Kofta curry and naan bread

December 13, 2009

I’m not going to pretend that making your own naan bread is easy. This is one flatbread that’s easily as labour intensive as any risen loaf, the dough is difficult to work, you’ll end up with bits of it sticking to your fingers, flour on all your teatowels, and your boyfriend may just start to think you design your choice of evening meal with the express purpose of creating as much washing up as possible. And does it end up exactly like the naan you get in an Indian restaurant? Well, no, not exactly. It is curiously satisfying, nonetheless. My mum used to make naan bread in the bottom oven of the aga which was, also, not exactly authentic, but we loved it and my brother and I used to butter any leftovers for breakfast the next morning. What I’m trying to say is, naan or not, it tastes nice. Just be in a relaxed frame of mind before you start.

The kofta curry – yes, meatballs again – ended up playing second fiddle slightly, but it’s a good recipe. The meatballs are tender and juicy with a hit of spice more interesting than average and a slight hint of ginger. And they seemed to be none the worse for the fact that I accidentally used garam masala instead of cumin – in fact, I quite liked it. We also ate a cauliflower bhaji which almost managed to make me enjoy cauliflower.

All in all, not the most true to its origins of meals, but I declare it a success.

Naan bread  Makes 8

A word on butter: Madhur Jaffrey calls for 265g altogether, but I probably used about half that. I’m not sure how you could use as much as this, even if you were extremely liberal with your smearing, but I suspect that the more you manage to work on, the more restaurant-like they will be. Or you could just keep the leftover butter for next day’s breakfast.

620g strong white bread flour (I’d say you’ll need a bit more than this)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp yoghurt
250ml milk
1 egg
15g melted butter, plus 225g butter or 25oml oil for assorted other uses
250ml water
2 tbsp oil
about 1/2 tsp nigella seeds, also called kalonji or black onion seeds
about 2 tsp sesame seeds

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl.

Put the sugar and yoghurt into a separate, large, mixing bowl and beat with either an electric whisk or a wooden spoon. Add the milk and water and continue to beat. Now gradually and thoroughly beat in about 255g of the flour (100 strokes if you are using a wooden spoon). Add the egg and the 15g melted butter and continue to beat. Slowly add another 255g flour, continuing to beat until the dough is difficult to move the whisk through. Remove the whisk (if using) and add enough of the remaining flour with a wooden spoon to make a soft, sticky dough. I ended up tipping quite a bit more flour in until it was just about possible to handle it, although it was still very sticky – I’m not sure if this was the desired texture or something was up with my dough.

Oil your hands (this makes the dough stick to your hands less) and briefly knead the dough on a floured work surface. Divide it into 8 balls and place them on a generously floured baking sheet (you might need two). Press each ball with an oiled palm to flatten it slightly and cover the trays with cling film. Set them aside for at least 30 minutes – they may now be refrigerated for up to 48 hours.

When ready to go, put a large, cast-iron frying pan on a medium-high heat and set the grill to hot (I had mine on its highest setting). Make sure your shelf is about 13cm from the source of the heat.

Take the first naan and place it onto a floured work surface. Dip your hands in the melted butter or oil and press down on it, enlarging it with your fingers and making it into the traditional tear shape. This is where the instructions begin to get delightfully precise, in true Jaffrey style. The shape should be 23cm long and 13cm at its widest. Dab more melted butter on top and sprinkle with some of each of the seeds. Press down in the centre, leaving an unpressed border of around 2 1/2 cm. Lift up the naan with both hands and stretch it to about 30cm long and 18cm wide, then slap it into the frying pan. This was too much to ask of my dough, which was still a sticky mess, so I settled for approximating the right shape and dumping it in the pan. Cook for 1 minute and 15 seconds on the first side, moving the naan around after the first 30 seconds so it develops an even browning on the base. Dab with more butter and put the whole pan under the grill for 1 minute. There should be reddish-brown spots appearing on the surface. Remove the pan and keep the naan warm in a teatowel while you make the rest in the same way. I found the method of working the next naan into shape while the previous one was under the grill worked for me.

If you’re not going to eat all the bread at once, wrap any left over in foil and keep refrigerated. You can reheat the foil bundle in a medium-hot oven for about 15 minutes, or if you have a microwave, one naan can be reheated by sprinkling it lightly with water and blasting for a minute or two.

Kofta curry  Serves 6

For the meatballs:
675g minced beef or lamb
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, crushed
7 1/2cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
pepper

For the sauce:
7 1/2cm piece ginger, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1-2 green chillies, deseeded and sliced
4 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/4 tsp salt
1.2 litres beef stock or water (this seems to be a recurring problem with me and Madhur Jaffrey recipes – I thought this was too much liquid as it never really seemed to be reduced or thickened. Go with it if you like a lot of juice)
2 sticks cinnamon
4 black cardamom pods (I didn’t have any black, so used green)
2 bay leaves
5 cloves
10 peppercorns
Small piece of muslin, or toe of old (but clean) pair of tights

Put the meat in a bowl and add all the remaining meatball ingredients. Mix well with your hands and roll into meatballs about 4cm in diameter. Return to the bowl, or place on a plate. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight (oops! Forgot to read this step. I refrigerated them for about 30 minutes, they were fine).

Put the ginger, garlic, green chillies and 4 tbsp water in a blender. Blend into a smooth paste.

Pour the oil into a wide, lidded pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and fry for about 5 minutes, or until starting to brown. Add the ginger-garlic-chilli paste and fry for about one minute. Put two tablespoons of water in the blender, swish it around, pour this into the pan and add the tomatoes. Fry and stir until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the tomato puree and stir for a minute. Add the coriander, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Stir for a minute. Add the stock or water and bring to the boil.

Tie up the cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns in the muslin and drop it into the sauce. When the sauce is boiling, cover it, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. Add the meatballs to the pan, spooning the sauce over them, and continue to simmer for 40 minutes, stirring to turn the meatballs every so often. Remember to discard the muslin bag before serving, but squeeze the juices from it first.

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Ultimate Curry Bible’.

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