Monday, November 10, 2014

Naan

Or nan.  'Naan bread' is really a tautology, it is it seems, simply a word, Persian in origin but borrowed all over Asia, for bread.  It's generally a flatbread, cooked in a tandoor or some kind of oven rather than on a stove top, but it comes in many shapes and sizes, according to the wiki article and gallery. The Iranian ones (known as 'barbarian bread') cooked in an stone tandoor are long and thin and look quite crusty, while the Tajik ones are shaped and glazed and exquisitely patterned, a bit like something from a Jewish bakery.

The ones we hanker for, however, are the floppy, blistered, teardrop shaped creations from Indian restaurants; I didn't know about them until I'd left home as a student, I thought curry just came with rice, but once tasted I was smitten. If my first taste of saag chicken was an intimation, naan bread was the revelation; not only was there curry, but there was this delicious bread that went with it.

Living where we do, getting to an Indian restaurant is nearly an hour's drive, though there is good naan when you get there, often filled with melty cheese. I like this very much, but though there is plenty of precedent for it all over Asia I gather, it is, I suspect, something of a concession to Gallic preference, Japanese restaurants here, a growing sector, usually seem to offer beef yakitori wrapped round a stick of gruyere too. You occasionally see naan in supermarkets, made by British based firms like Sharwoods and Pataks, and they're OK, I buy them when I see them, but really, anything wrapped in plastic and sat on the shelf for a while isn't going to be quite the same. So making one's own naan is the holy grail of Indian cooking at home; the breadmaking machine can't do it, the dough needs to be too sticky and too much control of the rising is required. We have never quite achieved that fluffy bubbly tandoori texture, but with the addition of ghee, yoghurt, egg and nigella seeds,


using the big oven at a very low setting for proving and a large, non-stick, heavy based pan with a lid for cooking,


Tom has arrived at a very passable version.  They puff up quite impressively sometimes in the pan,


though the bubbles go down again afterwards. 


But as they stack up in a fragrant, warm, floury heap, 


I'm not inclined to complain.


8 comments:

Chloe said...

I want one! They look delicious :)

The Crow said...

So do I! Maybe two? (No, mustn't be greedy now.)

Catalyst/Taylor said...

I believe the first time I ever ate Indian food was in London. Tandoori chicken and naan. Yum. Thanks must be given to the Raj.

Nimble said...

Wowee! I admire the effort. That's some artisanal bready goodness.

Roderick Robinson said...

I thought of the naan's chewiness which is of the essence but which wouldn't be be acceptable in other forms of bread. Then of the consistency of bread in general and how it varies and why it varies. Recognised (for the first time) the width of the spectrum, starting with bread intended purely as an accompaniment (an edible table napkin for those who worry about their appearance across the table) to primeval stuff intended to be consumed for its own sake with nothing more than a smear of butter (eg, the dark brown stuff containing the sweepings of the granary floor). Reflected on the fact that preferences can change over the years and for different reasons: we, for instance, presently eat a fairly modest, unexceptional loaf designated "small" because it fits the slicer and because such loaves are eaten more quickly and haven't time to become stale.

Thought of bread in its most debased form. Which is not Mother's Pride (what else, because of its pressability, more perfectly corrals hard-boiled egg?) but a thing called Nimble (my apologies to your commenter) which is bread striving to be unbread, almost a bread hologram, bread without weight, bread as ashes to be used ritualistically for a gloomy service in the noncomformist church.

That "give us this day our daily bread" isn't as humble a request as it first sounds in this day and age, and that line two could easily be "give us this day our Dover sole".

Yes, I am a naan enthusiast, though you might not think so. That I am full of admiration for those whose instinct on eating such a luxury (It only needs a weightier price - as with Joe's theory about sardines) is to wonder whether they can make it. I know I can't and am thus ever-to-be one of bread's consumer/spectators. A sacerdotalist rather than a priest.

Rouchswalwe said...

Delivery please!

Lucy said...

Thanks all, they really weren't half bad!

Robbie - I've noticed before you get quite animated on the subject of bread! Can you still get Mother's Pride? My own mother considered it such an abomination that poor Thora Hird's name was, unjustly as I later learned, blackened in our household for her part in the ads for it. Nimble, on the other hand (your fellow commenter's blogonym, Nimble Pundit, is in fact a Graham Greene reference I understand) puts me in mind of my very rustic Somerset cousins, who always referred to it as Nimbo (rather as Bristol was locally called Bristow, whereas, conversely, an idea is frequently referred to in West Country dialect as an ideal, the conceptual difference therein notwithstanding, though I suppose therefore they must talk about ideals as ideas, oh dear...).

Anyway, the matriarch of this family of cousins, my father's Aunty Ethel, always referred to as 'Mother' in tones of deep and awful (in the true sense) reverence, was very fond of Nimbo bread - which gives the lie to the notion that country people eat good, wholesome delicious food. Indeed, I knew very well from a very young age that they didn't, since they tried to force me to eat tinned guavas and rice pudding on the grounds that 'we always have them on a Sunday, because Mother liked them.' Note the past tense, she had already been dead many years, and I think the guavas had probably been in the larder since before her demise. There aren't many foodstuffs I refuse to have anything whatever to do with but guavas are one such. I don't remember the bread, but they did have a rather sweet cat named Nimbo in its honour.

I seem to have written more here than I can find to say in the posts, and perhaps I am wasting my sweetness on the desert air, but never mind.

polish chick said...

that's it. now i'm really coming over for supper!