One day, when it was still kind of cold outside, my boyfriend and I were having company for dinner and we couldn’t figure out what to make. Overwhelmed by the glut of winter produce provided in our CSA we decided to consult The Internet, where we stumbled across a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for curried cauliflower and potatoes. Perfect. Curry on it’s own, however was not enough, so with 15 minutes to spare we ran to the mega-grocery/healthy-foods-store/mall down the street for some naan. Unfortunately when we arrived we found that the spot where they used to carry freshly baked breads was now home to a large display of overpriced organic spa products, and the bread selection had dwindled to include only a few baguettes, some sourdough and a couple of blueberry muffins. We finally found naan in the pre-packaged bread aisle, and despite it’s questionable appearance we took it home and baked it for our guests. When it emerged from the oven we were sad and embarrassed to find that what we bought at the store was nothing like naan. In fact, it bore an uncanny resemblance to cardboard, and it tasted like it, too. The end.
If only we had known how to make non, that story wouldn’t have had to come to such a tragic end. I know, I know, non totally sounds like some gimmicky knockoff of real naan that one might make in their microwave or something, but I assure you that it’s not and that we do not even own a microwave. I found the recipe in another vintage gem, Russian Cooking, published by the same folks who published The Picture Cookbook. According to them, non is a traditional recipe made in Uzbekistan. Being that Uzbekistan is so close to India and that the two recipes bear some very signifcant similarities I will acquiesce that non and naan are probably cousins of some sort. But non is a formidable dish in and of itself as well, make no mistakes about that.
First of all, it’s simple. I might even go so far as to call it The Simplest Recipe I Have Ever Made. At the very least, it’s in my top five. But for it’s simplicity it is not at all lacking in flavor. Infused throughout with the perfume of onions sauteed in butter, this bread boasts a soft, gentle umami flavor that is nothing short of addictive. It lacks the elasticity of traditional Indian naan, but is no less effective a vehicle for soaking up sauces and soups. I would not hesitate to serve this with an Indian curry, but I think it would be equally appropriate with a thick Tuscan white bean soup or a steamy paella.
Best of all, in the time that it takes me to run to the market for pre-packaged bread, I could make this recipe twice.
Non (adapted from Russian Cooking)
7 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
Melt the butter in a skillet and saute the onions in the butter until soft and translucent but not yet browned. Combine remaining ingredients with the onions and butter in a large mixing bowl to create a stiff dough. If the dough feels too sticky, add more flour. If it feels too dry, moisten with a bit of extra water.
Divide the dough into sixteen equal pieces and form into balls by rolling between your hands. Preheat a skillet over high heat. Flatten the balls of dough into thin disks, about the thickness of a piece of naan. When the pan is hot, add one round of dough and cook on both sides until charred in spots. Repeat with remaining rounds of dough.
Transfer the bread to a rack to cool. Serve immediately.