Saturday, May 18, 2013

Recipe of the month: Tawa Naan those of you who like my blog's Facebook page would be aware that this particular recipe was scheduled to be featured soon on my blog. I know its been quite a while since I announced that I would post it so I apologize for the delay. I had arrived at this recipe (after a few trials) months ago but I was only waiting for a chance to take some pics. Relying on weekends to take food pics is quite cumbersome *sighs* I simply have to figure out how to take decent night shots of food!

I'm assuming naan doesn't need much introduction but if you haven't heard or tasted it before, naan is an incredibly popular leavened, oven-baked flatbread native to Western, Central and South Asia. Among other Indian breads, naan is an integral part of North-Indian cuisine yet enjoys widespread popularity not only all over India but the rest of the world as well. This soft, crispy and hearty flatbread is the perfect medium to dunk in all kinds of savory Indian curries and dry side dishes. I know of many people who love to eat naan just as it is, smeared generously with good ol' butter! There are so many varieties of naan available, the most common being - plain, butter, garlic and herb flavored naan. Adding to its international appeal, this versatile bread can even be turned into wraps, rolls, pizza and sandwiches. The possibilities are endless :)

I love North-Indian food and I LOVE naan. It is something I order without fail when I'm at Indian restaurants. I always thought naan would be one of those things that only chefs at restaurants knew how to make well and would turn out rubbish at home. After all, the restaurants do use the tandoori oven which reaches very high temperatures (in the range of 480 deg C) which results in the perfect texture and smoky flavor of the naan. Replicating something like that at home would obviously be quite a challenge. That being said, while browsing food galleries, I was surprised to see so many home cooks post recipes for naan that looked quite authentic. And even more surprising was that many recipes that I saw were posted by non-Indians. Being slightly intimidated by traditional naan recipes, I'd always be the first to click on "quick", "instant", "non-yeast" based recipes and even tried one or two but they never worked for me. I guess when it comes to certain recipes, short-cuts  are not the answer.

So, one day I had some free time and thought I'd try making naan the way its supposed to be made. In the past, I'd seen recipes for naan that use both the oven as well as the stove-top i.e. on a tawa. I naively assumed that the oven would do a better job of cooking the naan (I'm oven obsessed!) so that was what I tried first. Unfortunately the maximum temperature in my oven is 250 deg C (higher temperatures would work better) so I wasn't entirely satisfied with how the texture of the naan turned out. It wasn't as soft as I would have liked it to be and were also more on the thicker side. Slightly dejected, I thought I'd try the stove-top method as a last ditch attempt and if it didn't work, I'd entirely abandon my naan-making efforts and not think about it again. I used the exact same recipe that I had earlier tried with the oven (the only change I made was to roll out the naans thinner) and whoopee, were my efforts rewarded! What's more, it was so much easier! I used the same technique to cook the naan that I use to make phulkas. The resulting naan was pillowy soft and had nice char marks from the direct contact with the flame. The only difference from restaurant-quality naan that I could point out was that it lacked that signature crunchy-crispy texture. Even then, it was naan that would make any home cook proud! I had prepared some creamy Malai Kofta to go along with it and it was one heck of an awesome Sunday lunch (if I do say so myself!). I had some left-over naan and curry so I even packed it in mine and my hubby's lunch-box to take to work the next day and you have to believe me when I say that the naan was as soft when I had it the subsequent day as it was the previous day (and this was after overnight refrigeration and a few seconds of microwaving to reheat). It really surprised me because even at restaurants, the naan tends to get hard, tough and rubbery if it is left out for too long which is also a reason why we never get it packed as take-away.

Ok so I've rattled on long enough about my naan-making adventure and I hope I've managed to convince you that it is worth the effort. Now for the important bit - the recipe :)

Oh yeah and just more more thing - I will be posting my recipe for Malai Kofta soon so watch this space...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Restaurant review: Dean & Deluca, Singapore

Dean & Deluca is a gourmet food outlet that was first established in NYC and has now made a grand entrance at Orchard Central in Singapore. Not having heard of the brand before, I was unaware of the hoo-hah that it created when the flagship store opened last year. By the time I went to check it out with a group of colleagues, the initially hype had died down. I guess that worked out well for me and my companions because the outlet wasn't crowded and we had plenty of time, not to mention peace and quiet to enjoy a wonderful evening. 

My first impressions were good. I loved the airy, spacious and modern feel of the space. The outlet is divided into different sections which only adds to the cavernous feel. Dean & Deluca is paradise for food connoisseurs with an impressive selection of quality produce and ingredients. On their website, they advertise their premium meat products, speciality herbs & fruits, salad bowl concept, artisanal cheeses, charcuterie and a large collection of California wines. Plus it also has a deli offering soups, salads, sandwiches, quiches, pies and a small cafe. Before beginning to inspect what the store had to offer, we took a look at the menu options. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Baker's Corner: Pesto Rolls

For the past few years now, my daily weekday breakfast has consisted of a single vegetable pau (steamed bun), a quarter portion of pink dragon fruit and half a cup of Old Town white coffee. I started this routine as a Master's student and even now, almost three years after graduating from my University, I have remained a loyal patron of the pau and fruit stall (which happen to be adjacent to one another). I do have popiah, a sandwich or a bowl of noodles every once in awhile to break the monotony but I always end up going back to my beloved pau. Yes, I am a creature of habit and old habits die hard. That being said, I was surprised to discover recently that I desperately wanted to take a break from my usual breakfast (yes, after 5 years I finally got sick of it!). 

I do not prefer eating sweet stuff for breakfast. This is the reason why I find it hard to make do with cereal, oatmeal/muesli, granola bars, pancakes, jam rolls, donuts, muffins and such. There are the rare instances when I grudgingly eat a bowl of muesli but I always feel that something is missing. Breakfast has to be a savoury affair for me and with having to rush off to work early in the morning in order to beat the peak hour madness, my options become limited. I need something that is simple, convenient, preferably finger-food and yes of course....savoury  

Last weekend, while rummaging in the fridge, I found an extra pack of basil which I didn't have any plans for. It also turned out that hubs was not at home and I had a lot of free time on my hands. Being home alone always gets my culinary juices flowing so a plan for the basil started to hatch in my mind. What I usually do with basil is make pesto for pasta/sandwich or a good old margarita pizza. This time, I decided to make some pesto flavored bread rolls so that I can take it to work and have it for breakfast. That way, I would get a week's break from my usual breakfast!

Believe me when I say that I came up with this recipe for pesto rolls myself - any resemblance to any existing recipe anywhere in the culinary world is purely coincidental! I took inspiration from two of my previous posts - potato bun and pesto pasta, modified the recipes slightly and came up with this recipe. I will be making these rolls again for sure. They were soft, nicely flavored and satisfying. The best part is that you can freeze the rolls and bake them whenever you want so you get bakery like warm and fresh tasting rolls within a few minutes!