I don’t go to restaurants much.
But the other day we went to a restaurant/cafe before going to a show. It was a celebratory evening for 2.
We did our preliminary investigations, and found a simple sweet looking cafe (not far from the theatre, and not long opened), that did Asian food, and had on the menu displayed in the window, as clear as day, a vegan option.
An interesting looking aubergine curry with a peanut and jaggery sauce, with pilau rice and mango chutney. Just the ticket. I love Indian food and am always looking for inspiration.
We got there as the cafe opened, as we only had about 75 mins. before we needed to leave to get to the show. (We’d explained about the time thing and the vegan thing when we booked. ‘That’s fine,’ they said).
We ordered drinks, and got on with relaxing and enjoying ourselves.
Waiter comes: ‘we’ll have the vegan option,’ we declare, pointing vaguely at the menu.
Off he goes.
Food arrives, and we notice that there’s naan bread rather than rice.
We might’ve asked why, but we wanted to enjoy ourselves, not get in a bother with the restaurant … and moreover we needed to get to the show on time…. and we just wanted a really nice evening….no hassle etc.
The curry was delicious. Lovely spice mix, and the aubergine was cooked to perfection. Sort of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside…
I began munching on the naan bread….. and after a little while my taste buds kicked in.
I said to my partner, I think this naan has got milk…or even cream in it.
He expressed disbelief…and reached for the menu.
‘That’s funny,’ he said, ‘this menu is different, but the naan is still included in the vegan option…’
‘Hmmm… not so sure,’ I said.
I didn’t eat any more of it.
When we paid, I asked the front of house manager about the bread….in a diplomatic sort of a way, and hoping I was wrong.
She looked oddly at me and confirmed what I’d thought. Yes, the bread had milk in it.
‘Why is it described as vegan then?’…I asked, as calmly as I could.
To cut a long story short, they got rather defensive. Confusion reigned, for us at least….
Which was a shame, because all we wanted a peaceable outcome.
The waiter came back from the kitchen muttering : ‘it was only the curry that’s vegan.’
‘Err, have you heard of the trade descriptions act?’ we asked. There was no doubt that the naan was included in the vegan option on the in-house menu. It even had a little box around it. Asking why there was no rice (like it said on the menu in the window) seemed irrelevant by now ……
It all got a bit heated. At no point did they offer a real, unconditional apology.
I explained to them that they were very lucky neither of us was lactose-intolerant /allergic. This did quieten them down a bit.
We left, determined despite everything, to enjoy the rest of our evening. Which we did.
Here’s a recipe for a naan bread they could’ve served us.
Cooking for Peace.
NAAN BREAD, FILLED WITH A SPICY MIX OF ONION, GREEN PEPPER AND GREEN CHILLI
- 350 gms. white self-raising flour
- 7 gms. quick-acting yeast
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 0.5 tsp. salt
- 60 gms. vegan spread (suitable for baking)
- 100ml. water
- 100ml. vegan cream (I used oat cream)
- 1 tbs. hot oil or vegan ghee.
- 1 small onion
- 1/2 sweet green pepper
- 4-5 hot green finger chillies
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 0.5 tsp coriander seeds
- 0.5 tsp. turmeric powder
- 0.5 tsp. salt
- Mix 100ml. warm water with 1 tsp. sugar.
- Add yeast.
- Set aside for 10 mins. until yeast has activated. It will be foamy.
- In a deep-sided bowl, place flour and salt. Combine.
- Add vegan spread and rub it into the flour, until it looks like breadcrumbs.
- Add activated yeast and vegan cream.
- Bring together, adding a little more flour if necessary.
- Knead for about 5 mins. until dough is soft.
- Cover and leave in a warm place for 60-90 mins. until the dough has doubled in size.
- Peel and finely dice onion.
- Remove seeds and pith from green pepper and finely dice.
- Peel and crush garlic.
- Finely chop hot green chillies.
- Grind coriander seeds and mix with turmeric and salt.
- In a wide pan, on a high heat, add 1 tbs. hot oil.
- When hot, add diced onion and pepper.
- Sauté for 5 mins.
- Reduce heat to medium, add crushed garlic and chopped chillies. Sauté for 1 min.
- Add spice mix and sauté for 30 secs.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- When the dough has risen, turn it onto a lightly floured board.
- Divide into 6 equal pieces.
- Take one piece and mould into a circle about 8 cm. in diameter.
- Place 2 tsps. cooled filling mix in centre of circle.
- Bring the edges of the dough together over the filling and seal by squeezing together. (See photos).
- Form it into a ball.
- Carefully and gently roll out the naan bread in a circle about 16cm. in diameter.
- Take one edge of the bread, and lift it up. Shake gently and the dough will form a traditional teardrop shape.
- Repeat with all 6 naan.
- I fried my naan in a well-seasoned tava, using a tiny amount of hot oil in a hot tava, and frying for approx. 2 mins. on each side.
- Alternatively, you can bake the naan on a parchment-lined tray. Gas Mk. 5 / 190C for about 15 mins. or so, until golden.
- When done, keep wrapped in a clean kitchen towel until ready to serve.
So there we are. Just one recipe for creamy, light, melty, vegan naan.
Delicious freshly cooked, also re-heatable, and not so bad cold for a quick snack to go. 🙂
Great on their own with chutneys and pickles or else as an accompaniment to a curry of your choice.