Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sourdough Naan

Calcutta (Kolkata) by way of California, this is traditional Indian Naan bread made with a San Francisco sourdough starter, a recipe I took word for word*, step by step** from Hindu-convert, Yamuna Devi's (nee, California Hippie-chick, Joan Campanella's***) "The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking". The curries in here are not stellar but the breads and sweets are fit for Lord Krishna, himself. Devi's suggestions for naan bread include a traditional sponge starter method, a packaged yeast method and happily, a Sourdough Starter Method. If it's one thing I have an endless supply of, it's sourdough starter, so I rolled up my sleeves and got kneading.


***Ok, ok, I'm only assuming the Hare Krishna cliché. I admit it's almost too easy to make fun of the sincerity of someone from California who went to India to become a Hindu in the late '60s. Maybe I've read too much Salman Rushdie to not be cynical. Anyway, here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup liquid sourdough starter
5 tbsps vegetable oil, divided
1/2 cup yogurt
3 cups bread flour
2 tsps sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsps kalonji or poppy seeds (*ok, so I substituted nigella (black onion) seeds because I couldn't find kalonji. Actually, I don't even know what kalonji seeds are; does anyone out there know?)
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix the sourdough starter with 4 tbsps of the oil and yogurt in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt baking soda and your seeds of choice. Pour the sourdough mixture into the dry ingredients and mix first with a spoon then with your hands adding a bit of flour if it is too sticky. Knead for 6-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and let stand for about 4 hours until well risen.

Punch the dough down and roll out with a floured rolling pin until the dough is about 1/4 inch or 1/2 centimeter thick. Divide into 6 pieces. (**This next part is a divergence from the original recipe in which I do not heat up the oven and bake the naan on a cast iron skillet inside it, but get great results with a covered cast-iron frying pan on the stove.**) Heat a cast iron skillet with a small amount of vegetable oil and with its cover on, on the stove to the smoking point. Take off the cover, slap a piece of dough flat onto the skillet and replace the cover. After 30 seconds, check the naan. It may be burned already or still quite pale. Adjust your heat accordingly and move forward. Like crepes, the first flatbread off the skillet often ends up an offering to the gods. Flip with a metal spatula and prepare a plate to receive the baked naans. After another 30 seconds, check the other side and remove from the pan. Repeat until you've a.) baked all the naans and b.) you've gotten the hang of this stovetop naan baking thing.
Music to munch naan by: "Dear Prudence", dedicated to Mia Farrow's sister Prudence, by John Lennon during the Beatles' own short-lived Occidental Hindu phase. Serve as an accompaniment to an Indian meal or informally with chutney.

8 Comments:

Blogger Christina said...

You substituted perfectly! Kalonji is nigella, and vice versa.

Happy 4th of July.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Lotus Reads said...

Susan, the naans you made look fantastic! What a perfect accompaniment for the tandoori and hariyali chicken I made for tonight's dinner!!! I am familiar with Yamuna Devi's book, I used follow a lot of her recipes when I lived in Bombay. Yes,she is a follower of the Hare Krishna spiritual practice and her recipes follow their dietary code. Enjoy your delicious-looking naan!

10:53 PM  
Blogger hellomelissa said...

maybe you've read too much salman rushdie to be cynical! haha! i love it.

and i'm sure i'd love that bread if i could just get a bite.

3:06 AM  
Blogger Cherry said...

Always looking for new uses of sourdough starter!

This sounds perfect!

Happy 4th!

9:15 AM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Christina, Hey wow! I hit the nail on the head and I wasn't even looking. Thanks for the clarification.

Hi Lotus, Tandoori and hariyali chicken? Wow! I've never had the hariyali type, is it with spinach and mint? What do you think of Hare krishnas? Maybe from an Indian perspective, there's more to them than what I (think I) know. I know them for their attempt to convert people; they have a rather bad reputation in the US.

Hi Melissa, Rushdie doesn't have nice things to say about Westerners coming to India to find spiritual purity. At best he depicts them as foolish.

Hi Cherry, You too? Let me know if you find out other uses!

2:27 PM  
Blogger Lotus Reads said...

Hi again, Susan!

I don't know too much about the Hare Krishnas, except that every time we visited the Iskon (their temple) in Bombay it was like going to a party, they have loud, noisy but enthusiastic prayer sessions and their restaurant serves the most delicious vegetarian food. They have an Iskon in Toronto too, I must check it out sometime.

10:35 PM  
Blogger J at www.jellyjules.com said...

That looks heavenly! And the perfect song to go along with it, as always. :)

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Susan. The 60's produced more intellectuals and humanists (albeit ditzy) than the last three decades combined. California just happened to be front and center as always, thats all. Ofcourse, we also produced Reagan and his androids who cannibalised the hapless flower children :(

6:32 PM  

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