the tandoori and cooked in a rich sauce. Cottage cheese always makes me think of being on a diet, or worse, baby sick. The cottage cheese used for this dish is a far cry from that image, The cubes are surprisingly meaty in texture, like very tender chicken breast, and they carry the flavour of the sauce perfectly. To describe the sauce as 'rich' is very fitting. It is rich in flavour and colour which is a beautiful, deep red not dissimilar to the colour of emulsion my daughter chose for her dramatic bedroom walls. I remarked on it at the time we were painting and it made us both crave takeaway!
When we were offered the chance to have a specially selected vegetarian banquet prepared just for us by Oruna for our anniversary, we jumped at the chance. To keep me happy, my favourite Panner Tikka Massala was included as one of the main courses. The dishes are all prepared fresh and the chefs pride themselves on being able to adapt the menu to cater to individual requests. As a vegetarian, it is good to know that the speciality dishes on the menu need not be off limits - the meat can be omitted and substituted with vegetables. The dishes prepared for our banquet were to showcase the possibilities.
While the chefs worked their magic in the kitchen, we tucked into a platter of starters.
Pakoras, onion bhajis and samosas are a familiar sight in the supermarket nowadays but freshly cooked, they are so much better than any shop bought relatives. Beneath the tomato rose garnish was a delicious garlic mushroom but my absolute favourite part was the puffy bread folded over to conceal a lightly spiced mixture of potato and chick pea. This was Aloo Channa Chat and it was divine.
There was a visual feast to enjoy before a single forkful of curry passed our lips as the dishes for our main course were placed before us.
The range of colours and textures was exciting to the eye and I loved the garnishes. The aromas were equally enticing. Could the tastes live up to the high expectations?
Of course they did. Was there ever any doubt?
On the far left of the photograph is my trusted Paneer Tikka Massala (nice colour for bedroom walls don't you agree!) and next to that a lightly spiced potato dish with courgettes. The middle dish was a personal favourite - Aloo Kofta Kyberi - which was spicy deep fried potatoes cooked in the Chef's Special Sauce with chunks of capsicum and onion. Next to that is Chilli Chuna Mattar Paneer which was an interesting combination of fresh chillis cooked with chick peas and garden peas in a semi dry sauce laced with cottage cheese. It was good to try Paneer in a different way to my usual and it had the sort of heat that builds in your mouth - I love that. Finally is a Jabra Dhall. I use a lot of lentils in cooking and I think that Dhall is the very best use of this vegetarian staple. This particular dish of spicy lentils cooked with fried garlic in Chef's Special Recipe was the best Dhall I have EVER had.
Without even mentioning the three different rices and two varieties of naan bread that accompanied our banquet, I think you can guess that I was more than impressed.
I cannot praise everyone at Oruna enough for their efforts and especially for the helpful notes they provided me with explaining what the different dishes were for the benefit of this post. They really went beyond the call of duty to make my special anniversary meal one I will remember for a very long time.
And of course I have to thank my husband for marrying in the first place to give me something to celebrate!
In case you're wondering, we did not manage to get through that amount of food in one sitting. We were provided with a doggy bag that means I have it all to look forward to again tonight!