Naan & Curry

Last night was cold and rainy again. What better way to warm up than with Indian food? Most Indian food is laden with butter (ghee), and often has cream or cheese– incredibly delicious, but, unfortunately, not incredibly heart-healthy. My saag uses tofu in place of paneer, and no additional cream or buttermilk. It’s actually vegan! For the naan, I used olive oil in place of ghee, and they still turned out beautifully.

Naan

Sam’s mom gave him a cookbook filled with recipes for curries and flatbreads. I took the naan recipe from that book, but substituted olive oil for ghee. I’ve made naan before, but this recipe is unusual because it does not call for yeast, and instead relies on baking powder for leavening. I was afraid it was a mistake, but the result was lovely and tasty!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil (or melted ghee if you want to be indulgent and authentic)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped, for garnish
Sift the baking powder, sugar, flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a small well in the center and add the beaten egg. Add the water and mix together until a heavy dough forms. Shape the dough in to a ball. Soak a clean dish towel in hot water. Wring it out and use to cover bowl. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
Take dough and roll it out on a counter brushed with oil and flatten with a rolling pin. Sprinkle the dough with oil and knead in little by little until it’s completely incorporated. Shape dough into 5 equal sized balls (or make up to 8 smaller sized balls.) Resoak the dish towel in hot water and wring out again. Place over dough balls and let sit for 1 hour to rise.
Meanwhile, place a baking stone (best) or cookie sheet in your oven, and preheat to 500 degrees, or its highest setting.
When your dough is risen, roll out naan so that they are discs about 1/8 inch thick. Back on your stone for about 5-6 minutes. They will appear golden brown and slightly puffy. Brush with oil (or ghee) and garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately with curry.
Saag with Tofu

Saag is a general term for tender green leaves such as spinach and mustard greens. Spinach, specifically, is palak. You’ll often see saag paneer or palak paneer (spinach with cheese) or saag/ palak aloo (spinach with potatoes) on the menu of Indian restaurants. Here, I’ve substituted firm tofu for the paneer, which has a similar texture. You can also cook the spinach separately and extract as much water as possible before adding it to your spice mixture. But, since I wasn’t using any milk or cream, I didn’t mind the extra liquid that the spinach provided.

INGREDIENTS

  • oil/ butter/ margarine to coat the bottom of a saucepan (I used a smidge of Smart Balance)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and finely minced
  • 6 ounces tofu (about 1/2 package), drained, pressed and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (recipe below)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 pounds fresh baby spinach, washed, stems trimmed (or use “full grown” spinach, but chop it up)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

In a large saucepan, on medium heat, add your oil or margarine. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, pressing with a wooden spoon or spatula to release the flavors. Add the tofu, and pan fry each side. Remove the tofu and set aside. Add the curry powder to your large saucepan, and combine it with the garlic-ginger mixture. Add the tomato paste, and mix with a wooden spoon. Add the spinach, which should still be damp from washing. Toss with the spice mixture, add the cinnamon stick, cover, and let simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The spinach should provide enough liquid that nothing is sticking or burning at the bottom of the pan. If it seems dry, add a few tablespoons of water/ veggie broth. Add the sugar, and salt to taste. Fold in the tofu cubes. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve over basmati rice.

Curry Powder

INGREDIENTS

Curry powder is a mixture of spices, not an exact recipe. If you don’t have some of the spices, try a substitution (anise in place of fennel, for example), or leave it out– lots of recipes call for different things. If you don’t have cumin seeds, but you have ground cumin, just add it in when you add the turmeric. No cloves, cardamom and cinnamon– try using pumpkin pie spice instead. Adjust the amount of chiles to make it more or less spicy. Have fun!

  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 4 dried red chiles, broken in pieces
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Toast the whole spices (coriander, cumin, fennel, cloves, mustard, cardamom and peppercorns) and the chiles in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan often to prevent them from burning. Toast for a couple of minutes until the spices smell fragrant. Use a mortar and pestle to grind them into a fine powder. (Alternatively, grind them in a clean coffee grinder.) Add the turmeric, cinnamon and fenugreek and whisk until it’s all evenly distributed. Use immediately, or store in a sealed jar for up to a month.

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