The banker-turned-blogger-turned-author gives us easy food and décor ideas for hosting a heart-warming brunch at home while the nip is still in the air
1. What are some key things to keep in mind while entertaining at home?
Make people, not the food, the focus of the brunch. When it comes to table décor, mix and match is totally in. Avoid fussy, uptight arrangements and tie up a look together with a broad colour theme that has warm, inviting tones such as deep reds, yellows and even some black, used purposefully. Lastly, if you are organised in your prep it will help keep things more relaxed for both the guests and the host on the day of the party.
2. What are some of your favourite ways to plan an easy brunch menu?
If you’re doing an all vegetarian menu, a shared mezze platter is a people pleaser that can also be prepared in advance. Add different kinds of hummus, falafel, pita bread, fresh vegetable sticks, a burrata salad and you’re good to go. I’d stick with a Mediterranean or Italian menu for a non-vegetarian brunch as well. You can have spaghetti with pesto and roast chicken, which don’t require you to be slaving over the stove for hours.
3. What according to you makes a beautiful brunch table?
I don’t care about pretty crockery as much as I’m drawn to elements of nature - fresh flowers, fruits, and good linen that complements these accents. If the party extends into the evening - which is bound to happen with good friends - candles can add to the ambience. Personalise your table with handwritten menus and notes for small gatherings. Write out, roll up and tie them together with sprigs of rosemary or thyme. It can be a note about a shared food memory or bits of trivia about the dishes that will be served. This instantly makes the meal more personal and costs you no more than the ten minutes it will take to write them.
4. How would you improvise when things sometimes don’t go according to plan?
I think the key to keeping the party going is to stay calm and ask for help. Is the chicken a bit undercooked? No one will judge you for sticking it back into the oven. Have you run out of wine? Request a friend to pick some up.
5. Any tips on getting the perfect food shot for Instagram?
I love it when people are as enthusiastic about good food and want to share the love. Understand the strengths and limitations of your camera, try different angles - not just a top-down shot, making sure you have your back to the light source. My pet peeve is when people over-style their composition. Showing restraint and keeping it simple can be very powerful.
6. Who are your favourite food stylists on Instagram?
There are several whose timelines inspire me but @twiggstudios, @lindalomelino and @abrowntable are among my top favourites.
7. Congratulations on the launch of your first cookbook My Indian Kitchen. Tell us about the process of putting it together?
I styled, photographed, wrote and edited the entire book myself. My aim with it is to make Indian cooking seem more approachable to everyone. It took me a year and a half to finish the book and the process wasn’t without its challenges. It even got to a point where I was in tears over not being able to work out the cover shot. I tried everything even giving in and working with a professional photographer, but finally what my art director and I connected with turned out to be a simple shot of mine in a saree.
Grab your own copy of Swayampurna Mishra’s new book My Indian Kitchen here
Italian food works well for a brunch menu. Lead with a simple feta, basil and watermelon salad or an easy shrimp with orange sauce. Follow that with spaghetti and sauce, thrown together with your choice or protein just before serving. All the elements of this suggested main course can be precooked and simply heated before serving.
A great selection of wine or cocktails make light work of brunches. So, suss out your guests’ preferences beforehand and see how you can accommodate their choices. If not, take a chance on something new.
Natural sunlight is always the best idea when clicking food shots, but sometimes moody, darker pictures can tell a wholly different story.
Swayampurna Mishra’s aim with her book is to make Indian cooking seem more approachable to everyone.
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