Wednesday, November 26, 2008

1001 Naans (Leavened Asian Flatbread)

Click the image on the left to view the cookbook.

The 
first recorded history of Naan can be found in the works of the genius Amir Khusrau (1300 AD) as naan-e-tunuk (Persianنان تنک) (light bread) and naan-e-tanuri (Persianنان تنوری) (cooked in a tandoor oven).

Naan ( meaning bread) is the one of the most popular breads in
Central Asia. It was the breakfast food of the Moghul royalty and is still a popular breakfast food in Burma. Naan is chiefly made from all purpose flour (maida) and uses a leavening agent ( yogurt, yeast, eggs or baking powder) to puff it up from the inside while being baked. This is what makes a naan light and fluffy.

Any thick bread needs a leavening agent. Without it, all you get on baking is a hard brick. All the numerous holes you see in white bread were made by gas generated by leavening agents. Yeast and baking soda are the most popular leavening agents in bread and cakes. It is the humble Yeast that gives us delicious breads and all our alcohol. It is no wonder we have been using it for over 6000 years.

Yeast breaks up sugar into carbon di oxide and alcohol. It is for this Carbon-di oxide yeast is used in bakeries and it is for alcohol it is used in breweries. Without Yeast, we lose both bread and wine ! 
Naans come in various shapes and sizes. They may be round, rectangular or triangular, palm sized or table sized, plain or stuffed. They are generally sprinkled with herbs / seeds and brushed with butter / ghee.


The first recorded mention of Naan is in 1300 AD by Amir Khusarau, the Sufi poet, a pillar of Hindustani music, originator of Qawali and famous for his tongue in cheek lines like

My beloved speaks Turkish, and Turkish I do not know;
How I wish if her tongue would have been in my mouth.


It was Khusarau who wrote the immortal
Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast,
Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast.
If there is a paradise on earth,
It is this, it is this, it is this (India).

Making Stuffed Naans :
Anything which can be shaped into a tight ball can be used to stuff a naan. Pinch off a tomato sized ball of dough, roll out into a disc, place a ball of stuffing in the center and gather the edges of the dough, completely enclosing the filling. Now roll it up again into a thick disc and cook.

Kheema Naan is stuffed with mincemeat, Peshawari naan is a dessert naan filled with nuts, dates and raisins, aloo naan is stuffed with potatoes & gobi naan with cauliflower. The various possible stuffings are listed in column 3.

Before cooking, the naan can be sprinkled with sesame seeds /poppy seeds / nigella ( black onion seeds : kalonji ), cumin or herbs like cilantro.

Though the master recipe calls for baking powder, you can use a pinch of active dry yeast instead. Yeast takes a 4-5 hours to work its magic and so the dough needs to be rested that long. You can also knead in milk / eggs / oil into the dough along with water. This makes naan a complete meal by itself. Naan's are usually baked in clay tandoors - which are highly impractical to use at home. The tabletop electric tandoor does a good job and is very easy to use. First time cooks can try cooking Naan with just a skillet.

Model Recipes
Mango Power Girl's Naan
Aparna's Tava Naan
Naan Video

International 'Naan'
All purpose flour is used across the world and many cuisines have their version of our Naan. All these flatbreads are baked in an oven ( or an electric tandoor) at the highest heat setting till brown spots appear on the surface.

Roll the Naan dough into a round, dimple all over the surface with fingers, drizzle it with olive oil, sprinkle sea salt and rosemary and what you get on baking is the Italian Focaccia.

Roll the naan dough to a round, drizzle surface with olive oil, spread a couple of spoons of tomato sauce and cover with grated mozarella. Bake and you get 
pizza. Use other toppings and you can cookup a range of pizzas.

Make makki naan dough, roll into thick rectangles, scour a few parallel lines with a knife , sprinkle sesame seeds on top and bake. You now have the Persian 
barbari bread.

Roll out naan dough and top it with sour cream and onions before baking it and you’ll end up withFlammkuchen - the Germanic 'Naan'. This is also called as tarte flambée or Alsatian pizza.

The Turkish 'Naan' is cooked on a tava. Roll the naan dough into thick rounds and cook both sides on a skillet. What you get is Bazlama.

Off this goes to Bricole's Novel food.

3 comments:

Aparna said...

Thanks for linking to my Naan recipe and leaving a comment on my blog.
This is quite an interesting concept of putting together various similar recipes in one place.
I seem to understand that you are planning to publish these collections. If this is so, then I would have to refuse to allow the use of my recipe.

Lisa said...

Ramki, thank you for taking part in our Novel Food event. This is our first post inspired by poetry! I've read some of the poems of Kabir and greatly admire them.

I must try making naan sometime. I like the way you talk about the various "versions" of naan (focaccia, etc.). Very interesting.

Thanks again for contributing, and look for Simona's and my round-up soon after December 21.

pinksrecipediary said...

Loved ur blog............

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