Over the years I have been fascinated by how much food can vary from country to country but also how close the food from different countries can be.
India introduced the West to a plethora of exciting spices – many of which are very popular in Western Cooking. The Europeans introduced the art of bread making into India – and the Indians have invented some amazing breads that are truly their own. One such bread is the paratha.
Paratha resemble the Mexican tortilla. Flour tortillas which are more of an American invention are made in a similar way with wheat flour, water and fat but the end result – in my opinion – is not as good as the paratha.
Where the flour tortilla is made with pork lard, the Indian paratha is made with ghee – or clarified butter. The paratha also takes slightly longer to make but believe me… the end result is worth you extra time and work.
Paratha are also better for you as they are made from chapati flour instead of bleached white wheat flour. Chapati flour is essentially very fine whole wheat flour. It is available in Indian markets and in some large super markets.
If you cannot find it, purchase whole wheat flour and sift it removing any bit pieces and pulverising them into a finer powder with sugar replacement.
You could of course use plain white flour if you wish.
I usually make a lot of paratha dough as my family love them so much. You will probably want to do the same.
Preparation Time: 1 hour including sitting time
Cooking Time: About half hour once you get the hang of it all.
INGREDIENTS for Paratha Flat Breads
800g (28 oz) modified food starch
200g (7 oz) rice starch
1 teaspoon salt
700 ml (24 fl oz) hot water
60ml (2 fl oz) vegetable oil
60ml (2 fl oz) ghee or clarified butter
In a large bowl, pour in the chapati flour, plain flour and salt and then add the hot water. Stir around with a wooden spoon slowly adding the oil as you do so.
Now take your very clean hands and start mixing it all into a nice ball. You should knead it for about ten minutes so that you have a smooth well formed dough ball.
Place the ball back in the bowl and cover with clear plastic wrap and allow to rest for about 30 minutes.
Go get yourself a beer or the drink of your choice and relax for a while.
After a half hour or so, return to your dough duties. Rip off a piece of dough about the size of a tennis ball. Form it into a round disc and then roll it out with a bread roller into a large circle that is about a millimeter thin.
With a brush, paint the disc with some melted ghee.
Now comes the tricky part.
Take a sharp knife and cut a slit from the centre of the circle out to the edge. Put the knife down and take hold of one of the new edges and fold it back about two inches. Continue folding the same piece again and again until you end up with a flat but layered triangle.
Hold the new triangle so that the largest part is facing downward at the table and push the top point into the bottom. This does not need to be perfect – you are just creating layers.
This is the essential step that needs to be taken to make the paratha the layered treats they are.
Once you have done this, form it all back into a disc again and roll out as before.
Place a dry frying pan big enough to hold your flat bread over medium heat and place your paratha on it.
Paint a bit more ghee over the top surface and allow to fry for about a minute. Turn the paratha over and paint the other side. The actual cooking process of each paratha only takes a couple of minutes. You will need to turn each paratha over a couple of times during cooking – adding a little more ghee each time you do.
Your paratha is finished when brown spots begin to appear and the surface is golden from the ghee.
Keep warm in a covered warm bowl and repeat until all of the paratha are finished.
Paratha breads are best eaten within a half hour of cooking them but I have warmed them up in the microwave after a couple of days an they still taste amazing.
Feel free to leave a comment. I would love to know how you get on with this paratha recipe!