Naan is a flatbread original to Northern India. One could say that it is a close cousin to pita bread. Naan is also prevalent in Central and South Asia where it is traditionally served as an accompaniment to stews.
The history of naan can be traced to the 14th century, making it younger than its Middle Eastern counterpart-the pita. Pita came first, however at the time, yeast as a leavening agent was not really understood.
The first mention of naan in recorded history is made by the Indo-Persian poet Amir Kushrau. In his writings, he refers to it as “light bread.” Consequently, the word naan comes from the Persian word non which means bread. In Turkish languages, flat breads are also knows as nan.
Cooking your naan
Traditionally naan is cooked in either a tandoor oven (derived from the Persian word tannur), or flat iron grill with concave sides called a tava. If you don’t own either (most people don’t), no worries, an outdoor grill, a stove top griddle or a sandwich press work equally well. When it’s winter and 5 degrees I use my indoor sandwich press grill.
Today, naan has made it mainstream
Supermarkets are selling pre-packaged naan– plain or herb flavored. There is also naan pizza!!! This is definitely a nice change from the humdrum pizza dough. At home we often have a make your own pizza night where we use naan.
Plusses to DIY naan
- The recipe is fairly simple and not very time consuming.
- The results are much better that anything you could buy in a store.
- You can freeze it for later use without loosing flavor or texture.
- Try it as an alternative to toast with your morning coffee/tea, or even as a substitute for pita with your hummus.
Naan is one of those items I alway have to order when I visit an Indian restaurant so I can dip it in spicy sauce. A couple to try at home are chicken tikka masala and rogan josh. Both of these have a tasty sauce that is perfect for naan dipping.
If you like making homemade breads here are a few more to try that are traditional with an ethnic flair. Moroccan country bread is a simple rustic bread that is typically eaten with tagine dishes. Irish soda bread is one of my favorites to make for Saint Patrick’s Day and goes will with Guinness beef stew. Another exotic bread type dish I love to make is Lebanese cheese fatayer which is really easy to make with a pizza dough and filled with a feta cheese mixture.
Here is an easy naan recipe I like to make on my indoor grill or panini press . If you like naan and want to grill some during winter here is a great way to do it. You can also use a griddle.
- 1 package of dry active yeast (.25 oz.)
- 1 cup water warm (about 110 F)
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 3 Tbsp plain yogurt
- 1 egg beaten
- 2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp herbs such as parsley or chives are optional. Nigella seeds are also interesting to add for flavor.
In a small bowl place 1 cup of water in microwave and heat for about 30 seconds. Using a meat thermometer test the temperature. Make sure it is not above 110 F. Add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and the yeast. Mix slightly and set aside for about 10-15 minutes or until it begins to appear frothy.
Mix beaten egg with yogurt and set aside.
In a large bowl place 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup of sugar and salt. Add the yeast water and the egg mixture and mix thoroughly until dough is soft. You can do all this in a mixer that has a dough hook attachment.
Once the dough is all mixed together, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes. Place dough in a large bowl that has been oiled. Cover and set aside for about 1 hour or until it has risen to twice its size.
Punch down the dough and add the herbs blending them well into the dough.
Break off about 8-10 pieces the size of a golf ball and place them on a cookie sheet. Cover and let rise for about 30-45 minutes.
Preheat your grill**
Roll out each ball into a thin circle and brush with butter on both sides. Grill each circle for about 3-5 minutes on each side.
** If you don't have an outdoor grill, a Panini press works well or a griddle as one you would use to make pancakes.