Breads · Side Dish

{Cast Iron} Garlic Naan

Garlic Naan

Several years ago I got to spend a little bit of time in India—Chennai to be exact. And as luck would have it, I happened to have visited at the beginning of Diwali – the Hindu festival of lights. Nothing I had read or heard could have prepared me for the country. It’s vivid colors, intense – and I’m talking INTENSE heat, and sounds still replay in my mind as if I was just there. And although I only had a brief 5 days there, the city will forever be imprinted in my heart.

Good thing too because I had such a junky camera at that time — my photos were terrible! 🙂

Anywhoo….

Naan1

Since I only had a short time, I didn’t get to travel around the country too much and stayed primarily in Chennai. I did, however, manage to squeeze in a memorable home stay with a wonderful family –the Bhatts. They welcomed us into their homes, guided us through Chennai and gave us a glimpse of their culture.

Garlic Naan

Over those days, we meandered through the city in and out of markets, braved tuk-tuk rides, and ate—like SERIOUSLY ate. I came to find that Southern Indian food is often vegetarian and was so wonderfully spiced and fulfilling that this carnivore-lovin’ gal didn’t miss the meat. It was also the first time I had ever tried dosas– which I now LOVE.

Dosas are thin “crepes” served with a variety of chutneys. They can be filled or left plain. However, my favorite are the giant paper dosas that are extremely thin and crisp and rolled into a large cylinder. There’s something totally satisfying about breaking off a piece of paper dosa with your fingers and then dunking it into a masala or chutney.

Chicken Aloo Tikka Masala & Garlic Naan

Our home stay mom, Mrs. Bhatt, also did a good amount of cooking during our brief visit. And when she did, I hung around the kitchen trying to make mental notes of how she prepared things. I really wish I would have recorded her rolling out the dough for the parathas because she did it with such lightning speed!

Since my trip, I’ve tried to recreate the flavors I tasted in India –some attempts were definitely more successful than others. Channa Masala and Tikka Masala are on my usual rotation. But I always seemed to have had an issue with making a good naan–which in my opinion, is crucial when I’m devouring the aforementioned dishes. Some recipes turned out too dry or not tender….and others just didn’t taste well.

Garlic Naan

Until I stumbled upon Aarti Sequeira’s recipe–and my search was over. Her recipe uses a combination of both yeast and baking powder which gives it the perfect texture and lightness. I adapted her recipe a bit to make my favorite garlic naan and now there’s no going back.

But here’s the thing. Others will disagree with me but unless you have a tandoori oven (or maybe an outdoor brick pizza oven?), you must–and I mean MUST, use a cast iron skillet. There’s no replacing it. I’ve tried baking naan in a regular oven, in a standard skillet, in an easy-bake oven (PSYCH!) and nothing compares to a cast iron. Just add it to another reason why I adore cast iron skillets so much.

Oh- you better be sure that the next time I manage to get to India, I’ll pack two cameras just in case to capture everything. And although it’s been years, much love and thanks to the Bhatt family for their generous hospitality. ❤

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{Cast Iron} Garlic Naan
Makes 6

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar, divided
¾ cup warm water
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more for finishing
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or melted ghee)
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh garlic, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
sea salt
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and water. Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes until it becomes bubbly. Whisk in the yogurt and olive oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, kosher salt, remaining sugar, and baking powder. Pour in the yogurt mixture and use your hands to mix the ingredients all together. The dough will be very wet and sticky at first but continue to mix/knead until it becomes rather soft and pliable. Once it comes together, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a draft free place for 3-4 hours until it nearly doubles in size.

Place the butter and 1 tablespoon garlic in a small, microwave proof bowl. Heat in the microwave until the butter has melted.

Dust your counter (or other work place) with flour and place your naan dough onto it. Using a pastry cutter or sharp knife, divide the dough into 6 even portions. Lightly roll each of the dough balls into the flour to help them from sticking. Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the dough portions into a circle about ¼ inch thick –it’s completely okay if it’s an imperfect circle. Sprinkle the top side with a bit of the garlic powder and remaining minced garlic. Use your fingers to press it into the dough and then pass the rolling pin over the top of it to ensure it’s secured. Repeat this method with the remaining dough.

Warm a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until it’s nearly smoking. Be sure to have a lid large enough to fit the skillet and have the bowl of garlic butter with pastry brush nearby.

Carefully pick up one of the rolled out naan and gently lay it in the skillet, garlic side up, and cook for about one minute. The dough should start to bubble. After the minute, use tongs/spatula to flip the naan and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Flip it over again and cover the skillet for about an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute. The bread will look blistered and have blackened in a few spots.

Remove the naan from the skillet and generously brush the top with the garlic butter. Sprinkle the tops with a few pinches of sea salt and chopped cilantro. Repeat with the remaining 5 naan. Serve warm.

Slightly adapted from Aarti Sequeira

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Poultry

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka MasalaIN A CROCK POT!!!!!! Yep, you heard me!

When I saw this on Pinterest, I just had to try it. I adore Chicken Tikka Masala and although I’m quite happy with the America’s Test Kitchen adaptation that I often use, I couldn’t resist trying out a slow cooker version.

True to the wonders of crock pot cookin’, I simply threw the ingredients into the pot, slapped on the lid  and let the goodness work its magic for 8 hours.

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

How did it taste? Really great! The chicken was quite flavorful and tender. As for the sauce—creamy and luscious. The only change I would make would be to reduce the amount of garam masala by half. The original recipe from Cooking Classy calls for 2 tablespoons which was pretty heavy handed for me but depending on your flavor preference (and the type of garam masala you use), you may like the full amount.

And although it may not be spot on to my beloved New Indian Cuisine, it’s still quite scrumptious and you just cannot beat how darn easy it is to make.

Want the recipe? Head on over to Cooking Classy.

Vegetables/Vegetarian

Channa Masala (Spicy Chickpea Curry)

Channa Masala (Spicy Chickpea Curry)

 

Here we are……the final installment to my Indian Foodventure. And let’s be honest. This isn’t a bad way to end it—-with Channa Masala!

Essentially Channa Masala (also seen spelled as “Chana“) is an Indian spiced Chickpea Curry. You’ll find several different preparations of Channa Masala but I like mine to be spicy and in a thick tomato sauce. Which is why the recipe from Eat, Live, Run suited me so well.

As a legume, Chickpeas are chopped full of protein and cholesterol-lowering fiber. It’s hearty and filling and I find this particular dish to be a wonderful vegetarian option. Even I don’t miss the “meat” while enjoying this!

 


Channa Masala (Spicy Chickpea Curry)

 

Jenna of Eat, Live, Run does an amazing job chronicling a step-by-step process to create her version of Channa Masala. It was easy to understand and I followed every step to the “T”! I really believe the pince step is crucial to the process and really intensifies the seasonings. DO NOT skip it! The flavors were incredible—deep, smoky, and spicy. Just how I like my Channa Masala. And best of all, it tastes even better the next day!

This concludes my Indian Foodventure! It was my first endeavor but I know I will be trying my hand at it again. And if you are anything like I was, I hope you’ve seen that some Indian dishes aren’t as intimidating as you may think. So get in your kitchens and whip up some delicious Indian foods! 🙂

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Channa Masala (Spicy Chickpea Curry)
From Eat, Live, Run

Ingredients:

2 15 Ounce Cans Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 Garlic Cloves, smashed and chopped
1 Onion, chopped
1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Inch Knob Fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped
1 15 Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes
3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1/2 Lemon
1 Tablespoon Ground Coriander
1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
1 Teaspoon Garam Masala
1/4-1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Teaspoon Ground Turmeric
2 Tablespoon Butter

In a large cast iron skillet, heat the butter. Once melted, add the onions and cook for about 15 minutes on medium low heat, or until golden brown. Once the onions have caramelized, add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno and stir well. Cook for about two minutes or until it starts to smell like heaven on earth. Add the tomato paste and pince*. This is very important and if you don’t do it right your dish is pretty much doomed. No pressure. Add the coriander, cumin, cayenne and tumeric and stir well. Then add the diced tomatoes, chickpeas and garam masala. Cook for about five minutes or until the chickpeas have heated through. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and top with plain yogurt and cilantro if desired!

**To pince is essentially a browning process. For this recipe, after you add the paste, stir it well into the other ingredients. Next you’ll want to flatten the ingredients into one layer on the bottom of the pan. Turn up the heat and allow the sugars to cook down for a few minutes and create a really nice brown crust on the bottom of your pan. It may look like it’s burnt but it’s not. Jenna describes it as smelling like “pizza” —and it does!

Vegetables/Vegetarian

Saag Aloo (Spinach and Potatoes Curry)

Saag Aloo (Spinach and Potatoes Curry)

 

The third installment of my Indian Foodventure—–Saag Aloo or Spinach & Potatoes Curry.

Saag is a typically made with spinach or other leafy greens and is cooked down with spices until it reaches a smooth texture. Often you’ll find Saag prepared with Paneer–a fresh Indian cheese. Paneer isn’t difficult to make and comes together with only a few ingredients. However, it does take some time for the curds to come together and firm up. As such, I opted to prepare my Saag with fried Aloo (potatoes)—which is another common pairing.

 

Saag Aloo (Spinach and Potatoes Curry)

 

I adapted a recipe from Saveur by replacing the paneer with fried potato cubes and reducing the amount of heavy cream by 2 tablespoons. The final product resulted in a delightful vegetarian dish with great flavors from the garam masala. Absolutely a winning recipe!

A little side note: This is definitely one of those dishes that may look a tad unappetizing but is darn tasty! 🙂

Monday’s Post: The conclusion of our Indian Foodventure– Channa Masala (Spicy Chickpea Curry)

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Saag Aloo (Spinach and Potatoes Curry)
Adapted from Savuer

Ingredients:

1 Large Russett Potato, peeled and cubed
1 Inch Piece Ginger, peeled and chopped
3–4 Cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped
1 Serrano Chile, stemmed and chopped
8 Cups Spinach, washed, trimmed, and finely chopped
1/2 Teaspoon Garam Masala
1-2 Pinches Cayenne
1/4 Cup Water
4 Tablespoon Heavy Cream
Kosher Salt
Vegetable Oil to fry Potatoes, plus 1 Tablespoon

Heat a large skillet with vegetable oil. Using a paper towel, dry the potato cubes. In batches, fry the potato cubes until golden brown all over, about 4–6 minutes. Transfer potatoes with a slotted spatula to a plate covered with paper towels and set aside. Season with kosher salt.

For the spinach, put ginger, garlic, chiles, and 1/4 cup water into a blender and purée to a smooth paste. Place a large skillet with 1 Tablespoon oil on the stove and heat over medium-high heat. Add ginger–garlic paste and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon for about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook until leaves wilt. Continue to stir often. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until spinach is very soft, about 10-15 minutes.  Stir in garam masala, cayenne, and cream.

Add fried potatoes to the spinach and cover skillet. Continue cooking until liquid thickens and spinach is silky soft, about 15 minutes more. Check for seasonings and add additional kosher salt or cayenne as needed. Serve with Naan or rice.

Poultry

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

 

Without a doubt, Indian fare is one of my favorite cuisines. I love the deep layers of flavors and spices—delicious.

But the reasons why I love it so much is also why I have never really prepared Indian food before. I was intimidated. Totally overwhelmed.

Of the scores of recipes I’ve reviewed, the ingredient lists have always thrown me off. A huge laundry list of spices—-all of which I knew were integral to the deep flavors that I loved so much. So whenever I had hankerings for Channa Masala, Curried Paneer, Samosas—-I would head straight to my favorite Indian spot and order up the goodies.

But then the other day I became set on making Homemade Naan for the first time. And in this gal’s opinion, very little goes better with Naan than Chicken Tikka Masala. MMMMM! This popular chicken curry with it’s creamy, tomato sauce is easily my favorite Indian dish. Is it authentically Indian? I don’t think so…..I’ve actually heard that it was created in London. Nonetheless, I love it.

I recalled an episode I saw of America’s Test Kitchen when they prepared Chicken Tikka Masala. It seemed so simple and relied on Garam Masala as the primary spice agent. As Garam Masala is a blend of a variety of spices, there was no need for me to purchase a ton of different seasonings! P-E-R-F-E-C-T!

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

 

While I was preparing this dish, the aromas quickly filled the entire house—- and it smelled amazing! It was fairly easy to prepare and was really flavorful. I was worried that the boneless/skinless chicken would be dried out due to the cooking method. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the meat to be quite moist—probably as a result of the generous coating of yogurt that sealed in the juices. The photos here show the Chicken Tikka Masala served with a Turmeric Rice but Basmati would be perfect with it, too.

In the end, we had a lot of sauce left over and I didn’t want to waste all of that great flavor. So the next day, I lightly grilled some prawns and threw them into the sauce. It was really delicious and became a wonderful seafood option!

All in all—I was quite happy with this Chicken Tikka Masala and will definitely make it again! My Host Family in Chennai would be proud 🙂

*Friday’s Post: Saag Aloo (Spinach and Potatoes Curry)


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Chicken Tikka Masala
From America’s Test Kitchen: Cooking for Two

Ingredients:

For the Chicken
1/2 Teaspoon Garam Masala
1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Two (6 to 8-ounce) Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed
1/2 Cup Plain Yogurt
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 Teaspoons Grated or Minced Fresh Ginger

For the Sauce
One (14.5-ounce) Can Whole Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Small Onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 Teaspoon Grated or Minced Fresh Ginger
1 Small Serrano Chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 1/2 Teaspoons Tomato Paste
1 1/2 Teaspoons Garam Masala
1 Teaspoon Sugar
Salt
1/3 Cup Plain Yogurt
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Cilantro


Make the chicken
1. Combine the garam masala, cayenne, and salt in a bowl. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then coat the chicken thoroughly with the spices, pressing to help them adhere. Place the chicken on a plate, cover, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. Whisk the yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger together in a medium bowl, cover, and refrigerate until needed.

Make the sauce
1. Process the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until pureed, about 15 seconds. Heat the oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Stir in the processed tomatoes, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the yogurt and cover to keep warm.

3. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to be 6 inches from the broiler element, and heat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and top with a wire rack. Using tongs, dip the chicken into the yogurt mixture so that it is thickly coated and arrange on the prepared wire rack; discard any excess yogurt mixture. Broil the chicken until the exterior is lightly charred in spots and the thickest part of the breasts registers 160 to 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through cooking.

4. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks. Stir the chicken pieces into the warm sauce (do not simmer the chicken in the sauce). Stir in the cilantro, season with salt to taste, and serve.

NOTE: I’m not sure why, but the ingredients shown on the episode of ATK are slightly different than what is actually published in their cookbook. What you see here is the cookbook method.

Breads · Side Dish

Whole Wheat Garlic Naan…..Where it all started.

Whole Wheat Garlic Naan

 

I blame it ALL on this Garlic Naan.

I had seen a photo of it on Tasty Kitchen awhile back and I’ve been obsessed with it every since. And when I finally got the chance to try it, I went nuts–I was out of control! I went from making just one dish to creating a full blown Indian dinner! I guess I figured if I was going to take the effort to make Naan, I better go the extra mile to make some dishes to enjoy with it. 🙂

But perhaps now would be a good time to mention the fact that I’ve never really cooked Indian food before—so it was going to be quite a FoodVenture! The next few posts will be recounting the dishes I created and how it all came together.

But let’s turn our focus back to the Naan.

 

Whole Wheat Garlic Naan

 

Jessica from How Sweet It Is did a really great job covering Homemade Naan from Indian Simmer. The only thing I did different was that I used a stove top grill to cook the first side of the Naan before cooking the other side on an open flame. I would have definitely preferred to use a cast iron skillet per the instructions but have yet to replace my skillet that had rusted—-REALLY rusted. Eeew. And if you’re wondering, using an enamel-coated cast iron skillet won’t work either. Yup, I tried it.

But when everything was finished, I had really mixed feelings about the Naan. They did puff up pretty well when cooked over the open flame and were ok when I tasted them right away. But once they cooled, I found that the dough became really tough and loss some flavor. I’m not sure if it was due to my use of Whole Wheat Pastry Flour or if I overworked the dough prior to cooking it. When we warmed them up later on, they became pretty hard and crunchy—-in fact, it was more cracker-like than puffy Naan.

Still, I’m glad I gave it a go. I will DEFINITELY try this recipe again when I finally get my hands on a cast iron skillet because I think it would definitely improve the texture. I’ll also try it with AP Flour in hopes of getting a lighter product.

So even though this Garlic Naan didn’t work out so well for me this time, it did give me the motivation to create an entire Indian feast!

**Next Post:  Chicken Tikka Masala!

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Whole Wheat Garlic Naan
From Indian Simmer

Ingredients:

2 cups Wheat Flour (or AP Flour)
¾ teaspoons Baking Powder
½ teaspoons Baking Soda
½ teaspoons Sugar
¼ teaspoons Salt
½ cups Warm Milk
½ cups Yogurt
½ Tablespoons Oil, As Needed
Additional Optional Herbs And Seasonings To Flavor The Naan (See Note Below)

Note: The ingredient list includes the ingredients for the dough. You can flavor your naan with all kinds of herbs. I made cumin naan, garlic naan, butter naan, and some topped with cilantro.

Mix all the dry ingredients together and make a well of flour.

Mix milk and yogurt together and pour half of it into the well and slowly combine it together.

I don’t think there’s an exact amount of liquid that should be added to the exact amount of flour to make a perfect dough. So what I do is continue adding liquid slowly and combining it all together slowly until a soft dough is made. The dough should be soft enough for you to be able to dig your finger into it without applying any pressure. If dough sticks to your hand too much, then use little bit of oil on your hands and then punch into the dough.

Cover with a damp cloth and let it sit in a warm place for at least 2 hours.

After a few hours, dust your working board, take out the dough and knead it for about 2-3 minutes. Divide the dough into smaller balls (in this case you should get about 8 balls to make naans).

Dust the board again and flatten the balls to make bread that is a little thick and elongated.

Now sprinkle one side of the bread with your desired flavor. I made cumin, minced garlic, chopped cilantro and some simple butter naans.

Brush the other side with water.

Heat a thick-bottomed skillet or a wok or any heavy-bottomed pan with a lid. Once it is nicely hot, place the naan wet side down (it will stick) and cover it with a lid.

Let it cook for about 30 seconds or until you see bubbles on it. Now cook the other side of the naan over a direct flame on the burner with the help of tongs. When you see some charred brown spots then you know that the naan is done.

Smother a good amount of butter on your naans and when you taste them, you’ll know what a peaceful life means!