I lovelovelove Indian food with all of my food obsessed heart. I cook curry probably once a week at home because it is delicious, wholesome, nutritious and budget-friendly. I don’t love rice though, which is why I sway towards bread as my carb of choice when eating curry.
Naan bread is a soft and fluffy leavened flat bread (made with yeast) which is eaten all over south and Central Asia. They are thought to have been influenced by middle eastern flatbreads such as Pitta, as the Persian word nān being a generic word for bread seems to suggest. What makes Indian naan bread different from other Indian breads is that they are cooked in a tandoor oven, which is a traditional wood or coal fired oven made of clay. These ovens are heated to extreme temperatures and the dough is slapped to the side of the oven to cook.
Obviously I don’t have a tandoori oven at home (I wish I did!), so I turn to my trusty cast iron skillet to make my naan. The beauty of this being that in the winter I can bake my naan in the kitchen and when the weather is on my side, I take my skillet outdoors and use it over my fire pit. This makes sure the naan absorb all the delicious smoky flavours from the fire and gives it a more authentic flavour. If you don’t own a cast iron pan, use the heaviest frying pan or skillet that you own, just don’t put it on an open fire!
- 500g strong white flour
- 20g sugar
- 10g salt
- 14g dried yeast (2 sachets)
- 150g coconut cream
- 200g water
- 1 tsp nigella seeds
- Place your flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and mix together with your hand. Make a well in the centre.
- Dissolve the yeast in to the water and pour in to the well. Use your hands to begin mixing the flour and water together. Then add the coconut cream and nigella seeds and mix in the bowl until it starts to form a sticky dough.
- Turn the mixture out on to a floured work surface and knead for about ten minutes, until you have a soft dough.
- Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with a clean towel. Leave to rise for 2 hours in a warm place.
- Once the dough has risen, turn out on to your work surface and divide in to 8 equal portions. Roll each portion in to a ball, place on a floured tray and cover. Leave to rest for 20 minutes to allow the gluten to relax. This will make it easier to shape the dough.
- When the dough has rested, start heating your pan. It needs to be really hot, so set the burner to its highest flame.
- Roll out your first ball of dough in to a flat, tear drop or oval shape, approximately 1cm thick. I find it easier to roll the dough flat with a rolling pin and then use my hands to shape it in to an oval by gently pulling the dough.
- Then place your shaped dough on to the hot pan. You will notice immediately that bubbles start to form under the surface of the dough.
- After a minute, flip the dough over and cook the other side. Don’t worry it the dough catches a little where it has formed bubble, this darkness adds flavour to the bread.
- Whilst the first flatbread is cooking, you can shape the next one so that it is ready to go.
- When the bread is cooked, wrap in a clean towel and cook the next one.
- Serve immediately with your favourite curry.
Move over Pizza: we have a new favourite bread based dinner and it’s called Pide!
Originating in Turkey this traditional bread is stretched thin and baked in a scorching hot oven, leaving the outside crisp and golden and the middle, soft and fluffy. During Ramadan this bread is eaten plain, with just a smattering of poppy seeds and sea salt, at the end of a long day of fasting.
Alternatively it can be topped with various different things, similar to an Italian pizza, and sold from kiosks on the bustling streets. We like our Pide with a spiced Lamb topping and a sprinkling of pickled onions. Other great toppings include Halloumi or Feta, Spinach and Egg.
To make this as a weeknight supper, we put the dough on at about 4:30 and leave it to rise for an hour whilst we prepare the filling and any salads or dips we decide to have. By 5:30 I’m shaping the Pide, baking them in a hot and they’re on the table by 6.
For the dough:
- 7g instant dry yeast
- 1 tbsp flour
- 300g flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 100g water
- 30g yoghurt
- 2tbsp olive oil
For the Lamb filling:
- 500g minced Lamb
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 tsp cumin, ground
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
- 1/2 tsp sumac
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the pickled onions:
- 100g white wine vinegar
- 100g water
- 50g sugar
- 5g salt
- 5 cloves
- 2 small red onions, sliced
- Make the dough by putting the flour and yeast into the bowl of your stand mixer. Make a well in the centre and pour in the salt, sugar, water, yoghurt and oil.
- Mix on a low speed to combine the ingredients and form a dough.
- Continue mixing on a medium speed for 10 minutes until a smooth and elastic dough has formed,
- Set aside to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- To make the pickled onions, combine the water, vinegar, cloves, sugar and salt in a small pan. Bring to a boil whilst stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar,
- Once the liquid has come to a boil, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Add the onions, stir and set aside to cool.
- To make the Lamb filling, heat a large skillet with a small amount of oil. Add the onions and cook slowly until they start to caramelise.
- Add to this the Lamb and the ground spices. Turn up the heat to brown the meat.
- Then add the garlic and tomatoes. Add a little water if the mixture looks dry and cook on a low heat for approximately 15 minutes until the tomatoes start to break down.
- Season to taste and set aside to cool while you wait for the dough.
- Preheat your oven to its highest setting, prepare your baking tray by dusting it with flour.
- When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured work surface and divide into 4 equal portions.
- Shape each piece of dough into a long oval shape by stretching it with your hands. Place onto the baking sheet and spread the Lamb evenly across each Pide, leaving a 3cm edge all the way around.
- Fold the edge over the Lamb, pinching it at either end to make a point, and pinching all along the edges with your finger and thumb as you would to crimp a pie edge.
- Brush the edge of the Pide with a little olive oil.
- Bake in a hot oven for approximately 10-15 minutes, turning half way to ensure an even colour.
- The Pide are done when the dough has cooked underneath, the lamb is sizzling and the edges are golden.
- Serve immediately with the pickled onions on top.
I got up early yesterday to make bread and other assorted treats for a very civilised hen party. It was supposed to be a picnic, but the weather was suitably British so it ended up being an indoor affair. Nevertheless, it was a fabulous day in honour of a fabulous lady!
I was inspired to make this Focaccia by the 6am sunshine, and also the tragic, forgotten peaches in my fruit bowl whispering “please don’t let us go to waste”.
Focaccia is an Italian flatbread thought to have originated in Ancient Rome. It’s name comes from the Latin “Panis Focacius” which basically means “bread from the hearth”. In Roman times, variations of this bread would have been on every table, at every meal.
Peach and Rosemary Focaccia
- 500g strong white flour
- 10g fine salt
- 20g fresh yeast
- 300g water
- 100g olive oil
- Fresh rosemary
- 3 peaches
- Sea salt flakes
- Balsamic Vinegar
- In a large bowl, place your flour and make a well in the centre.
- Dissolve the yeast into the water, and start pouring into the flour, a little at a time, mixing as you go.
- When all of the water has been added, add the fine salt and half of the oil.
- Turn out onto a work surface and knead for 5 minutes. This dough will be very sticky but don’t panic! It’s meant to be that way. I find a dough scraper handy, to help scoop the dough off my work top.
- When you’re done kneading, plonk the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and kick back for 2 hours while the magic happens.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, line a baking tray with parchment and tip the dough out onto the tray. Use the dough scraper so that it comes out cleanly, without disturbing the strands of gluten it’s been busy forming.
- Use your hands to shape the dough into a large rectangle, approximately 2 cm thick.
- Cover the dough and leave it for 1 hour to rise.
- When the hour is nearly up, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C/gas mark 7. Wash your rosemary and prepare your peaches in whichever way you think looks nicest.
- Place the peach slices on top of the Focaccia. I’ve put mine on at a slight angle, so that they are poking into the Focaccia, rather than just sitting on the top. Next put on the rosemary, either as little sprigs pointing upwards, or just a scattering of leaves.
- Sprinkle the whole thing with sea salt flakes, drizzle with olive and oil and finish with a good drizzle of thick balsamic vinegar.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning half way through to ensure an even colouring. Your Focaccia is done when it is a nice golden colour.