Sunday, October 4, 2009

Picture Perfect Paratha






This trip to Bangalore was a trip down memory lane. My friends, Sunit & Shweta have recently moved back to India from Canada and had been insisting that I drop in . With the 2nd October weekend around the corner, it was all arranged in a rush. We arrived at 4:00 in the morning in a delicious light drizzle and from then onwards it was delicious all the way! One day was spent in looking up old haunts. Things change of course. I was pleasantly surprised by the much-improved public transport of Bangalore. I was very disappointed that Lalita's Paratha Point, where we used to eat some good, old-fashioned, heavy-duty parathas had vanished with the intervening years.No matter! Sunit & Shwetha whistled up the following parathas the next day for a very, very satisfying brunch. Just Parathas and Raita. Did I say just? This is one of the most decadent breakfasts in India.
North Indians love their parathas, not least because of the endless variety possible. Your stuffing can be made with anything. It had however be best consumed hot. Indeed, it is very hard to resist when a paratha is piled on your plate straight from the tawa! These were stuffed with three different fillings. The fillings can be prepared in advance and kept refrigerated.
The measurements are for 16 parathas of 6 inch diameter. The trick to paratha making is making sure that one doesn't over-stuff the filling. The first rolling out of the small balls of dough is critical, as is the second rolling to form the flatbread.

For the Dough
3 and half cups white flour (you can add upto 1 cup wheat flour too)
1/2 teaspoon roasted ajwain
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 cup oil, for frying

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly. Add one-third cup of the water and work it to make the dough. Add water as you go. The final dough will be slightly sticky but can be made into smaller balls. Add sprinkles of flour to each small ball of dough to keep them separate once they are pinched off the main mass.

Fillings
These can be stored back in the refrigerator if not used up at one go.
Potato filling for Aloo Paratha
4 medium sized cooked potatoes, cooked and grated
2 Tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped fine
1 large onion, finely grated
1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 green chilli, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon oil

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan. Saute half of the chopped onion until they pick up brown flecks. Will take about 1o minutes at low heat. Add the salt and the chilli powder to mix it in thoroughly. Add the fried onion mixture to the grated potatoes along with the rest of the ingredients (onion, coriander leaves, green chilli). Mix it up with your hand. Let it rest so that the grated potato absorbs the flavours.

Paneer filling for Paneer Paratha
110 gm ready-made paneer, grated (any cottage cheese can be substituted here, or one can make home-made paneer)
1/2 teaspoon cumin, dry-roasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix up all ingredients with hand.

Processed Cheese filling for Cheese Paratha
110 gm processed cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder

Mix up all ingredients with hand.

Making of the Paratha
Heat up a tawa or heavy cast iron pan. On a well floured surface, roll out each small ball of dough into a circle, not less than half centimetre thick. Add half teaspoon filling of choice. Fold over from the four sides to completely cover the filling. Firmly close the edges and roll into a ball again (with the filling inside now). Again roll it into a circle on the floured surface. This is really the most important part. The circle must rotate all the time to allow for uniform thickness. Its a good idea to flip it once in a while so that it does not stick. Again, the thickness of the paratha is what decides a good paratha. Too thick and it wouldn't cook through; too thin and it sticks to the surface. It usually is safe to make it about 5 millimetre thick. Flip it onto the hot tawa. Quickly cook both surfaces for half a minute each. Add a tablespoon of oil around the edges to cook/fry at the lowest heat. One tends to listen for the sizzle to ascertain whether the tawa-facing side is cooked. Usually takes about 4-7 minutes (depending on the thickness). Flip it to the other side, add about a tablespoon of oil. Cook it. Golden with a few brown flecks. Keep them warm in a towel or better still consume immediately!
A raita or a chutney is the usual accompaniment. Ghee or salted butter is the other choice for an indulgent breakfast.

Accompaniments
4 Tablespoon ghee or salted butter dor serving

Raita
250 gm beaten curd
1 teaspoon ground, dry-roasted cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly goround pepper

Mix everything with a fork. I usually chop some mint into it, but plain serves the purpose very well!



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