Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Aloo Parathas or Potato Stuffed Indian Flatbreads

Most of the second half of 2016 I was focused on Indian foods. In the main, this came about because:
  1. My husband and I love Indian food.
  2. We invited some friends to a finer Indian dinner.
  3. We invited more friends to another fine, and bigger Indian dinner.
I made so many things during that time period, that it became difficult to even find a non-Indian recipe to post here. I didn't want it to seem that Indian was the only cuisine I was interested in, but from July on, it seemed to be the highlight. 
Aloo Parathas
Aloo Parathas

During this time, while I revisited some recipes we already know and love, I also got into looking through Indian blog sites and started copying down recipes I wanted to try. I have mentioned before that I prefer to make things in a better order, using less pots, pans or utensils if possible. I cook alone, and I am sole cook and bottle-washer. I realize that the Indian blogs I read are mostly written in English as a second language. Partly due to this, and I am sure, partly due to a method handed down from mother to daughter, using older methods and less equipment, the recipes can be very clumsy to a modern cook in the USA.  

When I begin with a recipe new to me, I first read and re-read it, setting things in order (to my mind). Then I check at least 6 or more other recipes in the blog-world, just to check what others do. Then I sit to compose what I think would work best for me. And then I give it a try. Sometimes with fantastic results and sometimes not so fantastic, meaning, back to the drawing board.

So it was with Parathas (see my blog of July 4, 2016), an Indian flatbread. Parathas are usually about 6 to 8 inches in diameter, thicker than chapatis (similar to a corn tortilla in size and thickness) and thinner than Naan breads, which most people are familiar with these days and more akin to soft pita bread in thickness. When I made them the first time, the recipe called for "whole meal flour", which I took to mean whole wheat flour. I grind my own wheat berries here at home, so I also have more of the bran left in whole wheat flour than you'd get elsewhere. The Parathas were very dark in color and certainly lacked tenderness. So I did more research, coming up with some new facts.
  • When an Indian recipe calls for "wholemeal" flour, they are referring to a type of flour available in India, but not everywhere in the USA.
  •  To approximate their wholemeal flour, combine half whole wheat and half all-purpose flour.
  • To be even more authentic, pass the whole wheat flour through a very fine sieve to remove even more bran from the flour, and THEN measure it.
For the remainder of the recipe, I sort of played around, because making something new often requires practice. There are many methods for forming and cooking the parathas, so you kind of have to just test out what works for you, in your own kitchen, with your particular utensils.

My husband was not exactly enchanted with the plain parathas, even after I made them a second time, with great success. He's not crazy about plain flour tortillas either, unless they are stuffed with things for a taco. To make them more interesting (and for me to try a new recipe!), I decided to try stuffing the parathas. There are oodles of recipes out there on various fillings for the parathas, and I went with a common one - potatoes. Of course it is not just plain potatoes; they are mixed with herbs and spices and taste great all on their own. And this time, my husband loved them. And, I made them again for the first of the two Indian dinners mentioned above. 

Making the Stuffed Parathas
Making the Stuffed Parathas

Problem is, they really have to be made right before eating. They taste good reheated, but lose some of their delicate tenderness after reheating. When I had what seemed like 20 things all going at once (only a slight exaggeration), it made it difficult to squeeze in the time for making the parathas. I did have them all stuffed and rolled out. All I had to do was cook them. This is a relatively quick process, but they are done one at a time. I could have pulled out my big griddle, but there just wasn't enough room, what with everything else out in preparation for the dinner.

Looking at the sequential photos above, It is a simple enough procedure. The dough is flexible and stretchy. It really doesn't stick to the counter - a little cooking spray (I found) is better than adding more flour to roll them out. The only real trick is stopping before rolling them too thinly, and this is just a matter of getting accustomed to the feel of the dough.

Cooking the Parathas
Cooking the Parathas

The recipe itself is simple. Just remember that the dough needs to rest at least 30 minutes before using it, so plan accordingly. If you boil the potatoes beforehand, so they can cool while you make the dough, then you can work with the potatoes while the dough is resting. It all works out easily. And these are truly scrumptious. The one more unusual spice used in this recipe is Amchur powder, so check out this post of May 2014 to read about it.

A Stack of Parathas
A Stack of Parathas

Aloo Parathas

Makes 6 or 8

1 cup whole wheat flour, passed through a fine sieve
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted ghee or vegetable oil
3/4 cup water

2 medium potatoes, boiled whole
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
1 green chilie such as Serrano, minced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
1/2 teaspoon amchur powder (or a squeeze of lime juice)

Set potatoes to boil in a saucepan with water to cover. Make paratha dough: combine the two kinds of flour, and salt. Add in the ghee and the water and stir to form a dough. Knead the dough for 2 or 3 minutes. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes (or refrigerate if longer).

Once potatoes are cooked through, drain and set aside to cool to room temperature. Peel the potatoes, discarding skin. Set potatoes in a bowl and lightly mash. Add in all the remaining filling ingredients and stir well. The potatoes do not need to be mashed fine. Once mixed, divide the mixture into
6 or 8 equal pieces and form the pieces into a ball.

Divide the paratha dough into the same amount (6 or 8) of equal pieces as the potato filling. On a floured surface or one sprayed with cooking spray, roll out one paratha ball to about a 5-inch round. Hold the paratha in one hand and set one ball of potato mixture in the center. Bring up all the edges of the dough to encase the potato mixture and press to seal. Set this ball back on the surface and flatten with hands, then roll out the paratha to about 8-inches (if making 6 parathas) or smaller 6-inches if making 8.

Brush oil or ghee in a hot skillet and place one paratha in the pan to cook until one side is deep brown in spots. Brush the uncooked top with oil or ghee and flip over to cook for about another minute until the opposite side has dark spots. Remove and repeat for all the parathas.

Best served hot.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.