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Make the Perfect Naan

Sep/02/2023 / by Team Seema
Image credits: Getty Images

The most universally beloved ingredient in a scrumptious Indian meal is almost always that warm, savory naan. Believe it or not, you can make delicious naan at home without a clay oven. Here’s how.

Maureen Petrosky

There’s nothing quite like savoring the last taste of vindaloo or sopping up the sauce from your favorite dal with a swipe of pillowy naan. It’s akin to winning the final conquest, leaving no drop behind. While our tables can be graced with dozens of different dishes one common thread is naan. It is integral to many South and Central Asian dining experiences, and for as many family stories at a table there are just as many versions of this seemingly simple bread. 

So I set out to find an easy recipe. The requirement being that anyone can create it in their home kitchen. Traditionally naan is cooked in large clay kilns that get up to 900 degrees. Seeing as most home cooks are working with an oven that hits 500 to 550 degrees tops, I was going to have to get creative. Welcome the cast-iron skillet to the picture.

 Cast-iron is adored by chefs and home cooks alike for its ability to retain high heat, create beautifully charred steaks and impart roasted flavors to even the most delicate of vegetables. More importantly it can get hotter than a stainless-steel pan. This would turn out to be the perfect tool for my at-home naan. Now that I had the cooking vessel it was time to dissect the recipe. 

For the most part the basic naan recipes include yeast, sugar, salt, and flour and then variations of egg, yogurt, milk, or some combination of those three. My goal was to replicate the soft, pillowy naan from my favorite Indian restaurant. I found that recipes that called for egg left my flatbread a little too flat. Milk and egg created a good version but still was a bit dense for my liking. I wanted air pockets and a softness to the finished dough that those did not achieve. My final batch used no egg or milk and opted for yogurt instead. This was the secret ingredient to getting my perfect naan. 

Once I had mastered the basic recipe the flavor options were endless. Here’s my at home no fail naan and the most popular variations for you to try.

Plain Naan Recipe

1 teaspoon sugar

½ cup warm water

¼ ounce active dry yeast

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup plain yogurt

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon oil, plus some for greasing the pan

3 tablespoons butter, melted

In a small bowl, add the sugar, warm water, and yeast together. Stir to combine well. The yeast will dissolve and becomes frothy after about five to 10 minutes. In a bowl, add the flour and make a well in the middle.

Add the yeast mixture, yogurt, salt, and oil into the well and knead until the surface of the dough becomes smooth. 

Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place (for example: beside the stove top or warm oven). The dough should double in size, about 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 equal sized balls. Using a rolling spin, roll the dough balls into a circle.

Heat your cast-iron pan over high heat. Add just enough oil to lightly coat the surface. Place the dough on the skillet. When it puffs up and bubbles and burnt spots appear, flip it over and cook the other side. Repeat. 

Brush the naan with the melted butter and enjoy.

Makes 8 

Naan Your Way

The variations of naan are endless but here are a few favorites to add to your repertoire.

  • Garlic – Add chopped fresh garlic and butter
  • Peshwari – almonds, raisins, and coconut shavings
  • Roghni naan – made with milk, sesame seeds, and nigella seeds

Rice on Ice

With extreme weather and the war in Ukraine impacting the world’s food supply, India curbs rice exports

India, which is often referred to as world’s “rice bowl” because it accounts for more than 40% of the world’s rice exports, imposed a ban on exports of non-basmati white rice at the end of July, reacting to heavy monsoon rains over the summer that damaged crops. Last month, India imposed a 20% duty on exports of parboiled rice. “In order to ensure adequate availability of non-basmati white rice in the Indian market and to allay the rise in prices in the domestic market, the government of India has amended the export policy,” the food ministry said in a statement that cited a 11.5% increase in retail prices over 12 months.

[STORY 3]

Lessons from the Darjeeling Express

Why “it’s more than possible” to hire a diverse kitchen staff, according to Asma Said Khan

Writing in British Vogue, Asma Said Khan, founder of the Darjeeling Express in London reflected on the importance and significance of prominent chefs hiring a diverse staff, including people who are less able-bodied, and those of different genders, ages, and races. “My team is a diverse collective that delivers world-class food and service to each and every customer. I see the way that they respect and value each other, and how they are inspiring the next generation.”

The 54-year-old, Indian-born British restauranteur and cookbook author wrote the Vogue article in response to an Instagram post of chef and TikTok sensation Thomas Straker, who posted a picture of his all-male, all-white staff in front of his Notting Hill restaurant. “Many commented on the lack of diversity within Straker’s team, particularly given its location in one of the most multicultural areas of London. But for me, it came as no surprise.”

In the article, she expressed concerns about how women are often devalued, mistreated, and even abused in the hospitality industry and lamented that the fine-dining industry is “long overdue its #metoo moment.” She closed the article with key advice for other restauranteurs, especially those with influence: “My advice for fellow chefs…Recognize your biases, take a chance on someone even if they aren’t fully qualified, and remember you aren’t recruiting a Premier League team. Then, together, we might finally stop reinforcing the barriers to progression in fine dining.”

Origin Story of Darjeeling Express

Asma Khan first opened Darjeeling Express in 2017. But before it was a renowned Indian restaurant in the heart of London, it began as a dinner for 12 guests at home, with the home cooks serving up their favorite Indian food cooked from family recipes that go back to generations. “The food is a true homage to my royal Mughlai ancestry and the busy streets of Calcutta, where I grew up. What results is a lovely mélange of street food like channa chaat and slow-cooked tamatar gosht, which takes you on a journey from Calcutta in the east of India to Hyderabad in the south. Food here is served the way Indian food is meant to be eaten—platters of dishes boasting texture and flavors which complement each other, encouraging you to gather and share in the style of the traditional ‘daawat’ (feast).”

Follow the restaurant’s adventures on Instagram @darjeelingldn.

Seema

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