The Chronicles of Naania

Last week I spent several days with my dear friend Allison. It was just the sort of spontaneous visit that we both needed. We had both been feeling pretty restless in our summer downtime, and the mini-vacation filled with cooking, wine, and a bit of gossip really hit the spot.

To get out of our late-July slump, we decided to enter into a completely magical land in the kitchen. Like young Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia, we were seeking something exciting, and we found it by daring to try something foreign and new. In making this chutney and naan combination, just as Lucy found when she climbed through the wardrobe, the most interesting parts were the unfamiliar. We paired spices whose uniqueness created perfect complements. Some of the color and flavor was completely accidental, as when the lid fell off the curry powder and a heaping amount turned from a mistake into a brilliant innovation.

The result was delicious, and Allison and I contentedly parted ways with renewed spirit (and palate)!

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Mango ginger chutney:

3 mangos

1 red onion

~1/4 cup fresh ginger root

1/2 cup lemonade

1 tsp olive oil

1/4 cup brown sugar

Spices (about two shakes of each): ground ginger, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, chile flakes, cinnamon, salt, pepper)

Instruction:

1. Peel and slice mangos, discarding of pit. Thinly slice red onion, and finely chop fresh ginger root.

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add all spices and onion, allowing the latter to soften for about five minutes. Stir in brown sugar, ginger root, and mango. Allow sugar to melt – about two minutes.

3. Add lemonade and bring mixture to boil. Lower heat to a simmer and leave (uncovered) for about 45 minutes. Turn off heat and leave chutney in pan – letting it come to room temperature.

Naan bread:

2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp curry powder

1/2 tbsp cumin

3 tbsp olive oil

¾ cup whole milk

1 egg yolk

Instruction:

1. Whisk olive oil, milk, and egg yolk. Set aside.

2. In food processor, pulse flour, yeast, sugar, salt, curry powder, and cumin. Begin to process while gradually adding wet ingredients. Stop when dough has just come together (about five seconds after all ingredients have been added).

3. Turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth – about two minutes. Transfer to oiled bowl and cover with tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about two hours.

4. Punch air out of dough and knead again. Divide into four equal parts and form each part into a smooth ball. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and cover with tea towel again.

5. After another hour, roll each ball out into a disk – about quarter-inch thickness. On very hot grill (about 450 degrees), place each disk, grilling each side for about two minutes. Serve warm with chutney.

Enjoy naan bread and mango ginger chutney with C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

A Tale of Two Chutneys

Anyone who has thrown a borderline stale baguette into the garbage and exclaimed, “This is the worst of times!” perhaps needs to remember how Charles Dickens began A Tale of Two Cities. Although this day old bread may seem like a lost cause – a sign that you were too preoccupied yesterday to dig into some freshly baked carbohydrate-y goodness – what otherwise would be a waste may indeed be a golden (well, golden-brown) opportunity. By turning a baguette into small toasts and accessorizing it with delicious toppings, this appetizer will make you rejoice and declare, “It is the best of times.”

Like the two male protagonists in A Tale of Two Cities, crostinis can be seemingly similar – identical in foundation, size, shape – perhaps no one can say which is ‘better’ or ‘more desirable.’ One may prefer a Charles Darnay character: a simple flavor, transparent, no surprises, elegant, easy to figure out. Or, like me, one may be intrigued by the complexity of Sydney Carton – a sweet chutney with the surprising cut of vinegar on the smoothness of brie. The reader and eater can constantly side with one and in the blink of a bite or chapter begin sympathizing with the other.

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Crostini:

Baguette (I use sourdough, but anything will work!)

Olive oil

Brie cheese, room temperature

Fig -Apple Chutney:

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 apples, diced

10 (or so)  fresh figs, diced

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tbsp cinnamon

Olive oil

Instruction:

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

2. In saucepan, sweat red onion in olive oil until softened (medium heat). Stir in brown sugar and allow to melt on heat. Add apple cider vinegar and allow to reduce by half.

3. Add apples, figs, and cinnamon, lower heat, and cover saucepan with lid. Allow chutney to cook until apples have softened and begun to break down. If, when apples are cooked, the chutney looks too wet, remove the lid and raise the heat to medium to allow some moisture to evaporate.

4. Slice baguette into rounds, about a half-inch in thickness. Drizzle with olive oil and let bake in oven until golden brown and crispy.

5. Spread brie on the toasted baguette rounds, top with chutney.

Alternative (Pineapple-Lime) Chutney:

1 can of crushed pineapple

1 lime, zest and juice

1/4 onion

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

Basil to garnish

Instruction:

In saucepan, cook onion in olive oil and salt on low heat until caramelized. Add crushed pineapple, lime zest and juice and warm through. Raise the heat to medium to allow some moisture to evaporate. Garnish with basil.

A Simpler Assembly:

(In place of apple-fig chutney and brie.) Toast baguette rounds. Top with a slice of cheddar cheese, several slices of apple, and a bit of prosciutto.

In honor of Bastille Day, enjoy chutney on baguette with A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and check in at warandpeach.wordpress.com for future recipes and book reviews!