Food is about the balance of flavours, colours and textures, it should be a visual treat! What helps with this sometimes is the way in which we present the food. In the Indian tradition we are always taught to be the perfect hosts and share our food and hospitality with all that come to our door. The way that we treat ourselves and the way our guests feel when they come to share your company and food is vitally important. We have always been taught to make everyone feel special and put our love into cooking and entertaining. Everyday life and time constrains us from adorning our table, however whenever I go back to my parent’s home, my younger sister always makes the extra effort and changes the theme for every meal and this always makes us feel special. We do not need to go out to restaurants to have that special feeling (although it is good to on special occasions). It can be as simple as placing some fancily folded napkins or lighting a few candles. I remember, as I was growing up, on regular occasions we would have candle lit dinners (sometimes due to the electricity being switched off), simple everyday meals were turned into specials meals by just a few candles. Keeping all of this in mind and with the holiday and party season upon us, I felt I should give a few ideas of how to make loved ones feel special by placing the ‘cherry on the cake’ of all the wonderful cooking you have been doing. It is last minute details like this that make a meal or dinner party complete.
There are many ways of approaching table settings. It depends on the meal you are presenting i.e. an Indian menu can be presented in the themed manner, using colours and decorations that are your interpretation of the menu or you can look at it from the occasion or colour theme point of view. Try and be creative and do not be afraid to be inventive. For inspiration I always look to nature or the theme of the cuisine. Use nature for guest settings like writing place names on leaves, or for simple invitations you can even peg the leaf on a votive candle holder and then light a candle – this will give a very warm effect. You could even do a little flower bouquets made by piercing flowers like carnations or chrysanthemums into fruit (oranges, lemons or apple) or vegetables (aubergines or courgettes/zucchini), which can be taken back as party favours to remind them of the good time spent with you. I have just given a few ideas of how to do this from things that you may have or inexpensive to get items. These settings have been created with inspiration taken from what I have seen and just some ideas I have had for some time and most importantly the help and support of my parents, younger sister Janki and my husband Anjay. We had a lot of fun creating these ideas for all to share, if you require more ideas / inspiration then please visit the following sites :
I will be adding some more themes / ideas to this part of the Radiance Recipes website and I will link to another website I am going to start in the new year to do with all things Creative. I will show you how to make some inexpensive decorations which can be weekend projects. This way I will be able to share my creative skills with you all as well. Sometimes all we need is a gentle reminder, encouragement and inspiration to let ourselves and everyone we meet release their true potential.
Go all out for special occasions and create roses using napkins and try to colour coordinate the plates with the chosen colour of the table cloth and napkins. You can place little treats of chocolates, and light some candles as we have done. Do not be afraid to mix tea-lights with tall or pillar candles. You can also place some gold chocolate coins and instead of confetti. You can place different shaped baubles or fake flower petals. Using this type of napkin fold you create an instant wow effect, and all of this can take no more than an hour.
The above idea came from looking at peacock feathers (one of my favourite sources of inspiration). It has so many different colours to use as the colour scheme and there are many ways in which it can be stylised. I took the bold colour from the centre of the feather for the table cloth and then choose complimentary colours in the same range for the napkins and table runner. Also note that table runners can be placed in both directions which give out completely different effects. You can thread the feathers through cards to create some name places and instead of the normal chocolate or sweet treats you can put fruit (much healthier alternative) for each of the guests. Create a centre piece with candles, place some water in large bowls and float different coloured candles. You can even float tea-lights, and add some food colour or flowers to the bowl.
If you are having a food themed party then you can set the table and room decor according to the menu. Above I have shown a Chinese themed table layout, using bright vivid colours and also traditional neutral colours that are found in China. The various different patterns found in the crockery and the table runner work well together and give the feel of the real authentic decor used in China. You can give little favours of small lanterns which can also double up as place cards.
Using a particular colour or theme for your party can help give you ideas as to how to decorate the room. Here I have chosen black and brown, some of the colours found in African themed schemes. Just some basic arrangements of folded napkins placed in wooden napkin rings changes the mood. By having various different types of candle holders we can create a more natural sense of lighting. I have just added some red to the table, to make the different patterns and ideas come together. Just by simply placing a red bead strand around the centre candle holder, you can create an instant centre piece. If you are using a plain table cloth then you can perhaps scatter some whole nuts around the table, instead of the normal, confetti, flower petals or chocolates. Try and think beyond the norm when it comes to decorating a table or entertaining space, do not be afraid to use colour and pattern, try a few things out then you will have the confidence to create masterpieces of your decor as well as your food.