Friday, 3 June 2011

N is for...

... Napoleans served with Nduja and naan bread, followed by a starter of norimaki. For our main course, we ate nuea sawan, nikujaga, nam prik pao, nam prik num, nasi goreng and napa. For pudding we ate nutty nectarine and nutmeg tarts with neopolitan ice cream followed by a cheeseboard of heart shaped Neufchatel, Nantais and Northumberland. Lastly we knocked back a Nocino with petit-fours of nutty Nocino truffles and nougat

N is a tricky letter for ingredients. Go on, have a go. Off the top of your head, count the number of foodstuffs beginning with N. It's tricky, isn't it? Nectarines: tick. Nutmeg: tick. Nuts (a bit unspecific for my usual taste, but needs must): tick. Erm. Nnnnnnnn??? Ah. Oh dear. N looked set to be a nuisance. I went the way of J and decided to explore dishes rather than ingredients alone. This proved far more fruitful and took me to Asia. I know I moaned about the yawn-fest that following recipes often is in my write-ups for the letter J, but you know what? It's not all bad. And I can never be bothered to be that accurate anyway - you won't see me bothering to get the scales out for 25 grams' worth of anything (with the lone exception of macaroons). But, I now know, after years of thinking hand rolled sushi should be left to the professionals, that making your own norimaki requires about the same amount of skill as rolling up a roulade. I felt very proud of my norimaki - OK, if you want really elaborate sushi then printing off a step-by-step guide and knocking out a few rolls one afternoon isn't going to get you anywhere near expert status. But, you can definitely knock up something half decent that looks ever so pretty on a plate and that everyone seems to think you're a genius for attempting. Nice one.

N night also introduced me, via 1001 Foods You must Try Before You Die, to a delicious, spreadable sausage from Calabria: Nduja. This is one amazing discovery! This meltingly soft and dangerously moreish porky treat is generously laced with roasted hot red peppers that leave a comforting fire in your belly. You can, I've since discovered, buy special Nduja pigs to warm your sausage and make it even easier to spread. Nduja can be difficult to find but I sourced mine from the excellent Lina Stores on Brewer Street. If you can get there, get some. It's amazing spread on hot toast or used to transform a pasta sauce and you can buy it mild or spicy. We opted for spicy. Obviously. And what's more, luckily for N night, it was delicious dolloped on warm naans.

N night played host to performer and cyclist Alex Ferguson, writer and knitter extraordinaire Lily Einhorn and director of stage and screen, frequent changer of hair colour and recent resident of London Sarah Punshon. The N mixtape, lovingly prepared by Richard, included the likes of Nomeansno, Nirvana, Nico, New Order, New Pornographers, Gary Numan and Nine Inch Nails.


Napoleons are simple enough to make. Just shake 4 parts gin, 1 part Dubonnet Rouge and 1 part Cointreau over ice and strain into Martini glasses. Bosh. 

Naans with Nduja

When I was a child, birthdays always involved Madhur Jaffrey's tandoori chicken and some rice dish or other that had onion and peas in, as well as Jaffrey's carrot salad which my mum has adapted over the years but still serves to this day and a delicious cumin- and coriander-heavy dry fried potato and cauliflower side dish. Swish delish. My family still often gets together to eat a massive home-made curry feast and it always reminds me fondly of past birthdays. So it was to straight talking, no nonsense Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery that I turned to for a naan recipe. And it's a good'un.

Makes 6 large breads 

5 fl.oz/ 150ml hand-hot milk
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp dried active yeast
1 lb/ 450g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus a little extra
5 fl.oz/ 150ml natural yoghurt, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Put the milk in a bowl and add 1 tsp sugar and the yeast and stir to mix. Set aside for 15-20 minutes or until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture is frothy. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large deep bowl. Add the remaining sugar, the yeast mixture, 2 tablespoons of oil and the yoghurt and egg. Mix and form a ball.

Empty the ball of dough on to a clean work surface and knead it for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth and satiny. Form into a ball. Pour about 1/4 tsp oil into a large bowl and roll the ball of dough in it. Cover the bowl with a piece of cling film and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Preheat your oven to its highest temperature. Put the heaviest baking tray you own to heat in the oven. Preheat your grill.

Punch down the dough and knead it again. Divide it into 6 equal balls. Keep 5 of them covered while you work with the sixth. Roll this ball into a tear-shaped naan, about 10 inches in length and 5 inches at its widest (or if, like me, you wanted to make smaller ones, divide the dough into 12 balls and continue as before). Remove the hot tray from the oven and slap the naan on to it. Put it immediately into the oven for 3 minutes. It should puff up. Now place the baking tray and naan under the grill, 3-4 inches away from the heat, for about 30 seconds or until the top of the naan browns slightly. Wrap the naan in a clean towel while you make the other naans to ensure they are all served hot.

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