There is a lot to said about the Indian bread in their varied shapes and forms. While I am happy to gorge on a good western Bread or Dinner roll, I find eating a Phulka/Roti/Chapatti to be more comforting.
It may very well be because as a North Indian I have grown up on a healthy and steady diet of Phulkas which are unleavened flatbread cooked on a flat griddle (Tawa). While we can eat Phulkas, all day every day there is something very alluring about the much famed ‘Naan.’ Naan is a Flour (Maida) based flatbread that is baked in an oven. Apparently, this tear-shaped Bread came to India with the moguls and went on to become one of the most popular breads from India that can be found in every restaurant that specializes in North Indian food.
Like many, I feel that there is something terribly tempting about a freshly baked piece of Naan.
There is a strange sense of assertiveness that it offers to your palate as if the bread wants to reassure your hesitant tummy gently and tentative fingers, to dive into the curry that is the star of the meal, while it waits in the background. There is no reason why you cannot drown yourself in a bowl of Mutton or Chicken Korma swimming in a layer of Oil as long as you hold on tightly to your piece of Naan. The entire act of clinging to the bread to mop up a rich, meaty gravy or a softly simmering dal is almost cathartic. It makes the gluttony that you have just indulged in, almost the right thing to do.
And believe it or not, it doesn’t matter how good the curry is, if the Bread that you devour with it is not at par it can ruin the entire experience. Contrary to popular belief, not all North Indians make naan at home. We usually are happy to go to a restaurant and order it. Sadly, not all restaurants in Sydney make great Indian bread, so when Naan pangs strike I resort to making smaller versions of this delicious flatbread at home.
The recipe I use is from “Indian Simmer ” a beautiful blog that has some fabulous Indian recipes to cook from. I have been using this recipe for a few years now to make Naan and it works for me every single time. Don’t be fooled into thinking that baking Naan is hard work. I find it easier to bake them then to make Roti’s and while I may not cook a Naan every day, the days that I do are happy days.
Recipe (Preparation time 2 hours, cooking time 15 minutes for 6 naans)
Recipe Courtesy: Indian Simmer
2 cups plain Flour
½ cup warm Milk
½ cup Yogurt (at room temperature)
½ tsp Salt
¾ tsp Baking powder
½ tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tbsp. Sugar
1/2 tbsp. Oil
Nigella Seeds OR Sesame seeds OR chopped Garlic OR chopped Coriander (you can use whatever you fancy)
And of course you need some melted Butter or Ghee to coat the naans generously.
Take all the dry ingredients (Flour, baking powder, Soda, Salt, and Sugar) together in a bowl, mix and make a well in between.
Combine the Milk and yogurt together. Add this in the middle of the bowl with the dry ingredients and start kneading. This is not a western Bread that needs lots of Kneading. You just need to make sure that you had a mixed all the ingredients well and made a soft dough. Use the Oil and some Flour if the dough is too sticky.
Cover the dough with a damp cloth and keep it aside at least for 2 hours.
When you are ready, take the dough out. Put some flour on the working surface taking out small portions of the dough and roll them into elongated shapes.
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees C for at least 10 minutes. Sprinkle the Nigella seeds/Garlic or Coriander on one side of the Naan and some water on the other side.
You can either remove the grill out and place the naans wet side down on the grill and let it cook for a minute or two in the hot oven till you see it rise. Once risen carefully turn them and cook on the other side for 30 seconds.
Alternatively, you can do what I did and line a baking tray with baking paper and place the naan on the paper and put the tray in the hot oven for the same time, turning the naans over when you see a rise.
Slather the naans with some generous helping of Melted Butter before you serve them with a decadent curry.