I am not, nor will I ever be, one of those wondrous people who get up early on a Saturday and go running in the park. I sometimes see them, heading down towards Peckham Rye in their lycra whilst I am walking, bleary-eyed, to the local cafe for coffee and bread (which will be taken straight back to bed) and wonder whether I should make my weekends more energetic. This weekend, my main energies were focused upon drinking martinis in the wonderful Peckham Refreshment Rooms on Friday evening, then sitting outside the French Cafe in East Dulwich on Saturday afternoon with the Grand National on Radio 5 Live, shrieking as my 18-1 horse was first, and then second. Fortunately I had the good sense to bet each way.
I keep meaning to write up my several visits to the Peckham Refreshment Rooms, but I have left most of them in a bit of a gin-soaked haze, so have not yet got around to it. It is quickly becoming one of my favourite places to go in the East Dulwich/Peckham/Camberwell locale. Yes, the seating arrangements are not the most comfortable, especially if you have little legs like me (the stools are very high and very hard), but it really is a small price to pay. The wine list is excellent and very reasonably priced, they have a small but perfectly formed cocktail menu, including a rather good martini, and the food is great. Several trips to San Sebastian has made me fall in love with the Basque way of casual eating: lots of small plates ordered as-and-when you want them, rather than a whole meal. With little morsels of speck with celeriac remoulade and plates of chunky toast ready to be spread with nduja, the Peckham Refreshment Rooms accommodates this beautifully.
Sunday was a day of writing and television catch-up, made all the better when I realised that there was a portion of Ollie’s slow cooked lamb shoulder curry in the freezer. A quick defrost turned this into a majestic dinner indeed, needing an accompaniment a little more special than a supermarket microwave poppadom, so I decided to make some naan. It would be lazy of me to say that naan bread is quick to make, as no breadstuff ever is, but once you have endured the kneading and proving process, they needs another ten minutes tops as they are simply cooked in a hot frying pan until they bubble and char. The real beauty of naan bread is that it can be made in advance and then revived in the oven for a few minutes with a little brushing of ghee or sprinkling of water. They also freeze well, so a batch can be slipped into a ziplock freezer bag and simply defrosted when needed. Batch-baking at its very best (and quick, in a sense).
I have a very sweet tooth, so almost always opt for the peshwari naan. I am partial to a hot curry and I find the sweetness of the coconut and almond inside the bread adds a different dimension that none of the other sides can. The Indian restaurant that we usually order from sends pillowy naans that, when ripped open, spill out a huge amount of filling, which I later scoop up and sprinkle across the top of my curry. This is the kind I want to make at home.
This recipe for peshwari naan is an amalgamation of two recipes. The dough is Dan Lepard‘s Frying Pan Naan recipe from the brilliant Short and Sweet cookbook. I have used this naan recipe several times before and it makes a really nice, sticky dough and, like everything I have made from that particular book, never fails. The filling is taken from the British Indian Restaurant-style Peshwari Naan recipe by The Curry Guy. If you haven’t visited his website before, it is an excellent resource for Indian cooking.
The filling of coconut, almonds, sultanas and sugar is made into a stiff paste with a little single cream that can easily be rolled into a ball. Once the dough has risen and has been separated into smaller pieces, it is wrapped around the balls of filling and then rolled flat with a rolling pin. This creates a ‘pocket’ of filling within the bread and distributes it equally throughout. The naans are then cooked in a frying pan over a hot heat until they bubble up, just a few minutes on each side. They turn out so well, it is unlikely that I will be buying pre-packed naans for my home curries any longer.
For the dough:
- 100ml cold milk
- 125g low-fat plain yoghurt
- 50ml boiling water
- 1 tsp fast action yeast
- 300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 50g wholemeal flour
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
For the filling:
- 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 175g flaked almonds
- 4 tbsp sultanas
- 45ml single cream
Start by making the dough. In a large bowl stir together the milk, yoghurt and boiling water until smooth before stirring in the yeast. Add the flours, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar and mix until a sticky dough forms. Cover the bowl and leave for half an hour.
Flour a work surface and lightly knead the dough before returning to the bowl, covering and leaving to prove for one hour.
In the meantime, make the filling by combining all of the ingredients in a food processor and processing until a smooth paste forms, this may take a couple of minutes. Press the paste into a ball (it should be the texture of a firm putty) wrap in clingfilm and set aside. If you cannot get the texture right, you can adjust the ingredients, adding more almonds if the mixture is too wet, or more cream if it is too dry and does not come together.
Lightly flour the work surface and pat the dough into an oval, using your fingers to knock out any air bubbles that may have formed during proving. Cut the dough into six equal pieces, these will be roughly the size of tennis balls.
Unwrap the filling and divide this also into six equal-sized spheres. To fill the dough, flatten out a piece of dough in your hand and place a piece of filling on top. Wrap the edges of the dough around the filling until completely enclosed. Press any edges together to seal the filling in completely. Carefully roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is the shape and size that you want.
Place a large frying pan over a high heat – do not add oil – then dry fry the naan bread until bubbles start to form on the surface, about 3-4 minutes. Flip the naan bread over with a spatula and cook on the other side. Transfer to a plate to cool. Repeat this process with the other five pieces of dough and filling.