Naan is leavened bread which doesn’t sound very thrilling but the final result can’t just be called “bread”!
Like the cuisine of most cultures, bread is essential to Indian menus. It can be a meal by itself, but usually it is a complement to a main dish. It can be eaten plain, buttered with ghee, or even stuffed with cheese as in paneer naan. But however it is cooked, it is delicious, when done well.
There are several traditional ways you can use to increase the chances of success.
The basic recipe calls for mixing white flour with salt, then cooking in a tandoor, a traditional Indian clay oven. Yeast is typically mixed in to make the bread rise, although baking soda is sometimes exchanged now. Once the dough has risen, it is divided, rolled, then flattened. Sometimes yoghurt or milk are added to provide more bulk.
But that is only the beginning of a fantastic naan. Essential to it all, though, are the stunning spices of India that frequently are added to a good naan.
Would you like to make your own naan? Here is just one yummy recipe:
1 lb white flour
1/2 cup water
1 oz yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kanolfi seed or charnushka (known as Nigella or Onion seed in the West)
6 tbsp plain yogurt
Melt the sugar by adding it to water which has been warmed in the microwave for one minute. Then add the yeast and allow to sit during preparation, which should take approximately 10-15 minutes.
Pour the flour into a medium-sized bowl and sprinkle on the salt and seed. Make a small indentation in the middle to hold the yeast mixture. Pour on the yeast liquid and let the dough soak it up for a minute.
Knead the dough into a ball. Place it into a large bowl and cover with a clean, damp tea cloth for 2-3 hours. During this period the dough will rise as a result of the action of the yeast.
Now split the larg ball into smaller ones 2-3 inches in diameter.
Coat another bowl with ghee (clarified butter) or oil and roll the balls around to coat them. Lay them onto a chopping board.
Pre-heat the oven to 450F/230C while you do the next bit.
Now flatten out the naan dough balls, making the edges a little finer than the centre. Bake for 10 minutes, monitoring carefully at 3 minute intervals to look for excess charring of the rims. If that happens, try covering the rim with a piece of tin foil the next time.
Naan bread is best served warm. It can be kept covered with a cloth for a few minutes after baking, but don’t try to keep it there too long, because this results in excess buildup of moisture and softening.