Today I completely change my tune and, after a lot of Italian cuisine and some occasional forays into Chinese, Spanish and Tex-Mex cuisine, today I travel towards an entirely different ethnic cuisine, landing in India.
Some time ago, a friend of mine with a passion for cooking organized an Indian themed dinner, and like all our themed dinners (I miss them… we urgently need a new one!), this involves rolling up your sleeves and try something new, sometimes very different from what I normally cook. So, while others prepared meat dishes, desserts, meat balls and chickpeas flapjacks, I decided to try one of the Indian dishes that I love the most, cheese naan. But since I wasn't satisfied, I wanted to try also aloo naan, so I did a double experimentation. Actually, the basis for these two recipes is the same: in both cases, it's a stuffed leavened (but flat in shape) bread. The change, in fact, is in the filling: while cheese naan is (needless to say) stuffed with cheese, aloo naan is stuffed with mashed spicy potatoes.
It won't be the traditional naan (I haven't the traditional clay tandoori, in fact), but I tried to be as accurate as possible, thanks to Manjula's Kitchen, a fantastic site dedicated to Indian vegetarian cuisine, curated by Manjula, who accompanies each recipe with an explanatory video.
As for these dishes, I went by Manjula's aloo naan recipe, while I prepared cheese naan according to my taste, replacing the filling.
To be as accurate as possible to the recipe, I used cups measurement, but in brackets you could find grams conversion. Such conversions should be reliable (I measured them with my cups measuring kit), but a bit rough: since the cups measurement applies especially to dough, this should not be a problem, 'cause you can fix everything by adding water or flour.
ALOO NAAN AND CHEESE NAAN
Ingredients (16 naan)
For the dough
* 4 cups all purpose flour (about 640 g)
* 1,5 teaspoon active dry yeast (about 15 g)
* 2 teaspoon salt (about 20 g)
* 1,5 teaspoon sugar (about 15 g)
* 2 pinch baking soda (about 10 g)
* 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (about 60 g)
* 4 tablespoons yogurt (about 65 g)
* About 1,5 cup lukewarm water (about 250 g)
* Extra-virgin olive oil and flour (to prepare naan)
* 2 teaspoon of clear butter or ghee to butter the Naan (I skipped this step)
For aloo naan filling (8 aloo naan)
* 2 medium potatoes
* 1 teaspoon salt (about 10 g)
* 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (Jeera) (about 5 g)
* 1/2 teaspoon mango powder (amchoor) – I didn't find it, so I didn't use it
* 1 chopped green pepper
* 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (hara dhania) (about 20 g)
* 1/2 teaspoon garam masala – optional (I didn't find it, so I didn't use it)
For cheese naan filling (8 cheese naan)
* about 320 g cream cheese (like Philadelphia, like processed cheese etc.. It should be better using Paneer, an homemade cheese prepared curdling the milk with lemon juice)
The procedure is the same for both naan: in fact you should only change the filling.
First of all, prepare the dough: dissolve yeast in two tablespoons of lukewarm water and leave aside for 10 minutes, or until the mixture becomes frothy. In a bowl, put flour, sugar, salt and baking soda, then add the extra-virgin olive oil and yogurt and mix well until the mixture starts to become crumbly. Now add the mixture of water and yeast and add more lukewarm water, kneading until you get a smooth and firm dough (it will become softer after rising). Cover the dough with a towel (or a bowl turned upside down) and let it rise in warm place for 3 to 4 hours, until it doubles its volume.
In the meantime, prepare the two fillings.
For aloo naan: boil the potatoes until they are softer, drain them and let them cool down. Peel them and mash them with a fork, and then add green pepper, cilantro, cumin seeds, mango powder (if you found it), garam masala (if you want/if you found it) and season with salt. Mix well.
For cheese naan: soften the cheese using a fork. If you want to, you can season it with fresh cilantro or cumin seeds.
And now let's get to the point: prepare the real naan, which you can cook in the oven or on the stove. Manjula cook them in the oven on a pizza stone, which is a baking stone that becomes warm in the oven, so baking naan like this is similar to baking them in a tandoori clay oven; I chose, for my own comfort, to cook them on the stove, using a testo from Emilia Romagna, which is the griddle used to cook piadina. I used this method, 'cause I feared that without the pizza stone naan couldn't reach the right temperature; next time I'll try to cook them in the oven, anyway.
Knead the dough for 2 minutes and then divide it into 16 equal parts (with Manjula's doses I made 16 naan, not 12). Divide the stuffing into 8 equal portions each, roll into balls, which must be a little smaller than the balls of dough. Roll out the dough into 7-8 cm circles, place the ball of filling in the center and wrap it with the dough, pulling the edges toward the center and closing the dough until it forms a ball again (on this procedure, very simple, it's very useful Manjula's video, see from minute 5:30 onwards), then turn the balls you've got (with the "closing" at the bottom) and let them rest for 3 or 4 minutes.
Take a ball and roll it out gently (otherwise the filling could spill out of the dough) on a floured surface using a rolling pin, until you get a 7-8 cm circle, which will be your naan. Do this for all the balls of dough and filling.
Put the testo (or pan) on the stove and let it heat for 4 or 5 minutes, so that it will be hot. Then oil your palms with oil and flip naan between your palms, just to oil it; then put it on the testo and cook it for 1 or 2 minutes per side, so that it swells and the surface becomes golden brown. Let the testo warm up between a naan and the other, so that cooking is even.
Manjula's recipe suggested to brush with clear butter (ghee) naan after cooking. I skipped this step, but I tell you anyway, so you can choose what to do.
Let the naan cool down a bit (even in a pile, as I did) and then eat them, still warm.