Nehari, Palak paneer and Naan.

You know how you often make an Indian curry and think it would be really super special to have naan bread like they have in Indian restaurants with it? Well you can’t have it, unless you get some take away from an Indian restaurant that has a tandoor (or you have a tandoor at home). The naans you get in supermarkets are like eating thongs, so I have been playing with recipes and cooking methods to produce some semi decent naans at home. I also want to pass on Nehari, a slowly cooked, rich, almost dry curry served always with a garnish of fresh herbs and spices.

Naan bread: 3/4 cup warm water to which you add 1 tsp powdered yeast and 1 tsp sugar, leave for 10 minutes until a froth forms on the top. In a bowl add 2 cups of plain flour, 1 tsp salt, a pinch of baking powder, 2 tablespoons of oil, grape seed or vegetable, mix this through with your fingers. Add 3 tablespoons of yoghurt then the yeast mixture, mix with your hands until you have a sticky dough. Knead for a bit adding more flour if it is sticking to your hands too much. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for 3 hours.

What I learned from naan trials: The dough is quite sticky and soft, there is little kneading because of it, just bring the dough together in a ball. Before you let it rise, oil your hands and work the oil through the dough for another couple of kneads. Once risen by half, sprinkle flour on the dough and make 6 balls, if you don’t flour it it is too sticky. Roll the balls in flour again before making the naans. I pushed the naan into shape by hand but you can use a rolling-pin. Have your oven on as high as it goes with a pizza stone on the middle rack. Wet your hands, pick up a naan then fling the naan from one hand to the other as you take it to the oven. The water on your hands helps stretch the dough and indent it like the ‘real ones’. Put the naan on the pizza stone, I could only fit 2 at a time. They take about 5 minutes to cook. Brush with butter (optional but better) and eat straight away.

I have made palak paneer from the SBS Food safari web site. It is quite authentic. I use the Food safari web site often for traditional standards recipes. I trust the site for recipes that work and are authentic as I say (I am a stickler to tradition), the recipes are demonstrated by the chefs or home cooks of the cuisine, and Maeve is fabulous. Mine looks (quite) different to the food safari recipe, I didn’t puree my spinach enough but it was still really good. Paneer can be bought from Indian supermarkets, an alternative would be firm tofu. Likewise the fenugreek that is sprinkled on top at the end, don’t skip the fenugreek, it makes the dish.

Nehari can be beef but I have always cooked it with lamb, it is preferably cooked over night and eaten with bread in the morning. I never serve it with rice, always bread and used as a scoop for the nehari. The origins of nehari are Lucknow way in the northern part of India near the Nepalese border, a very old city of Moghul vintage. The dish was taken to Pakistan after independence and has become the National dish of  Pakistan. The word nehari means the opposite of night, I guess that would be day, which is probably why it is eaten in the morning after 8 hours of cooking. These days you could cook it in a slow cooker while you are at work. I have made this dish many times and you will love me for the recipe.


2 tbsp grape seed (or other) oil

2k leg or shoulder of lamb cut in large chunks

1 1/2 tbsp garam masala

4 medium onions, blend in food processor

2 tsp ginger, minced or finely grated

2 t garlic, minced

1 tsp salt

2 tsp chilli powder, 1 tbsp coriander, ground, 2 tsp nutmeg, 1 1/2 tbsp fennel, ground

1 cup yoghurt

1 cup tomato puree (peeled and pureed fresh tomato or a passata from a jar)

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp paprika (spanish mild)

fresh coriander

3 long green chillies, chopped

more finely chopped ginger and onion for the garnish

Heat the oil in a heavy pot with a lid and brown the lamb in batches, sprinkle over half the garam masala to flavour the lamb as it browns. Remove the lamb, add more oil if needed, lower the heat and cook the onions gently for about 15 minutes. In a bowl mix the ginger, garlic, salt, coriander, nutmeg, fennel, yoghurt, tomato puree and remaining garam masala. Once the onions have had their time return the lamb, give a stir around then add the yoghurt/spice mixture and simmer a minute to blend. Add the bay leaves and paprika, sprinkle with a handful of coriander leaves and 1/2 of the chopped chillies. Stir through, put the lid on and cook in a low oven (140ish degrees) for 3 hours or more.

The garnish is like a gremolata, mix the rest of the chopped chillies with more chopped coriander and about a teaspoon of ginger and 2 teaspoons of onion. Wedges of lemon are also served on the side. The garnish lifts the flavours of the dish after such a long cooking time (very important, don’t skip it).