I've been cooking Indian food for 30 years. I started eating Indian food when i was diagnosed with cancer back in 1990. I was a vegetarian and having problems with the combination of chemo and a macrobiotic diet, so my oncologist suggested I try cooking Indian food since I could have all the vegetarian/vegan dishes I wanted and still get plenty of nourishment. So my sister in law the Indologist, who's lived and worked in India for many years, came out from NY and got me started with books. After that I began to haunt the Baharat Baazar. aka now called Samosa House in Culver City.
When I used to go there it was a tiny place jammed with everything I could possibly want.
Founded in 1979, it was the first ethnic Indian grocery in southern California. It was also located next to a coffin store, and the owner would lean in the doorway and when I went shopping for Indian groceries he would try to get me to come in and check out the latest casket models. Evidently, the passersby had the same reaction I did, as the coffin store is gone and Baharat Baazar/ Samosa House now occupies most of the block. In fact, it's now one of the largest Indian markets in Southern California, and boy , do I miss it. Every time I'm in LA for business I always shop and carry back a bunch of hard to find goods. If you're in LA or planning on visiting... check it out.
Phulan Chander who started with store with her husband Ramesh, guided me in my Indian shopping and cooking. She offered tips and suggestions, and recipes when she saw that I was serious about learning traditional Indian vegetarian cuisine and not just some daffy Westside white girl trying to have an adventure. If it weren't for them I wouldn't have learned as much. She gave me the confidence to try dishes, foods and techniques I'd never had before. The one thing I never had however was a for real tandoor oven.
When the folks at Homdoor Tandoor Ovens asked me if I'd like one of their ovens to work with I said you betcha!!! The Tandoor oven arrived in a big packing case with all the required implements. It moved into the garden near my vegetable beds and hibernated in it's canvas cover.
Finally after a cold and rainy Sonoma winter, I was able to fire it up last weekend and for the first time after baking naan bread for several decades I was able to actually slap it against the wall of a genuine tandoor oven.
So here's what happened, and how to make great Naan Bread, with a very simple recipe.
Indian Naan Bread
Here's What You Need:1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
2 tsps active dry yeast
3 and 1/2 cups of flour, plus a bit extra for the rolling out process.
2 tsps salt
1 cup of full fat plain yogurt
melted ghee and nigella seeds for seasoning
Here's What To Do:Mix the water and sugar in a small measuring cup.
Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit for about 5 minutes.
While that is happening, combine the flour and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Attach the dough hook.
Okay, this is the miracle for me. For years I thought stand mixers were just bougie and why not just knead stuff manually. After all that's why we have arms right? Then Alan bought me a stand mixer as a gift. I had already said that I thought it wasn't necessary and then I tried it!! Omg!! Who cares if I never go to the gun show, nobody looks at my biceps anyway. I loved it!
Add the yeast mixture and the yogurt to the flour mixture.
Mix the dough on medium speed until it comes together, then increase the speed and let it knead for about 10 minutes all in.
Take a small amount of vegetable oil and oil the inside of a large bowl.
I used about a cap full and then just smeared it around the inside.
When the dough is done. It will be somewhat sticky (actually that's an understatement) but this a yogurt based dough. The yogurt is what gives the naan bread it's tang and keeps it from tasting like pizza dough.
So form the dough into a ball...
...and place it in the oiled bowl.
Cover it with a clean dish towel .
Let it rise until it's doubled in size. This takes about 1 hour.
We took the opportunity to take Tyrion the Siberian Husky out for a long walk.
When your dough has risen, flatten it into a disc and divide it into 8 pieces.
Set them on a baking sheet...
...and cover them again to rest while you go light your tandoor oven.
The Homdoor Tandoor I have can be lit either with charcoal or propane. Since Sonoma county is fire central, charcoal wasn't going to be happening. We used the propane option. The burner is lit at the bottom of the oven and the heat is controlled by a grate at the bottom and opening and closing the lid on the top. We used a laser thermometer to give is a reading on the clay interior. The oven had to get to 550 , which it did really fast.
Now To Bake: I flattened each ball with my hands and stretched the top into a traditional naan teardrop shape.
When the oven reached 550 we were good to go.
The dough was placed on a Gaddi pad which functions sort of like a baseball mitt.
The dough is draped on top of the pad. The Gaddi pad is believe me the only way you want to get near an oven that hot. I checked my temperature with the laser thermometer.
The dough is then slapped on the oven wall where it will stick and cook.
The dough cooks fast.
When it starts to bubble and char, it's ready.
Using the bread tools, which are a long rod with a small spatula at the end and a bread hook remove the naan by hooking and prying it gently off the oven wall.
Place the naan in a basket to keep warm...
...brush it with ghee...
...and a sprinkling of nigella seeds.
And serve it up.
Getting this Naan bread fresh and hot out of the tandoor I realized what I'd been missing all those years of just using an oven set at 550 degrees and a pizza stone. There's no comparison.
I'm going to be posting tandoor recipes on the blog once a month as I explore the world of authentic tandoor cooking which thanks to the Homdoor residential tandoor oven can be found right in your very own back yard.
Coming up next another fish curry this time, not a dry curry, but a wet curry and yes there's a difference. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori ##naanbread#tandooroven#tandoori#naan@homdoor#indianfood#baking#bread#indianbread