One of the great joys of Indian cookery for me is the balance of spices, that dance routine between aroma, taste and colour, that make up the explosion of complimenting flavours that is all that we have come to love in Indian Cuisine.
The key element in that Fandango is the heat in the dish, usually decided by the balance of fresh, alongside dried and ground chillies that you decide is right for the food you are creating. A further vital element for me is a complimentary vegetable or side plate; for many that is rice, for some potato, but for me it is naan and more especially sweet naan, Peshwari, a Pakistani speciality being my usual naan of choice with something that is spicy hot hot, hot. My senses enjoy that influx of sweet that underpins that chilli heat in what I call that “curry moment”, where all the flavours come together with a sweetness that cannot be denied, bringing forth a fantastic facet to the dish that is sometimes cooling and flavour enhancing, oh yes for me sweet and spicy is the way to go!
A Naan for the uninitiated is a type of leavened oven baked bread in that it contains yeast and usually some yoghurt or milk, generically it is called a flat bread, and is common throughout the Asian and Arabic world , and for the most part and is either cooked in a Tandoor that fantastic oven that creates a lot of the flavours that make up a great curry, or on a Talwa a griddle or flat plate on top of the stove.
Herein lies the problem, creating naan bread is not hard but for the genuine article you must have a Tandoor, it creates a unique flavour that is very difficult to produce without a genuine tandoori, for me digging up the lawn and laying in the traditional clay interior, and then firing that up with hot coals is a bit beyond getting the Barbie lit on a hot summers day and the domestic alternative in my kitchen is a non starter which would require the building an extension to house just to house such a fantastic cooking implement, which I think the wife may frown a little over!
However I am told these days you can buy domestic chapatis, Naan, and roti makers from ebay that claim to be the real deal, for about £60.00, which lets face it balanced against the cost of a Tandoor of around £250-£300 minimum plus the £5000 for the extension to the house, sounds like an option worth exploring!
At this time however I possess neither a tandoor or its cheaper alternatives, but I do possess a western fan oven that is both controllable and capable of producing fantastic breads, so get ready for a recipe that offers a sweet bread that will bring forth that Curry Moment
The following recipe hits the spot for me and is as near as you can get to the tandoori equivalent and for me is just about as good as it gets on the home bake front. Don’t expect to achieve a result in five minutes like all breads it takes time and effort but if you follow the recipe closely I promise you the result is well worth the effort; a semi sweet, and by that not as sweet as a Peshwari but on the way, cross between Pastry and bread, delicious!
“Oh yes let the yum yum fun begin!”
500g (1lb2oz) Plain (all-purpose) Flour Plus a little extra for dusting
1 tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of salt
3 tsp Icing (confectioners) Sugar
250ml(8floz)warm full cream milk
4 Green cardamom pods ground remove the husks
2 Tbsp Raisins
1 tsp Poppy Seeds
250g(9oz)(1cup) Ghee melted plus extra for greasing
16-18 Almonds(cut into slivers)
Sift the flour Baking Powder and salt into a large bowl, and add the icing sugar and warm milk (Set aside)
Now is the time to activate the Yeast, place the yeast in a small bowl and add 5 Tbsp lukewarm water and the .25 tsp of sugar set aside for at least 30 mins until the yeast has risen.
Add the yeast mixture to the flour and mix together to make a dough using your hands to knead the dough on a flat lightly floured surface, or a dough hook if you must use a food processor.
Transfer the mixture into a lightly oiled bowl cover and set aside in a warm place for at least an hour or until risen.
Add half the Ghee to the dough and Knead again, and then divide into 12 equal portions and shape into balls .
Preheat the Oven to 190 degrees C(375 degrees F) Gas Mark 5 that’s hot!
Flatten the ball into patties of about 18cm/7 inches in Dia and about 5 mm/.25 inches thick
Brush them with ghee and fold them into 4
Roll into balls again and leave for a further 10 Minutes
Repeat this entire process three times , then sprinkle the poppy seeds over bake in the oven for 7-8 minutes or until golden brown!
Because they contain “quite” a lot of Ghee they are best eaten warm, but they can be made ahead of the meal and reheated if the need is there.