This Paratha recipe gives you another type of very simple Indian unleaven flatbread, similar to roti and chapati. The difference is that nearly all paratha recipes use ghee or oil both in the dough mix and during the cooking, and also the dough should be layered in some way.
The word comes from a combination or the Hindi words parat and atta meaning 'layers of cooked flour. They originated in the Punjab region but are now popular over the whole Indian subcontinent, each region having its own slight variations.
Parathas are also frequently stuffed with a whole range of things: potatoes, mooli, curry, cabbage, paneer - pretty well anything. This is the Indian equivalent of a sandwich and is often used as such, I have eaten stuffed paratha on long car journeys when I was in India.
I also quite often use up left over side dishes (actually I often make sure there will be some left over) in stuffed parathas which are a great snack or supper dish. There is a stuffed paratha recipe at the end.
Notes on Ingredients
Flour. Good paratha recipes will always say atta or chapati flour, if you cannot get this (and it is now fairly widely available) or you have run out, you can use ½ wholemeal, ½ strong white flour. I sift the wholemeal into the white through a fine sieve as this gives a softer finish.
Salt. This is optional - some people have a big thing about to much salt, and they do have a point; we generally do eat far too much of it. I tend to use a little salt (maybe ¼ teaspoon or less in 8oz flour) as I personally think it can be a little bland without it, you can leave it out if you wish.
Liquid. You can use milk or water here, or a mixture. Milk contains fat so this will add to the crispness. Breads made like this are less prone to go rubbery if left a while.
Add salt to the flour if you wish and mix in
Add 2 teaspoons ghee or oil and rub this in so that it is well distributed and the flour has a slight breadcrumb texture.
Add milk or water (use milk first then water if mixing) to the flour a little at a time until you have a soft pliable dough
Knead the dough for at least 5 minutes preferably more
Divide the dough into balls - as I say probably about 6-8
Start heating up your tava or frying pan
For each ball of dough :-
With a little more flour for dusting, roll out into a nice round, thin bit of dough, probably aim for about 5-6ins diameter
Fold the round into quarters and roll out again
Slap the dough into the pan cook for a couple of minutes
Turn it over and brush the cooked side with more ghee
Cook the other side for another couple of minutes
Now turn over again and brush the other side with ghee
Turn again and press down on the paratha with a fish slice (or some other flat implement - preferably not your hand unless you are impervious to pain)
Keep turning and pressing both sides - this will cause the bread to puff up nicely
It will be done when it is a nice golden brown colour, probably with a few reddish brown spots.
Repeat for each dough ball
Notes on Method
Rubbing in oil is a bit of a messy affair, you really need to use your hands to get a nice semi crumbly mixture.
If you read enough recipe books you will have undoubtedly come across things like '..make a little well in the dough and pour in the water..' I have never really figured the point of this, I just pour in some liquid and mix with a spoon (a lot less sticky), pour in some more liquid if required until it is of a consistency that I can start kneading it without getting my fingers coated in goo.
Knead well! - many chapati and paratha recipes omit to stress the importance of this. It will make the finished bread softer, kneading forms gluten within the dough (from the proteins gliadin and glutenin - like you care) and this makes the dough springy and elastic. If you don't knead it enough the final product will be crumbly and hard and fall to bits easily.
It is also good to let the dough rest for a while before rolling it out. Some would suggest that you make the dough the day before, wrap it in cling film and put in the fridge overnight - well if you like. Make sure it is not drying out while it is resting.
When you have made your little balls of dough you need to stop them from drying out; covering them with a damp cloth is OK.
Your tava or pan should be really hot when you start to cook. If it isn't, you will be drying out your dough before it starts to cook properly.
Another way to make the breads puff up nicely is to put them directly over a low gas flame for about 5 seconds a side. If you have an electric cooker, then a couple of seconds under a really hot grill will do the trick.
Don't worry if you make too much dough, wrap what you don't use in cling film and put in the fridge where it will keep for a couple of days. You can make little breads and even stuff them with leftover curry or vegetables (see below )
You don't see many stuffed paratha recipes about but the whole idea is to layer the dough or stuff it with something. You can either make something to stuff it with or use something leftover from a meal. My favourite is to make a little too much aloo bhaji and use this, but I have also used lentil dishes, and vegetable curries.
Mash up the aloo bhaji (or whatever other filling you are using) -
big lumps will not roll out easily and will tear the dough.
Make the parathas as above but roll the edges of the dough thinner than the centre, when they are rolled out put a dollop of filling in the centre.
Fold the edges over the filling to seal it into a ball
Dust with a little flour and then roll out again
Cook as normal.
I have seen paratha recipes that produce really flaky, yummy results by increasing the layering effect:
Initially roll out quite thin
Get one edge of the bread and roll up the bread to form a long tube
Now roll this with your hands to make it long and thin (remember doing this with plasticine as kid?)
Take this long 'snake' and coil it round to form a tightly packed spiral
Now roll this out again and cook as normal
Even with just the basics there are lots of paratha recipes and I long ago stopped worrying if I was doing it 'right' - if it works it's right. Other breads to look at:
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