Peshwari naan is a wonderfully tasty filled bread that combines a gently sweet, nutty filling with soft and chewy dough. It's a classic accompaniment to Indian meal that's easy to recreate at home. Enjoy it as a side to many mains, or simply as a snack.
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When I was a child, we didn't go out to eat all that often. But now and then we'd go to a local pub or an Indian restaurant in town that we all liked. I'll admit, at that point I went for the mildest things on the menu which would be less the case now. But enjoying some naan bread alongside my meal has stuck.
This version with a gently sweet filling was always one of my favorites and still is. It's probably as well that I didn't learn how to make it when I was younger or I might have lived on them as a student. But now and again, it's perfect to go with a meal or even just enjoy as a snack.
Where is naan from?
Naan is an ancient bread, so it's probably no surprise the exact origins are a little debated. Some believe it was first made in India after yeast was brought there from Egypt. Others believe it was originally made in Persia and then the idea spread through trade in the area.
What is better agreed upon is the name comes from the old Persian word "n'n" which meant food or bread. In modern Persian, "nân" is the generic word for bread. The bread that is generally written as "naan" when translated, however, is a specific type of bread generally associated with India and Pakistan.
The bread from the Indian subcontinent was originally associated with nobility partly due to yeast being rare. There is evidence of it being enjoyed by Mughal rulers for breakfast in the 1500s with keema (ground meat) or kebabs.
Veeraswamy was the UKs first Indian restaurant and had it on their menu when they opened in 1926. Many credit the restaurant with helping bring the bread to a Western audience.
You'll find a few variations of the great with different fillings or other additions. This version is from the Peshawar region of what is now Pakistan (hence the name).
What is it made from?
The basic bread is a simple combination of four, yeast, salt and water. Most, though not all, recipes also include some yogurt which helps give the soft texture the bread is known for.
This filled version has a tasty ground mixture added in the middle as you flatten out the dough. The exact mixture can vary, but is generally a mix of nuts, butter and raisins.
You can vary the nuts used, but coconut is great for flavor and a slight sweetness. Almonds are also good in there, too. Some don't use raisins but instead sweeten with sugar, but personally I much prefer the raisins for natural sweetness (and the flavor is tasty, too).
The most typical shape for these is teardrop, but you can make them round, oval or whatever shape they come out as you flatten them. If you start to get a slight hole over the filling, you can fill with a little dough pulled from somewhere else. The dough is slightly sticky so this usually works, then roll it slightly to join up.
How to cook naan
Traditionally, this style of bread is cooked on the sides of a hot tandoor oven (I talk more about them in my tandoori shrimp recipe). However, since that's not exactly practical at home, there are alternatives.
You can bake this in an oven like other breads, but I really like it cooked in a skillet/frying pan. It's quick, easy and saves waiting for the oven to warm up. If you have cast iron, this is best, but otherwise any relatively heavy-based skillet is fine.
In all cases, you want the pan hot and with no oil added. Then add the bread, watch it bubble up slightly and once it is gently brown underneath, flip over and cook on the other side. It only takes a couple minutes each side.
When it's cooking on the second side, rub a little butter over the cooked side. Since it is still warm, it will melt and help give a nice sheen, softness and flavor to the finished bread.
You can cook these ahead and reheat, but they are definitely best when freshly cooked, if at all possible. You can keep them warm wrapped in a clean towel as you make others in the batch.
Peshwari naan is a delicious variation on the Indian/Pakistani bread with a tasty, gently sweet nutty filling. It's easier to make than you might think, and you don't even need to turn on the oven to cook it. Perfect with your next curry, or as a tasty snack.
Try these other breads from around the world:
- Manakish (za'atar flatbread)
- Pain de campagne (French country bread)
- Japanese milk bread
- Adjuruli khachapuri (Georgian bread with a cheese filling)
- Plus get more cracker and bread recipes in the archives.
- ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup water 60ml
- 1 cup all purpose flour 140g plain flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup plain yogurt 60ml/54g eg Greek style
- ½ tablespoon vegetable oil or canola or other plain oil
For the filling
- 1 tablespoon butter 14g
- 1 tablespoon desiccated coconut
- 2 tablespoon raisins 24g
- 2 tablespoon almonds 22g
- Add yeast and sugar to warm water, stir to mix and set aside to bubble up around 5 minutes. Meanwhile, measure other ingredients and stir salt into flour.
- Add yeast water, yogurt and oil to flour and mix all together. Bring the dough together into a ball.
- Lightly flour a clean surface then knead the dough for around 5 minutes. Add a little extra flour if needed, but don't be tempted to add a lot - the dough should be pretty soft and flexible.
- Lightly oil a bowl and add the dough. Turn in the oil, then cover with cling wrap/film and set aside to rise around 1 hour.
- While the dough is rising, make the filling. Melt the butter (I find this easiest by putting in a microwavable dish, and cook on high for 15 seconds at a time, stir gently, then repeat until almost melted, and stir to melt last bit).
- Place almonds, raisins, coconut and butter in food processor or blender and blend until it's in crumb-like. Scrape down sides and re-blend as needed. Divide the mixture into three (each approx 1tbsp).
- Knock back the dough and divide into three - you can use scales to make them closer to equal or guess by eye, as you prefer.
- Roll or flatten out one of the pieces of dough into around a 4in/10cm diameter circle and place filling mixture in the middle. Fold in sides over the filling then flatten out the dough, with filling inside, so that the filling spreads through middle. You can do this by hand or with a rolling pin. Try to make an eyedrop shape if you like, as is traditional, or whatever shape you prefer (or as it works out!). If you get any holes over the filled area, take a little dough from the edge and cover over and re-roll. Repeat with other pieces of dough/filling.
- Warm a dry skillet/frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add one of the pieces of naan and cook for a couple of minutes until the bread puffs up and is starting to brown on the underside.
- Turn over the bread and cook on the other side. As it cooks, rub the top with a little piece of butter (this helps soften it and give it a nice sheen).
- Once cooked on the other side (it will only take a minute or two), remove from the pan and repeat with remaining breads, keeping them warm until all done and ready to serve.
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