If you don’t know much about Britain, you might be surprised to find out that curry is considered the national dish (well, there’s actually talk of pasta being the national dish now, but ask any Joe Bloggs on the street and he’ll tell you it’s curry). The British luuuurve their curry. Unfortunately, I hate the way they tend to eat it. Where I come from, most Asian food is a shared experience. I don’t go out with my family for Chinese food and order black bean vegetable stir fry for my sister, General Tao’s chicken for my mum, deep fried tofu for my dad and ginger pork for me. No, no, no – we order a whole bunch of dishes and share them (which makes the ordering process a very stressful, heated and drawn-out process in my family, but never mind).
So when I first started going out for Indian food with friends in England, I was a bit taken aback when each person would often order their own dish. Um, excuse me but why would I want to eat a huge bowl of chicken tikka masala all by myself when we could order several things and get a variety of tastes and flavours? You know, the way they do in India?
Luckily I’ve trained Edward in the order-several-dishes-and-share approach and now he wouldn’t have it any other way. Which is good, because we eat a lot of curry. We’re very lucky to have about five Indian restaurants in our little neighbourhood, including one very good one right across the street. (Apart from our last meal, which we won’t go into.)
Central to our Indian meals isn’t actually the curry, though. It’s the accompanying naan bread. As naan fanatics, we’ll happily forego rice and have naan as our only starch. Until this week however, I’d always relied on premade naans when having a homemade curry. So when I came across this traditional recipe at Sook’s blog My Fabulous Recipes and saw how easy it looked, I I thought I’d take the plunge.
Maybe I should have plunged earlier, because it turns out that naan is extremely simple to make. Okay, it’s more work than tearing open a pack of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference naan and throwing them under the grill, but it isn’t as taxing as I had expected. I guess I thought that a bread so sublime must be impossible for mere mortals to replicate. Not so!
The naan was good alongside our homemade chicken jalfrezi – very soft on the inside, just like a naan from the takeaway. The only downside was that it wasn’t thick enough; I wanted puffy, pillowy naan like Sook’s turned out, or like Kevin blogged about just the other day. I obviously rolled my dough too thinly, so next time I would go easier with the rolling pin.
And there will definitely be a next time. Because I can make naan!
Adapted from My Fabulous Recipes
Makes 6 breads
2/3 cup warm water
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 cups plain or all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp ghee or clarified butter, melted
2 Tbsp plain yogurt
melted butter or ghee, for glazing
kalonji (onion seed), chopped cilantro and minced garlic, for sprinkling (optional)
Whisk the warm water with the yeast and sugar until the yeast is dissolved. Let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl or into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the yeast mixture, half of the ghee and all the yogurt. Mix into a soft dough, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a large, lightly greased bowl and cover with clingwrap or a damp tea towel. Let stand in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until the dough is doubled in size.
Knock back the dough, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece out into a 6 to 8 inch round.
Preheat the oven grill to its highest setting. Cover a baking sheet with foil and fill it with as many naan as will comfortably fit. Brush the naan with some melted butter and sprinkle with a little kalonji, cilantro and garlic, if using. Cook naan under the grill for about 2 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side for another 2 minutes, until puffy and just brown. Repeat until all the breads are cooked.