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Thursday, 18 May 2006

Paratha: easier than chapatis!

image

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(click on image for photos of paratha making)
paratha We recently read about parathas in Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid. And then T got that far away look as he reminisced about the best parathas he ever had while trekking in the Himalayas. Ever since, I wanted to make parathas.

And yesterday, I decided to go ahead. Initially, I was going to make stuffed parathas but T nixed that. He said he’d never had a stuffed paratha that was crispy and he wanted crispy parathas.

I made the dough and when it came time to cook the paratha, we headed into the kitchen together. Here is how things went just after I turned out the dough and divided it into 6 pieces:

T: The dough seems awfully dark coloured.

Me: It’s all whole wheat flour.

T (disapproving tone): All wholewheat? You never do that with chapatis. It’s always half and half, whole wheat and white!

Me: Jaffrey says to use all whole wheat flour.

T (disapproving tone): Yah, all atta!!

Me: That’s basically what we have. It’s “all-purpose” whole wheat flour. It’s more finely milled than the whole wheat flour we used to get.

T (disapproving tone): *silence*

Well… this wasn’t going very well so far. But things started looking up once the first paratha was cooked. T brightened noticeably. And pointed out that they were way easier to make than chapatis because there was no need to puff them over the bare element.

(click on image for photos of paratha making)
paratha And once they were all ready, we sat down to try them by tearing off a bit, dipping in salt and taking a nibble of green chili. The bread was light and crispy. The butter had taken on a slightly smoky quality. The chili lent a lovely freshness. The salt balanced the chili and the butter. Really wonderful.

And joy of joys!! T’s eyes glazed over and he murmurred through a mouthful, This is as good as I’ve ever had.

And really, they were fabulous. We’ll definitely be having these again soon!

Here is the recipe:

Paratha
based on a recipe in An Invitation to Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey
edited 21 May 2006

makes six parathas

  • 1½ c wholewheat flour, finely milled (atta flour)
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil (or sunflower, safflower, etc…)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ~½ c just boiled water
  • ~¼ c butter, melted
  • more flour for rolling
  • more oil for cooking

Preparation

  1. Put flour into a medium sized bowl. (If you don’t have atta flour, you can use whole wheat “all purpose” flour OR a half and half combination of unbleached all-purpose flour and regular whole wheat flour.)
  2. Add oil and salt.
  3. Add some of the water and stir with a wooden spoon. Gradually add water little by little, stirring constantly until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
  4. Knead the dough in the air for 8 to 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
  5. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with a damp cloth or plastic hat and set aside for about 30 minutes. (Jaffrey says it will keep up to 24 hours if wrapped in plastic and refrigerated.)
  6. Heat tava (or cast-iron skillet) to medium high heat. To check that the pan is hot enough, flick cold water at it. If the water lies there, it’s not hot enough. If it disappears immediately, the pan is too hot. If it beads and bounces, the pan heat is JUST right.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Place the dough balls a little apart on the corner of the board and cover with a damp cloth.
  8. Roll a ball out into a disc about 1/8 inch thick. Brush with melted butter; fold in half and brush with butter again; fold in half again and brush with butter once more. Roll out the buttered triangle to about 1/8 inch thick.
  9. Spread about half a teaspoon of oil onto the hot tava and place the rolled triangle onto it. Begin to roll out the next ball.
  10. Turn the cooking paratha after it puffs up and is golden brown on the bottom (about 4 minutes). Continue cooking until the second side is golden brown (about 4 minutes). Place the cooked paratha upright in a basket while cooking the others. (Avoid stacking them or they will get soggy.)
  11. Add little amounts of oil as needed for the rest of the parathas.
  12. If you want to reheat the breads quickly before serving, place them on the hot tava for a few minutes.

Serve with green chillies and sea salt. Garnish with coriander leaves if you want.

They are also good with any vegetable curry or dahl.

Afterwards, I asked if I should use half white and half whole wheat flours the next time and was told categorically, no. Apparently, they were exactly as they should be. In fact, they were pretty much exactly as the Himalayan paratha had been.

Don’t you love it when things go exactly right?

 
edit: We made Aloo Paratha

4 Comments for Paratha: easier than chapatis!” »

  1. Comment by bing — 18 May 2006 @ 20:48 EDT

    Mm. I’ve only ever had frozen parathas. They weren’t crispy at all, even the ones that weren’t stuffed. I can’t wait to try these – “crispy” sounds great. I still haven’t got any whole wheat flour though – a to-do …

    An excellent story. I’ll get all-purpose whole wheat and follow your recipe exactly, hoping for the same results as you got.

    Are you going to try filled parathas too?

  2. Comment by ejm — 19 May 2006 @ 09:03 EDT

    I’m looking forward to hearing if yours work out as well as ours did!

    And yes, I still want to try making filled paratha – Duguid and Alford suggest a spicy potato filling that sounds fantastic. But I’m wondering just how hard it would be to roll once the potato is in there. It was oozy enough with butter. What must lumps of things be like?!

    So I was thinking of a more simple stuffing of green chillies and/or butter and onion. Hmmm… in order to get past the kitchen police, I might have to change the name and say that I’m trying to make Chinese green onion cakes. :jump:

    I bet the fenugreek leaves would be good too.

  3. Comment by tph — 19 May 2006 @ 10:06 EDT

    If you’re going to stuff a paratha then some sort of spicy alu (potato) filling is the most common. That’s what I remember anyway.

    I think rather than stuff and roll it’s better to make two very thin round chapatis of the same size. Spread the alu mixture evenly on one thin round and cover with the other and pinch together so you’ve got a sort of deflated balloon with stuffing in between. Then cook normally using ghee, oil or butter. Here’s a good description of the technique.
    http://srefoodblog.blogspot.com/2006/03/potato-stuffed-paratha-alu-paratha.html

    Other variations are:
    Keema paratha – stuffed with spicy ground meat
    Methi paratha – stuffed with green fenugreek curry
    Meetha (sweet) paratha – stuffed with a little jaagery (palm) or brown sugar

  4. Comment by ejm — 19 May 2006 @ 10:19 EDT

    Oooooh!!! I’m excited! Shyamala’s revised technique seems like the perfect solution. Let’s try it for lunch!

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