Naan Bread

The 'Naan' is a leavened, oven-baked flatbread. It is one of the most popular varieties of South Asian breads and is particularly popular in northern India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.
Originally, naan is a generic term for various flat-breads from different parts of the world. In Turkic languages, such as Uzbek, Kazakh and Uyghur, the flat-breads are known as nan. The name stems from (New) Persian . In Burmese, flat-breads are known as nan bya. It is known to the Chinese as nĂ¡ng.
The most familiar and readily available varieties of "naan" in UK (and other Western countries)are the South-Asian ones. The Naan is cooked in a 'tandoor' - or clay oven, from which 'tandoori' cooking takes its name. This distinguishes it from the roti which is usually cooked on a flat or slightly concave iron griddle called a 'tava'.
Typically, the naan will be served hot and brushed with ghee or butter. It can be used to scoop other foods, or served stuffed with a filling. Possible seasonings in the dough include cumin and nigella seeds. Raisins and spices can be added to the bread to add to the flavour. Naan can also be covered with various toppings of meat, vegetables, and/or cheese. This version is sometimes prepared as fast food. It can also be dipped into such "soups" as 'dal' and goes well with veggies
Naan is also a popular breakfast choice, buttered and served usually with tea or coffee.

All my life, I thought that making Naans would be a difficult and tedious procedure, which couldn't be accomplished without a 'tandoor' clay oven. But recently, I came across a recipe, that explained how to make the bread in a regular oven, with no special equipment or ingredients other than active dry yeast. It seemed deceptively simple, and I sceptically set out to try it for myself. Imagine my pleasure and amazement when my endeavour yielded wonderfully soft and tasty naan bread, at the fraction of the cost, and very little effort. Warning! Your family may just crave for it every day :) .....Try it for yourself and be sure to let me know how yours turns out....

Makes approx 6-7 naans.

2 cups All purpose flour
2 tsp Instant active dry yeast or 1 tsp baking powder
1 cup water OR 1 cup milk
4 tbsp yoghurt (optional)
1 tsp Oil
1 tsp Salt or to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 egg (optional)
6 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
a handful of cilantro (optional)

Sieve the flour into a bowl. In a small cup, add 1 cup warm water to dry yeast, along with 1 tsp of sugar to activate the yeast, and set aside until it foams. Add oil and salt to the flour, and mix well with yeast and water. Now add a water little at a time to make a very soft dough. The dough should be slightly sticky - definitely not dry.
If the dough sticks to hand too much, then use rub a little oil on your hand and punch into dough.
To make the naans, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and set it to broil. Make six - seven balls from the dough, and with the help of a rolling pin, and some flour, roll them out into oval shapes. If you are using garlic/cilantro or some other topping, sprinkle the topping onto the naans. Change the oven setting to bake, and place the bread on a cookie sheet, and into the oven. Flip each of the naans in 2 min. When the other side is golden,(approx 45 secs)brush with butter and serve immediately.

Authors notes:
The yoghurt/milk/eggs are optional, but if used, they make richer, softer naans. I usually make do with yoghurts and skip the milk and eggs and get great results. Use your imagination and sprinkle any topping you desire - cumin, nigella seeds, parsley, onions, chilli flakes etc. This will ensure a different taste each time! If you have a pizza stone, use it instead of the cookie sheet, and your naans will puff up nicely, and become lighter.
Naan bread can be used as a pizza crust! Slather on your sauce and toppings, and it tastes wonderful and is lighter than regular pizza crust. Alternately, it makes a good wrap for sandwich. However you try it - you are going to fall for this bread!

Spicy Scrambled Eggs

Some Sundays I like to prepare a quick light dinner, so that we can get to bed early for the next week. As far as possible I like to keep Sunday nights and weeknights vegetarian (I always categorize eggs as vegetarian LOL) One of the dishes made on Sundays (or even weekdays) is a spicy scrambled egg dish. Its a quick one pot dish, and can be made in a jiffy. (Except when it is made by my hubby Pramod, who will take ages to cook anything. (I swear he could manage to take an hour just to boil an egg).
This spicy scrambled egg recipe - Egg Bhurji,as it is known in India, is a dish popular in north and western India. Its preparation and appearance are similar to scrambled eggs. The difference lies in the addition of sauteed chopped onions, chilies, and optional spices. Paneer- a type of cottage cheese, may substitute for the eggs.

There are two variations of this dish, and here I have posted one of them. All you need for this easy scrambled egg dish is a few basic food staples from the fridge - I like to use a couple of eggs, and mix them with egg beaters for a healthier version:

Serves 4

8 large Eggs, beaten (or equivalent egg beaters)
2 large onions
1 large or 2 small tomatoes
3-4 chopped green thai or cayenne chillis to taste(optional)
1 tsp whole cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1-2 tbsp canola or olive oil
1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp chilli powder
a handful of chopped cilantro to garnish

In a large frying pan heat the oil and add turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and green chillis. Add the onions. Fry until just transparent. Add the tomatoes and fry some more. Add the chillis and the beaten eggs. mix well and keep scrambling until the scrambled egg mixture is dry. Turn off the heat and add chopped cilantro.

Authors note:
Serve this dish just as you would any other scrambled eggs - with or on toast, with sausages, on hash browns - or try rolling up into a wrap. Boiled potatoes cut into small cubes and added after the onions will make the eggs more filling and tastes yummy for all those potato lovers. Peas, carrots, green pepper spinach and almost any other veggies can go into the bhurji (along with the onions) and they make the bhurji taste awesome while simultaneously increasing the health meter. Just make sure that these veggies are finely chopped, so that they fuse with the dish. This is an incredibly simple, wholesome and tasty dish. It can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Potato Patties with Yellow pea stew

Colloquially called 'Ragda patties', this dish is a popular Indian fast food or snack commonly found in Mumbai. It is usually found for sale with roadside vendors or stalls. This dish is cooked in two parts -ragda, a yellow pea stew or soup and patties - a 'pancake-like' potato cake. (The word originally refers to 'patties' heaped around a large griddle- ready to be fried before serving). Ragda is prepared by soaking dried yellow peas overnight in water to make them soft, and so easier to cook. After about 8 hours of soaking the old water is discarded. Fresh water is added and the peas are pressure cooked until the peas are soft to touch. The peas are then mixed with mashed potatoes, formed into patties and pan-fried.
Two or three of these patties are covered with the stew-like ragda as a sauce and garnished with finely chopped onions, coriander leaves, spicy chutney and sweet sauce. The yellow peas are easily found in Indian stores, however, they can easily be substituted by chickpeas or green peas, which are more readily available in the US.


For the patties:
3 Potatoes
1/2 tbsp cilantro finely chopped
1/2 tbsp garam masala or curry powder
1/4 tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup bread crumbs

For the yellow pea stew:
1/2 tbsp Ginger/Garlic Paste
Dried yellow peas or canned chickpeas
2-3 tbsp canola oil
1 large Onion, finely chopped
2-3 green chillis
1/2 tbsp Garam Masala or curry powder
1/4 tbsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tbsp cumin powder
1/2 tblsp Red chili powder
Handful of chopped fresh cilantro
A few tsps of French fried onions

Boil & peel potatoes, and in a bowl, mash them well. Add ginger/garlic paste, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and salt. Mix and knead well into a dough.
Now, add the bread crumbs and knead well. Divide the dough into balls and flatten each ball on top to make a patty. Heat oil in a large pan,and shallow fry the prepared patties in very little oil(just a few tbsps) till golden brown and crispy on both sides. Place the patties on a knapkin to drain excess oil.
For the pea stew, wash and soak yellow peas for about 6 - 8 hours (if using dried yellow peas) and cook the peas in a pressure cooker till soft. (If using canned chickpeas, then omit this step)
Heat oil in a kadai, add chopped onions, fry till the onions are light golden brown. Add ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, garam masala powder, chat masala powder, red chilli powder, salt and fry for 30 seconds. Add the cooked peas, or canned chickpeas, enough water and mix well. Cover and cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

To Serve:
Arrange two potato cakes-patties on a serving plate, and pour the stew onto the patties. Sprinkle with chopped raw onions, french fried onions and chopped cilantro leaves. Serve hot.

Author's Note:
Traditionally, some sev - a fried chickpea flour snack, is sprinkled on top as well, to add some crunch. However, french - fried onions are a good substitute and more easily available.

Zesty Bread Cups

It's always such a difficult project to keep thinking up new, healthy and wholesome snacks to feed ravenous kids these day, especially when they are home for the holidays! My son is in his early teens - the growing stage - and has a voracious appetite. All he seems to think about is food - and wants variety to boot!
My mother adept at creating a huge assortment of foods for us when we came home from school, and during the holidays. I remember her churning out oodles of food for us at a moments notice - albeit, these snacks were not always healthy :) . Unfortunately for me, I have not inherited this wonderful ability from her - but I do keep trying. This delicious and healthy snack bread cups recipe is an adaptation from one of my favorite Chefs - Tarla Dalal, who invents wonderful vegetarian recipes.

Zesty Bread Cups
Makes about 10 cups.

8 slices of whole wheat bread
3 tsp low fat butter or olive oil
1-2 cups sweetcorn. cooked
1/4 cup chopped onions or scallions
1/4 cup chopped green/red bell pepper
1-2 finely chopped green chillis (to taste)
1 cup low fat milk
1 tbsp cornflour
1-2 tsp olive oil
salt to taste
dash of paprika or chilli powder (optional)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese or any of your choice

Remove crust from the slices of bread, and steam then in a steamer for about 8 minutes. Roll out each slice to flatten it a bit with a rolling pin, and press gently into the cavity of a greased muffin tin, or a muffin cup. Brush each slice with melted butter or olive oil, and bake in a preheated oven at 400 deg F, for about 8-10 mins until crisp and golden brown.
In a pan, add the oil and saute the onions until golden. Add the green pepper and green chillis and saute a few minutes. Add the corn, milk, cornflour, salt and paprika & cook until the mixture thickens. Fill a little of the mixture into each toast and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400 deg F for 5 - 10 mins until the cheese melts.

Authors note:
This dish makes a great healthy snack, starter or hors d'oeuvre.
The ingredients can easily be substituted with your own favorite cooked vegetables. This recipe is vegetarian, but chopped, cooked ham or chicken could easily be incorporated for variety!


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