We are trying hard to cultivate frugality so we can stop working and do what we want; writing, gardening and traveling. This is not an easy lift for me. I have taken to silently chanting “cessation of desire” every time I step into a store. Because of our life style goals, that is, life without a day job, we don’t eat out very much. So when I want Indian food or Mexican food, I mostly have to make it myself. I have two standard Indian recipes that I make frequently, palak paneer and chana masala. While both those dishes are great with rice, I felt a hole in my Indian dinners from lack of naan. You can buy naan in the store but it isn’t fresh and it isn’t cheap so I decided to learn to make it from scratch. While my naan seems oddly misshapen, it actually tastes like naan.
Traditionally Indian food is eaten with the fingers using torn off bits of naan. You can sit at your dining room table, eating your dinner with your hands and feeling oddly satisfied from having made every bit of it yourself. The recipe follows.
RECIPE: HOMEMADE NAAN
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon nigella seeds, optional
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, optional
- Melted butter
- Coarse salt
- Dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in 3/4 cup luke warm water. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Combine flour, salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar and baking powder in a large bowl.
- Add yogurt and olive oil to yeast mixture, stir. Make a well in the flour and pour yeast mixture into it. Add the nigella and fennel seeds if you are using them (I happen to have them lying around. Weird). Mix everything together with a fork then knead lightly to form a soft ball of dough. Stop kneading when all the flour is incorporated. Cover with plastic or a plate and let rise for two hours. The dough will be soft and sticky.
- Separate the dough into 6 or 8 balls, depending on the size of naan you want. Roll each ball in flour to dust. Use a rolling pin and a lightly floured cutting board, roll each ball into an oval around 8 inches long and 4 inches wide (if you made 6 balls).
- Heat a cast iron pan with a fitted lid over high heat until it is very hot. Dampen your hands in water and pick up one of the rolled-out dough pieces, lay it on the pan. Cook for one minute, then flip it and cover the pan with the lid. Cook for one more minute. There will be dark spots on the naan, that is ok.
- Remove the naan from the pan and brush it with melted butter, then sprinkle with a little coarse salt. Wrap the naan in a towel while you are cooking the rest of them and serve them hot.
- Use pieces of naan to scoop up your palak paneer or chana masala. Consider serving with cold beer, or homemade salt lassi or mango lassi. Lick your fingers when you are done.