A step-by-step guide for newcomers to this flavorful cuisine


The enticing fragrance of mingling spices and the soothing sounds of Ravi Shankar’s sitar heighten anticipation for a special dinner at Laxmi Hiremath’s home. A self-taught cook and writer from Pune, India, Hiremath prefers to offer many small tastes ― each with different hues, textures, and spices ― to entice newcomers to her cuisine.

Even novice cooks will find this menu easy to prepare, because much of it can be completed far ahead of time (see Stepping Ahead, below). You will find all the basic elements at a supermarket, but for authentic details ― black cumin, curry leaves, pickles, and flatbreads ― shop at an Indian market.

A timetable for convenience

Up to 1 week before the party: Make tandoori masala; store airtight. Toast lentil wafers; store airtight. Make chutney; cover and chill. Freeze mango cream.

Up to 2 days ahead: Cook rice; cover and chill.

Up to 1 day ahead: Marinate quail or Cornish hens, roast tandoori vegetables, cook beans, brew tea (to serve iced). Cover each separately and chill.

The last hour: Grill the quail or Cornish hens. Bring the tandoori vegetables to room temperature or reheat. Season and heat the rice. Reheat the beans. Make tea to serve hot.