Wednesday 19 December 2012

Naan at Sea

Tired of the store-bought light snacks on board on a day-sail? Getting home hungry because the store-bought snacks are just wind, no solid sustenance? Not going for long sails because you get very hungry in spite of the snacks you took on board?
Why not bake fresh bread on board? Your own product has much more sustenance than the commercial bread, perchance a lower GI.

Here is a recipe for making those delicious Indian flat breads. Some call it naan, the Indian word for bread. It is also known as puri and there are many recipes for this.

You would traditionally have these as a side dish with spicy dishes. Sometimes as a wrapper. There is, however, nothing that stops you from enjoying these with any stewed dish. Just think of it: warm, freshly baked bread that you tear little pieces from to use as a wrap for the food, then for mopping up the last of the sauce in your plate.

Delicious, I tell you.

This one is a leavened bread, baked in a dry pan, therefore easy and quick to make on board. And it goes well with any stewed dish with a reasonably thick sauce. There are unleavened versions that are as easy to make, but we shall discuss those in another post.

The preparation time is short and baking time is as for pancakes. Add to this some waiting time for the yeast to activate (more or less twenty minutes, zero if you use instant yeast) and for the dough to rise, some 1½ hours.
The very short cut on this is to buy ready-mix dough from your local supermarket. Just the baking remains. A very good idea for short passages.
It is advisable to use a large plastic salad bowl for mixing the dough, as things may get messy and your shipmates may complain about the mess. Less mess, less cleaning afterwards. You need a cutting board for chopping the garlic if you haven't got chopped garlic on hand. You will also use the board as a kneading board for rolling bout the dough balls.

It is money well spent to invest in a proper cutting board, even if it is only slightly larger than an A4 sheet of paper. Get the largest one that is useful on your boat.

In the sequence of food preparation on board, this bread is baked while the main dish rests. The dough is prepared prior to meal preparation.

1 teaspoon dry yeast or instant yeast.
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons plain yoghurt, if available.
2 cups white bread flour. Cake flour will also work, but bread flour gives a better texture.
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup molten butter or margarine. Ghee is the best, but perhaps not readily available on board.
3/4 cup warm water
3 cloves fresh garlic, or 3 teaspoons whole cumin seed. I prefer fresh garlic.


Mix the dry yeast and sugar in the warm water. If you cannot hold your finger in the water, it is too hot. In the even of the water being too cold, you will be waiting a long time for the yeast to activate. It should bubble and foam after fifteen minutes.
Skip this step for instant yeast, it works differently.

Mix the flour and salt. I use a whisk to mix the dry ingredients. It is small and a useful implement on a boat and works better than a fork.
Add half the butter and all the yoghurt. When the yeast is nicely foaming, add some a little at a time to your dry mixture. Keep adding yeast until you have a slightly runny bread dough.
If you are using instant yeast, mix it in along with all the other dry ingredients, then add the warm water a little at a time to get the same consistency in the dough. The dough needs to be reasonably elastic.
Wet your hand and knead carefully until the dough gets a ssatiny texture and is nice and elastic. This takes ten odd minutes. Add a little flour if the dough stays runny.
Don't mix self-raising flour and yeast, the two clash and you may end up with interesting results.

Now leave the dough to rise. Smear a bowl with oil or butter to prevent sticking. I usually pat some oil on the outside of the dough ball to prevent the sticking and drying out. Otherwise just cover the dough with a wet cloth and keep it warm. The dough must rise and double in volume before the next step, else you have very flat bread. Rise time should be about 90 minutes.

After the dough has risen to the required volume it gets kneaded back to the original volume for about five minutes or so. Roll this into a cylinder of about 50mm thickness and divide this into six pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then roll the ball in the crushed garlic or cumin. Then roll each ball out flat into a 100-120mm disk, about 4mm thick, perhaps a small pancake size.

Smear butter or ghee on one side of the naan, then bake one at a time in a dry pan at medium heat. Butter the top before turning the naan over. You do one at a time, which gives you time to prepare the next one in line. In this way you use less space in the galley and you get maximum use of your time.

Bon appetit!

This is a rehash of recipes from, where there is a large number of similar recipes.

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-18

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