Naun is the standard whole wheat, slightly leavened bread of Afghanistan. It is the most delicious and satisfying bread I have ever eaten. However, in Afghanistan they use a special earthen, wood-fired oven, which imparts a quality that cannot be duplicated by any other technology. Few have such an oven in America, but the following method produces an acceptable substitute. The bread takes less than an hour and can be prepared fresh daily.
1 package (1 tablespoon) dry yeast
Dissolve yeast and sugar in water and set aside. Sift together flour and salt and add to the yeast mixture. Measure 3/4 cup cold water and add gradually to the flour-yeast mixture. Mix with the hand as the water is added, using a bit more water if needed to produce a smooth, firm dough (the same consistency as ordinary bread dough). Cover and allow to stand in a moderately warm place (over the pilot light is great) for 1 hour.
The dough will not quite double in size, but drawing a fingernail across the surface will show small bubbles forming.
This is enough dough for about one large naun, but it is better if you make it into two, for ease of spreading out the dough and to make sure it isn't too thick, as naun should be on the thin side or it gets a little cakey and indigestible.
Preheat the oven to 500 °F, and in it preheat a large cookie sheet that has been covered with aluminum foil. Divide the dough into two balls, allow to stand for 5 minutes, and then begin to shape it into an oval, flat piece about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. The oval should measure about 7 by 12 inches, and both of them should fit onto one cookie sheet. It may help to attain the right shape if you pat the dough out first, then pick it up and flip if from palm to palm.
After the naun is shaped and placed on the cookie sheets dip three fingers into cold water and make three lengthwise grooves down the center of each (if you are a female), or wet the tip of a sharp knife and make several lengthwise cuts (if you are a male).
Remove the now-heated cookie sheet from the oven and lightly brush the surface with an oiled piece of paper towel or doth. Place the shaped naun on the hot cookie sheet and bake immediately.
The time for cooking seems to depend on the type of stove, altitude, and other factors, but usually about 6 to 10 minutes is enough. Do not overcook, but remove when you see the top just beginning to show the slightest browning. Remove and immediately put under broiler for another thirty seconds. Watch so that it does not burn at this final step!
Remove from oven and serve warm or cold, cut into 4-inch squares. Naun will keep for a day or two if wrapped up tight in plastic bags. Naun is served without butter and is used for scooping up other foods. It is always served with soups.
This wholemeal bread, along with rice, firms the basic food unit of the Unani diet. You will need to obtain the special chapati flour (the Indian name for this flour is atta). Some of the better healtb food stores and co-ops may have it, or will order it if you use it regularly.
8 ounces wholemeal cbapati flour (atta)
Sift 8 ounces chapati flour into a flat bowl. Make a depression in the middle of the mound of flour and pour in a little less than 1/4 pint of water. Excess water will make the dough sticky and hard to handle, and makes hard bread. Mix into a soft dough.
Knead for 15 minutes by hand, or you can use a food processor. The longer the dough is kneaded, the better.
Gradually add the remaining water, folding and pressing to thoroughly mix and knead. Sprinkle a palmful of water on top of the dough, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to swell for thirty minutes.
Knead the dough again for ten minutes, or one cycle through the food processor. Moisten the fingers to prevent stickiness. The dough must be kneaded sufficiently to obtain best results.
Divide the dough into ten pieces of equal size, and roll them into balls. You may now use the dry flour to prevent sticking to your fingers. Coat each dough ball with a little flour.
Flatten out one of the balls by pressing it down onto a roiling board with the palm of your right hand. Remember to sprinkle a little flour on the board from time to time to prevent sticking.
Place the flattened ball on a floured board and use a rolling pin (a special rolling pin for chapatis is called belan), and roll out to about a 5-inch diameter or about the size of a pancake.
Heat the griddle, frying pan, or tawa, and rub a very slight amount of grease on the griddle to prevent sticking. (When you have practiced with a few dozen chapatis, you can omit the grease.) Cook on medium heat.
The top side will dry up and small bubbles will begin to form, and gradually these will merge into several large bubbles. At this point turn the chapati over and cook the other side until brown spots appear on the under surface. Ideally the chapati should assume the shape of two saucers inverted over each other, but this will take some practice. If cooking on a gas or electric stove, you can assist this "ballooning" process by taking a kitchen cloth and pressing lightly but firmly on the places that are not ballooning up. Remove from griddle and serve immediately.
You will most often be making more than one chapati. Several pointers will help if you plan to make many chapatis.
Two workers definitely helps--one to roll out and one to cook on the griddle. In any event, do not roll out all of the chapatis and stack them on top of each other uncooked. They will all stick together, and you'll have to start all over again after rolling out thirty or forty chapatis (you only do that once!).
To keep the chapatis warm and fresh while cooking up a large batch, place them in a slightly dampened cloth, stacked on top of each other, after they are cooked. They'll stay warm and fresh for up to two hours. It is better if you wrap the cloth inside a plastic bag or zip-lock bag. This way they will keep for at least several days.
You should cook at least one chapati per person, although you'll probably find that people like them so much that three per person is a more realistic quantity.
There are several variations of making chapatis. The first is to roll out the chapati as above, then fry it in 2 tablespoons of oil. This will be similar to Indian fry bread. If you serve it right off the pan and coat it with butter and honey, it makes a complete breakfast all by itself.
Another method is to put a 'filling' inside and fold the chapati in half, then cook in two tablespoons of oil in a fry pan. The filling can be mashed potatoes and peas, left overs, fruits, or just about anything. These make a very quick and tasty snack or lunch.