Sunday 31 July 2011

Indian food

Mammy gave me an Indian cookbook recently, 100 Essential Curries, written by Madhur Jaffrey. The book is really interesting, and I’ve cooked a load of recipes from it so far.

One of the most successful and satisfying for me to make, as chief chef in our home, is naan bread. I find this really difficult to get in Belgium, and when I can find it, it is more often than not disappointing. Alternatively, you can order UK naan bread on-line from the Internet Grocer

Baking bread is deeply, eh, soul restoring. If you’re less than charmed with life or someone, get the flour out and knead some dough – it works way better than any session with a mental health professional, in my humble opinion.

So, light n fluffy naan bread – this makes 6 breads:
450g plain flour
about 100 ml warm milk (the recipe states 200ml, but I found this to be far too much)
1 egg
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ packet of dried yeast
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
4 tablespoons of natural yogurt (I’ve been using most of a 150g tub of full fat Greek yogurt – the rest of the tub goes to the chef – you need your sustenance)
melted butter
toppings: seeds, garlic, coriander…

Sift the flour into a large bowl. In another bowl or a jug, mix the egg, salt, sugar, baking powder, yeast, yogurt and a little of the warmed milk. Pour this into the flour and rub it in. Adding a tablespoon of milk at a time, continue mix until you have a soft dough.

Tip: I heard only yesterday or the day before that flour needs some time to absorb the liquid. Because of this, before you start kneading, you should wait about 10 minutes. This way, you will have a less sticky dough and therefore need less four on your kneading board. I haven’t tested this theory yet.

Turn your dough onto a floured board and knead for about 10 minutes until it's silky and elastic.

Tip: Kneading should be gentle and non-strenuous. If you are getting tired, you’re over doing it.

When your dough is soft and elastic, grease the inside of your bowl with some oil and return the dough to it. Cover with a damp cloth (this will stop the dough from sticking to the towel) and leave it in a warm place for about 2-3 hours.

Brush a baking sheet with some oil. When your dough is risen, turn it onto a floured board again and knead it again for a minute. This is to knock out all the extra air.  Divide the dough into 6 portions. Flatten and stretch them into a traditional pear shape (I count myself lucky if I can get them into a shape at all). Lay them on the baking sheet – you’ll get two per sheet and cover with a damp cloth for 15 minutes.

Heat your grill to very hot.  Brush the breads with a little melted butter and grill the naans for 2-3 minutes. Turn and brush with more melted butter and sprinkle with poppy seeds, crushed garlic or chopped coriander should you so feel the need.  Pop back under the grill for another 2 minutes.

If you have any left over, it freezes really well.

I served this naan bread with (not all at the same time, but this is what I’ve been cooking chez nous recently):
Beef Kaati kebabs
Ravi’s Kerala-style Bhuna (I made it with pork)
Kheema with fried onions
Smothered lamb (I used pork)
Pork in mustard sauce

You can find some of these recipes on the internet. A few of the spices are not always readily available in your local supermarket, so check out the Asian supermarkets between Pl St Gery and Pl St Catherine in Brussels city centre. There are some Indian-run independent shops around Schuman and the Matonge which also stock spices. Don't be put off by the long list of spices needed in the recipes - quite often you will need the same spice for several recipes and they are quite cheap. Store them in old jam jars and they should keep for about a year. Also, I reckon that homemade ones can be better than jars of sauces should you have the time to do them. And one last thing, if you are watching your weight, I've made all of these with less fatty cuts (cook for less time) and with way less oil. 

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