A little taster of what's cooking...
I’m not a huge fan of barbecue cooking in the back garden, although I do love eating outside. I much prefer to put something in the slow cooker or oven, open a bottle and sit outside in the sun secure in the knowledge that my dinner is getting on with it. Lovely smells start wafting outside and you can sit back and pretend someone else is doing the cooking.
You won’t be surprised to know that I love spicy food, Indian in particular. A lot of people think that when we get lovely sunshine it’s too hot for a curry. I disagree – they seem to cope really well in India! You should really turn up the heat, chilli-wise during a heat wave, it has a cooling effect on your body.
Last Friday was hot and sunny, so I didn’t want to miss a second of such wonderful weather after I got home from work. I refuse to think of Friday night as being anything other than fresh, home cooked Curry Night. I’d prepared a Madras Curry Kit up to the stage where you add the tomatoes, the night before. When I got in from work, I just mixed the prepared masala with some chicken thigh fillets and par-boiled potatoes and put it all in the slow cooker with a slosh of water and turned the cooker to high.
Naan bread was needed to mop up the gorgeous gravy. I don’t like to buy ready made flat breads, they’re so simple to make and taste so much better. Naan bread is traditionally made in a Tandoor oven: dough is rolled out thinly and pressed against the side of the hot oven which makes the underside of the naan crisp and brown, but leaves the top soft – ready to be brushed with butter. If you haven’t got a tandoor, help is at hand! This recipe doesn’t claim to be authentic – it’s easy and requires the minimum of attention. It makes great tasting soft, spongy bread which soaks up sauce – what more could you ask for?
This is the recipe that I always use – it’s a Dan Lepard one and he says that bread dough doesn’t need lots of kneading, it just needs time. Minimum effort, while sipping cold drinks in the sun – perfect. They freeze really well too. This recipe makes 6 naan.
No Fuss Naan
Put 300g plain flour in a bowl, along with 50g wholemeal flour, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 3/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar and 1-2 tsp black onion (nigella) seeds (these give you the stereotypical taste of naan bread, but leave them out if you don’t have any, or substitute with cumin/fennel seeds).
In a large bowl add 125g plain yogurt (whatever you normally use), 100ml cold milk, 50ml boiling water and 1tsp fast action yeast (the sachet yeast is fine, but don’t use a whole sachet). Stir everything together and make sure there are no lumps.
Add the flour mixture to the yogurt mixture and stir well. This will produce a very soft, sticky dough. Make sure that you’ve gathered together all of the flour at the bottom of the bowl and then cover the dough with a sheet of cling film and go back to the garden for 30 minutes.
After half an hour, pour 1 tblsp of any oil on to your work surface and rub it out to the size of a dinner plate. Tip the sticky dough on to the oil and roughly knead the dough into a ball. This should take around 10 seconds and then put in back in the bowl, cover with cling film and go back to the garden for an hour.
After an hour, lightly flour the worktop and place the dough on it. Pat it into a circle and cut it into 6 pieces. You already roughly have your classic naan tear drop shape. Put the oven on to 200C/180C fan/390F.
Melt a large knob of butter/4tblsp oil (or a mixture of the two) in a small pan and grate 1 clove of garlic into it, along with a handful of chopped coriander if you like it – you can use any other chopped herb in it’s place, such as parsley. When the butter has melted, turn the heat off and leave the flavours to infuse while you cook the naan.
Put a large frying pan on a medium heat, don’t add any oil to the pan. When the pan is hot, roll out the first of your triangles to around 1cm thick using extra flour to stop them sticking.
Stretch the triangle as you place it on the hot frying pan. Brush some of the garlic butter onto the top of the naan as it’s cooking. Soon you will see little bubbles appearing on the surface.
Keep an eye on the underside of the naan so that you can take it out when it’s starting to brown.
Using a spatula/fish slice take the naan from the pan and place it on to the racks in the oven. This will finish off cooking the top while you get on with the next naan.
Repeat the process until the dough has been used up. Keep a close eye on the naan in the oven and take them out if they start to get brown.
They soak up sauce perfectly and taste wonderful. Give them a go when you want to give yourself time to sit in the sun!