Monday, November 16, 2009

Make the most of naan dough

If you are anything like me, you have probably found yourself in a situation where you end up with six or seven close friends at your house...and the approaching dinner hour.  What to do?  For those of us living in societies where bread forms a staple of the local diet - you probably have access to a local naan shop (in Afghanistan these generally small square mud shops with anywhere from six to ten men throwing bread and baking in a fire hole, there is a window front where customers purchase the bread on display).  A naan in Afghansitan will run you about 10-20Afas (20-30 US cents).

For your dinner challenge, consider running out (or in the case here, sending your chowkidor) to the local shop for some of the dough.  If the dough is fresh it can easily be rolled into a pizza dough base.  Heat the oven to around 180C/350F roll the dough and place on an oven pan spread with olive oil - bake for a few minutes until the dough starts to set.  In the meantime, scour the fridge and the cupboards for toppings.  The great thing about home made pizza is you can pretty much top with anything - from as little as oil and garlic, to most left overs.

Favorites include:

** Steak and blue cheese pizza - if you have any left-over steak from last night's dinner, this is a great way to stretch it out and feed many mouths.  For this you generally don't even need a pizza 'sauce' - simply grill some red onion, top the base, add steak, sprinkle dollops of blue cheese and add some garlic - top with herbs like basil and oregano - and pop back into the oven;

** Another favorite dates back to our time working on the organic farm at Yale University - first time I ever had potato on a pizza, but it works!  Pretty much the same as above, this time using onion and garlic, and then very thinly sliced potato.  If you slice the potato paper thin you don't even have to par-boil it, then use a generous sprinkling of sage (the potato and sage is a beautiful combination) and top with parmesan or any other white cheese you have;

** The classic of course is the tomato and basil topping - if you have time, you can make a simple red sauce as a base - using chopped onion and garlic, add a can of chopped tomato (if no chopped, open a can of whole tomato and using a clean kitchen scissor, snip the tomatoes into pieces inside the can) - add some basil and oregano to the sauce, and then - the secret to my red sauce is a dash of cider vinegar and a dash of honey.  Using a wooden spoon, spread the sauce thinly on the half-cooked pizza dough, top with fresh tomato and basil, and perhaps if you have some sausage or something left-over, use that too - finish off with parmesan.

Of course, dough can easily be used to make a foccaccia with sea salt, garlic and rosemary, or what I have recently been doing is simply rolling the dough into a ball or loaf shape - pop in the oven, bake for about 25min, remove and test with a knife.  If the knife comes up clean - voila you just made a bread that is sure to impress your dinner guests.  Serve with good olive oil as a side or as a pre-dinner snack.

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