Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Today's special: Naan - Indian bread home made

I watched a movie recently called 'Today's Special', it is an adapted screen play of Aasif Mandvi and has Aasif as this aspiring sous chef, Madhur Jaffrey and Harish Patel as his immigrant parents living in Queens and Naseeruddin Shah as the cab driver/chef. He is sweating it off as a sous chef in an upscale Manhattan restaurant while his father runs this dilapidated Indian restaurant in Queens. Samir is forced into looking after the family restaurant when his father suddenly falls sick. Akbar is the NY cab driver who was a chef earlier in life. It is such a feel good foodie movie and I totally recommend it to any similarly interested people. It is filmy, meant to be so and events happen fast and the protagonist always gets what you were rooting him to get :-), but I already told you it is a feel good movie.

It was a treat for me because I have adored Madhur Jaffrey, go read her "Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India"  and I guarantee you the nostalgia it is bound to bring out in you. Though she doesn't have a big role, it is good to see her twinkle whenever she is on screen. Then there is Naseeruddin Shah, the prolific actor that gets into the skin of any role he plays. Aasif Mandvi himself is so perfect as Samir. It is a journey of rediscovery of one's passion. I am not going to give away the story but will tell you why the movie made an impact on me.

The foodie that I am, I love to watch and read food related material. My cooking is a lot like 'Akbar's' cooking in the movie. I know the taste I want to produce, I know the ingredients I have access to but I don't usually follow any recipe to the T because that is just not how my brain (or heart?) works. As Akbar says 'cooking is a little bit from the brain, little bit from the heart and little bit from the stomach', I let my senses guide me when I cook in my kitchen and yes there are times I have a total flop show but then there are times when I am surrounded by accolades (no less flattering even if it is just a hearty slurp from my own family). And fortunately the good times far out number the flop shows :-)

Today's recipe is not related to the movie, well not directly. Given the popularity of Naan: the Indian bread in all corners of the World, my recipe is no big deal but this is very easy to make at home and you can match it with any number of side dishes. And yes, this is perfected after a few trials and errors.

Once when we were driving from Delhi to Agra in a car, the car broke down on the highway, conveniently very close to a road side Dhabha. For those of you unfamiliar with Indian Dhabhas, all I can say is experience it once and you will be hooked. It is not the same if you go to a neighborhood Punjabi restaurant which claims to dish out Dhabha style food. If you can be oblivious to the noise from the high ways (Dhabhas originated to cater to the long distance truck drivers and are situated off of a main road or highway) and don't peek into where the food is being prepared (I am sure most would not pass a hygiene test), you should go and enjoy a dhabha meal.

It was sweltering hot, lunch time and we just didn't mind the really long time the driver took to find a mechanic and fix the car while we sat on a charpoy under the shade of a huge tree and downed naan after naan with butter and punjabi chole and paneer butter masala. There was an unlimited supply of salads with slices of onions, cucumber, green chilies, carrots and a glass of fresh salty lassi the owner of the dhabha kept refilling. Yumm..those were some of the softest, freshest, buttery naans I have eaten :-).

I have made these naans in my oven and stove top with equal amount of success but BH got me a pizza stone from Costco the other day and I am in love with it for the even heat distribution it does. It is well worth every cent of money we spent on it.
What do you need to make Naan? 
Makes 6 naans
2 cups all purpose flour+2 Tsp for dusting
1/2 cup water
2 Tblsp yogurt
2 Tsp cooking oil
3/4 Tsp sugar
1/2 Tsp salt
1 Tsp quick rise yeast

How do you make Naan? 
  • Bring water to lukewarm temperature, add sugar and yeast. Mix it and let it sit for 7-8 minutes until it becomes frothy with bubbles. 
  • Sift AP flour in to a wide bowl, add salt, yeast water, yogurt and oil and mix it into a soft, pliable dough. 
  • Gently knead it to bring all the flour together, cover with a wet paper napkin or towel and leave it to rise for 3-4 hours in a warm place. 
  • When the dough has doubled, punch it down and knead it for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Pinch off golf ball sized dough and roll it into an oval of 1cm thickness. (see notes)
  • Heat your oven to 375F and place the rolled naans on the oven rack in a single layer. If you have a pizza stone, put 2-3 at a time on the pre-heated pizza stone. 
  • Bake for 2-3 minutes, flip the naan over and bake for another 2-3 minutes till you see light brown spots and naan fluffs up. 
  • Remove it and serve it with curry of your choice and a side of raw cucumbers and carrots and onions for that dhabha touch.
  • If you do not have access to the oven, put the rolled naan on a heated skillet and roast it both sides. 
  • Yeast is what makes the dough rise, do not use it if the product is old. You should see water bubbling in about 4-6 minutes if the yeast is active. 
  • This dough is soft and not very sticky, you can just pat it into shape by dipping your hand in dry flour and not using the rolling pin.
  • The naans are generally thicker than the regular rotis and turn out softer.
  • Add a Tsp of kasoori methi or other dried herbs while mixing the dough for a herb flavored naan.
Now to Today's special (the other special), when I logged into write my post about Naan earlier, I was so tickled to see an email from Smitha of Kannada Cuisine. I recently discovered her blog and have been following her posts regularly. She thought I deserved to be nominated for the Food Stories award, I am touched you thought about me, thank you Smitha. 

Now to a random thing about me, I love to chop vegetables and I can do oodles of vegetables at a time and I prefer my cutting board and  trusted knife over any chopper. What most people find boring and mundane gives me the space to think and plan. I love festivals and parties where I can chop, chop and chop some more :-) in the kitchen.

I nominate these other bloggers I frequently visit Raks, Jay, Prathibha, Sums and Deesha.
 Food Stories Award for Excellence in Storytellinge


Jay said...

wow...absolutely mouthwatery naan it..:)
congrats on your lovely award & thanks so much dear for passing me..
Tasty Appetite

Tina said...

delicious naan..

NamsVeni Pothas said...

nice NAAN preparation. i like plain NAAN.thanks for the real good dish.


Naan looks so fluffy and soft! I love it always :) And thanks a lot for thinking about me... :) Enjoy ur award!

Akila said...

this looks so good...

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, love it ...

Mark said...

thanks for posting this site. You did not state the amount of water which should be about 2/3 cup.

Nagashree said...

Thanks all for your comments.

Mark - Thank you for noticing I missed water in the ingredients list, have updated it. I used about 1/2 cup water and added yeast to that to get a soft dough.