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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Naan bread

Tuscany certainly offers lovely food, however foreign cuisine is pretty much unknown to the locals. As a result, I had my first Indian meal only when I came to the UK for my undergraduate degree course. The myriad of new flavours, exotic spices and obscure ingredients completely overwhelmed me and I must admit I was thoroughly unimpressed with it. Still, I saw how fond of Indian food the majority of British people are (not to mention the rest of the globe), so a little at the time, I made an effort to sample different dishes and educated myself to recognise the different spices and ingredients. Now, I simply adore Indian food and regularly cook it or have it at restaurants!
One of the dishes I am most passionate about is naan bread. Soft, warm and the ideal tool to scoop up a curry, what's not to like? Last night I decided to have a go at making my own: the verdict is that is surprisingly easy and definitely beats the shop bought naans (which tend to be quite chewy). I have never had a chance to watch anyone making naan bread before, so I followed a recipe by the great Madhur Jaffrey I found on Google.
INGREDIENTS (makes 8 small naans, enough for 4 people)
  • 150ml hand-hot milk
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp dried active yeast
  • 450g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus a little extra
  • 150ml natural yoghurt, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Put the milk, one teaspoon of sugar and the dried yeast in a bowl. Mix them up and leave to rest in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes, until the surface appears all frothy. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Make a well into the centre and pour in the frothy milk and yeast mixture, the rest of the sugar, the oil, egg and yoghurt and mix all the ingredients to form a ball of dough.
Transfer the ball to a clean working surface and knead it for about 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic, smooth and silky to the touch. Cover it with a damp cloth and leave it to rise in a warm place for about one hour. The dough should double in size.

Once the dough has risen, put your oven at its highest setting and heat up your heaviest baking tray. Knock the dough back into shape by kneading it for another 2-3 minutes, then divide it into 8 equally sized balls and flatten them with a rolling pin. They should be about 0.5 cm thick and ideally tear-shaped. Mine look more like bells, I must say! However do not worry too much about the shape, as it is purely aesthetic and will not affect the flavour (however, do get the thickness right). 
Place the naans onto the hot baking tray (you will have to do this in batches, depending on how many you can fit in at the time) and bake them for 3 minutes. As soon as they puff up, take them out of the oven or they will turn out too crisp. If you own a separate oven and grill, you can brown them under the grill for 30 seconds. While you are baking the rest of the naans, keep the ready ones wrapped in a clean cloth to keep them soft and warm. Serve them plain or brush them up with clarified butter, garlic and chopped coriander, to accompany your curry of choice. The one in the picture is my lamb and spinach curry.

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