Sunday, December 6, 2009
Easy Peasy Quasi-"Naan" Bread
We love Indian food, and so we make it a lot; one of the many rewards of learning another culture's cuisine is discovering delicious items you might not "ordinarily" have come across, which become Your Favorite Things. For instance, the first time I ate a samosa, way back in the dim and distant past (at the now sadly defunct local Annapurna restaurant, which was not only vegetarian but run by two biology professors from Holy Cross College), it was like that moment in The Ten Commandments when the clouds part and the sun breaks through (cue music). On that day, I fell in love with subcontinental cuisine, and have never once looked back.
Nowadays I'm pretty adept at cooking various curries, vegetable dishes, dals, etc., but there are still a few items that have remained restaurant and/or Indian grocery fodder. Naan bread has historically fallen into this category, and since many commercial brands include milk among the ingredients, we hardly ever get to eat it at home, and just make do with rice.
Until now! While searching online for an old-school scone recipe, I came across the BBC's "good food" website. Passing over their rather sad excuse for a vegetarian section (heavy on punitive delicacies like Parsnip Cranberry Nutloaf, with virtually nothing free of eggs and/or dairy), I clicked on "Indian," where I was rewarded with a few basic curries and a recipe for a fried flatbread that looked like a baby could do it. Being just that essential, able-to-use-the-stove bit smarter than a baby, I decided to give it a try, and was soon rewarded with the perfect accompaniment to a simple sweet potato curry and some excellent leftover khichari. While I make no claims to this being a traditional or "authentic" recipe/method, it was so easy, fast, and good that I'll definitely make it again, since there's really no comparison between fresh bread and even the best store-bought varieties. Try it - you won't be sorry!
Easy Peasy Quasi-"Naan" Bread
~ 2.5 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
~ 2 tsp. salt
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cumin, fenugreek powder
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 3 tbsp. olive oil
~ 10 oz. warm water
~ 1/4 ounce yeast (one little packet)
~ In a large bowl, combine the yeast and warm water.
~ Add the flour, salt, pepper and oil and mix to make a soft, but not sloppy, dough.
~ Knead well for a just minute or two, then place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for an hour, until doubled in size.
~ Place a baking sheet in the oven on "warm."
~ Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 6-8 pieces. Use a rolling pin to flatten each one into a rough circle, about 5" in diameter. Leave the pieces on a lightly floured baking tray to "prove" for 5 minutes.
~ Heat a large frying pan to a medium heat and coat lightly with oil or cooking spray. Fry each piece until browned on both sides, about 5 mins in total.
~ Transfer cooked pieces to the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest.
~ Allow to cool slightly before serving with your favorite Indian meal. (If there's any leftover, it also makes a great next day breakfast food!)