Now I’ve not been great at keeping up with this challenge of cooking something from my myriad of cookbooks every week. It’s been more of a once a fortnight thing but I’m trying my best.
Last week we decided to have a curry for dinner. I very rarely follow recipes for curry. I love it when I do, but on the whole I tend to fling lots of things I like in a pan and hope for the best. So far this method has worked, apart from once when I couldn’t eat the curry in question. I thought it was disgusting. Everyone else loved it. Maybe I was coming down with something… That aside, this curry was of the pan fling variety so I don’t really have a recipe to share.
Anyway, for me, the best bits of an Indian meal are the accompaniments. A naan bread the size of a duvet, spicy onions and bhajias are the stuff of dreams for me so I decided to have a bash at making my own this time. A delve into the book cupboard and I eventually found this…
‘India’s 500 Best Recipes‘. (Shezad Husain, Rafi Fernandez, Mridula Baljekar & Manisha Kanani. Published by Hermes House). I’ve read this book like a novel but I’ve never cooked from it before so as well as, hopefully, providing me with some tasty treats for dinner, it would also be a great candidate for the Cookbook Challenge. There’s some really great recipes in here for starters, main courses, rice, bread, relishes, desserts and drinks. I really should cook from it more.
I was already doing some spicy onions and a mint raita to go with the ‘pan fling’ chicken curry and basmati rice and decided to try the naan bread and onion bhajias from the book. The bread had natural yogurt and a bit of vegetable oil in the mix and I found it made the dough feel quite tight and a bit more difficult to knead than standard bread dough. However, after about 10 minutes it was smooth and pliable like standard bread dough. As it’s a flatbread the dough only needed to be proved once. Flattening the dough out into the required shape wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. Bobert had decided to get involved at this stage and between us we came up with a weird, flapping about, quasi pizza base making type manoeuvre that seemed to work. The oven was turned up to max and the grill was also on hot for finishing off. The breads are literally baked in the oven for minutes and then put under a hot grill to blister. We were like expectant parents standing at the oven gazing nervously through the door! Once they came out the grill I brushed the tops of the bread with melted butter with crushed garlic and chopped coriander in it. It smelled so good! If you have ghee, or can be bothered to go to the trouble of making clarified butter, that should probably be used instead. The shape of the bread wasn’t quite right but I was just glad it wasn’t the awful doughy consistency of supermarket naan. It also heated up really well the following day in a low oven.
Now, as with all bread, I’m really, really fussy about naan. I’d rather go hungry than eat the stuff you get in the supermarket and I was worried that my efforts were going to taste the same due to my lack of experience and a proper tandoor to cook it in. However, I’m delighted to say that for a first effort these were pretty good and were light inside with little crispy bits on the outside. I won’t be getting a job at my local curry house anytime soon but I could eat these and that was saying something!
The onion bhajias were essentially sliced onions mixed into a spicy batter and deep fried. I’m a bit nervy about deep frying, (I don’t have a deep fat fryer so everything gets done in a wok), but needs must. The recipe called for gram flour which I didn’t have so I used plain flour which worked just as well. After a couple of duffers which were too big, (they just got halved and bunged back in the wok), these turned out to be a success. Bobert had initially said he thought they should be spicier but once he was eating them with the curry and a very hot lime pickle he decided that, actually, they probably didn’t need anymore spice!
It would definitely have been easier to nip along to the local take-away and buy naan, etc., (which is what we normally do when we have a curry), but it was actually really nice knowing that every part of the meal, (apart from the lime pickle), was homemade and I was really chuffed with myself. I sent a picture of the meal to Nisha Katona, a food writer who describes herself as a curry evangelist, and I got the following response, “I can’t tell you how proud I am to have this photo grace my inbox. It looks amazing! Thanks so much for sending it.” Sorry, but I really had to share that comment. When someone who knows what they’re talking about complements you it’s a fabulous thing!
I’m not saying I’ll make our breads and accompaniments every time we have a curry, but it’s definitely worth the effort now and again. If you’ve never made naan before give it a try. Because it only gets proved once and spends so little time in the oven it doesn’t involve the time commitment you’d expect. Now to decide what to cook next out this book…
Naan…a brief history.
The Naan originates from India but is today eaten in most types of South Asian restaurants and homes around the globe. It has transformed from a basic form of bread to experimental creations by chefs and food enthusiasts with different fillings and flavours.
The first recorded history of naan can be found in the notes of the Indo-Persian poet Amir Kushrau in 1300 AD. Naan was originally cooked at the Imperial Court in Delhi as naan-e-tunuk (light bread) and naan-e-tanuri(cooked in a tandoor oven). During the Mughal era in India from around 1526, naan accompanied by keema or kebab was a popular breakfast food of the royals.
In 1926, overlooking the hustle and bustle of Regent Street, Veeraswamy, Britain’s oldest Indian restaurant, first served naan on its menu.
Founded in 1984, Honeytop Speciality Foods became the first company in Europe to supply authentic naan bread on a commercial scale to major retailers and restaurants. They introduced the first 13 week shelf-life flatbread.
The word Naan is derived from the Persian word ‘non’ which refers to bread, and initially appeared in English Literature dating back to 1780 in a travelogue of William Tooke.