The vision is enough. Of a fresh, hot, crisp naan slathered generously with melting globules of butter as it hops off the tandoor onto your plate with its generic companion—the lissome butter chicken. Admittedly, each time you gobbled the soft, airy naan speckled with golden brown dots, you simultaneously squashed niggling guilt pangs of scoffing your diet. Not anymore. Because there is something known as healthy naan. There are hacks to rev up the nutrient sweepstakes of your favourite bread.
FOB THE YEAST
For all the naan addicts who thought that the Indian bread could only come yeast bellied, rejoice. There are ways of shunning the unwanted inclusion by bringing in simple ingredients from the kitchen. Chef Sareen Madhiyan, of Tappa, Mumbai, says, “Naan can be made without yeast using baking powder, soda, milk, eggs and yoghurt.
You can make a naan using only whole wheat; or a mix of whole wheat and soy flour.” But does the naan achieve its signature softness without the inclusion of yeast—the primary leavening agent? “Yes, yoghurt is a very good alternative to prop-up the texture of the bread,” says Sareen. “The natural probiotics that are present in yoghurt help in the fermentation of dough. This is essential for making it softer. Another secret addition is a spot of warm milk while kneading the dough to soften the texture of the naan further,” he adds.
A perfect accompaniment to both vegetarian and non-vegetarian curries, the naan was a staple in the thaals served to the Mughal emperors of yore. Perfected in tandoors by the Afghans and Turks, it slowly found its way to the royal kitchens of the nawabs in India during the days of the Mughal empire.
While there are no vegan variations available in the making of the flatbread (unless you add a touch of vegan milk), there are ways of stepping up the nutrition sweepstakes. Bring in almond and tapioca flour in combination with coconut milk for spinning out the paleo naan.
Then there are surreptitious inclusions to bolster the rank of the naan up the health chart. “You can mix in whole wheat flour, or soy flour, or jowar (sorghum) into the quantity specified for maida to make it more nutritious. Bring in the sesame, carom seeds, or even grate in veggies such as cauliflower and carrots for a nutritious naan belly. Grated cheese or crumbled paneer rolled in makes the naan tastier,” says Mumbai-based dietitian Sarika Nair of Slim'n'Happy. “But having naan on your plate everyday is certainly avoidable. Alternate with rotis for a balanced intake.”
Preparing the naan in your kitchen at home? Sareen suggests a quick mimic of the tandoor environment to yield a melt-in-the-mouth flatbread rendition. “Inverted on flame, the tawa surface must be slightly wet with the naan stuck onto it. It tastes best when had fresh and hot. Once cold, it gets chewy.” So the next time you reach out for the naan (in that bread basket at your favourite Indian restaurant), instead of kulcha, roti or lachcha parantha, make sure it is hot off the clay oven for that crunchy appeal. Chew on.
No Yeast Naan (with eggs)Ingredients
❖ All-purpose flour: Two cups
❖ Salt: One tsp
❖ Vegetable oil: Four tsp
❖ Beaten egg: One
❖ Yogurt: Five tbsp
❖ Ghee (optional): Eight tbsp
❖ All-purpose flour (for rolling and dusting)
❖ Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Add ghee and continue mixing.
❖ Add yogurt and egg. Whisk well.
❖ Add the mixture to the flour slowly and knead into a soft dough ball.
❖ Cover and keep in a warm place for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.
❖ Once the dough has risen, lightly oil hands, punch down the dough and knead. Dust with additional flour if needed.
❖ Divide dough into small portions and roll it out on a floured surface. Place the rolled naans aside on a tray.
❖ Leave them for 15 mins.
❖ Roll them and place them in a hot tawa. Once you see the sides bubbling, flip and cook on other side.
❖ Remove from pan and smear on melted ghee and chopped cilantro.
❖ Serve hot.