Some people find Indian food to be intimidating to make. Heck, I thought it was at first. I guess it’s so intimidating because of all the preparation required to make a meal. There is probably not one thing in Indian cuisine that does not require a great deal of preparation and a great deal of cooking time. When it comes to cooking Indian food, you have to love to cook.
I know that being able to cook at the age of six has always been a great advantage for me. It gave me more time to “master” all of the basics of Indian cuisine, “American” cuisine, and even Spanish cuisine. One of the most basic things in Indian cuisine that I learned to make as a child were parathas (Indian flat bread). I know that some people may not consider making parathas basic, but it’s considered basic in Indian and Pakistani cuisine (at least I think so).
I have made several different different types of Indian flat breads in my life. Whether it’s roti, paratha, puri, and tons of other Indian flat breads, I’ve made tons of it. I can’t say that I have made as much as my father or even as much as my grandmother who has over 65 years of experience making Indian flat breads, but I can say that I’ve got the technique and the science to paratha making down.
This post will probably be one of my longest posts, but it’s well worth reading, especially if you love Indian food. I will provide you with step-by-step instructions (with photos) for paratha making and I will share my recipe for a simple mango chutney.
For my sweet and savory mango chutney, you won’t need 20 different indian spices and 6 different types of vinegar or other things necessary to make a complicated chutney. All you’ll need are some basic ingredients that most people have in their pantry and a mango. Yep, that’s it! Nothing too complicated here…
My paratha recipe yields 15 parathas, but you can definitely halve the recipe if you don’t plan on making that many parathas.
So without further ado, here are the recipes:
Before I start, the paratha recipe calls for Whole Wheat flour. It’s not the regular stuff that you find at your local supermarket, you’re going to have to go to an Indian foods store and purchase something called “Chappati Atta” or “Duram Atta.” If you were to use regular whole wheat flour, your parathas/ chapatti’s would have a very dark color to them and their taste would be compromised. I use Golden Temple Chappati Atta, but you can use any brand that you’d like.
• About 1 ½ cups of luke warm water (around 78º F)
• 3 Cups of Whole Wheat flour
• ¼ plus ⅛ of a teaspoon of salt, or to taste
• Ghee (clarified butter) or oil (Do not use olive oil- it gives the parathas an odd taste)
• 1 ½ cups of extra flour in a dry bowl
1. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour and salt together (yes, with your hands). But, if you’d like, you can use a food processor for this. I wouldn’t use the dough attachment just because it doesn’t get along the sides of the machine- the regular attachment usually does.
2. Gradually add the water. Depending on humidity and the brand of atta that you are using; you may or may not need all of the water, so add it slowly just until a dough forms. If you’d like softer parathas, add more water, but I am warning you. The dough may be harder to work with. I prefer my parathas to be semi-soft because I like to smother them with mango chutney, which ends up making them a bit softer.
3. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes (or longer). Half way through the kneading process, add about ½ a teaspoon of oil (not ghee) and continue to knead until the dough is soft and feels smooth. Oil is used in this process to prevent the dough from forming a skin when it rests.
4. Cover the dough and set it aside to rest for 15 minutes.
5. With floured hands, divide the dough into 15 dough balls (a little larger than a golf ball), like the picture above.
6. Now, take a dough ball, and press it gently against the table (or whatever work surface you’re using) moving your hand and the ball in a circle pulling the dough into itself while reducing the pressure on top of the dough slightly until a perfect dough ball forms (like the picture above). Repeat with 14 other dough balls.
7. Let the dough balls rest on a floured work surface for 30 minutes to an hour. This step is optional, but should be completed if you would rather have softer parathas.
8. Pre-heat your tava (an indian cast iron skillet used for cooking Indian flat breads)/ skillet on medium-high heat.
9. Flatten a dough ball out onto a floured surface.
10. Dredge the flattened dough ball in flour (on both sides)
11. Roll out the dough into a circle six inches in diameter.
12. Take about ½ a tablespoon to ¾ of a tablespoon of oil and spread it onto the paratha.
Now, here is where it can change up… There are so many ways to create “layered” parathas, but I will share two of my favorite ways with you. There are probably 10 million other ways to do this (my dad does a method more similar to the second method that I’ll be sharing with you, but his way is a bit too complicated), but these two are most likely to be used more often.I’ll start off with the simpler one first (just so I don’t confuse any of you) and then I’ll show you the more “complicated” one.
Okay, here’s the simpler one…
13a. Taking a knife (any type, just not cerated) cut a straight line half way down the paratha disk. Then, take one end and begin to roll it counter-clockwise forming a two-dimensional conical shape (really technical, huh?)
14a. After the conical shape is formed, stand it up and find the center of the folds. Gently, take the center folds and push them down to form a patty (it sounds confusing, but just look at the photo above) Dredge the patty in flour and roll it out into a circle 6 inches in diameter.
15a. To take the excess flour off of the paratha- don’t shake it off! Gently take the disk and move it between both hands a couple of times, which will take the excess flour off, but will allow the paratha to keep its shape.
NOW, for the “complicated” one.
13b. Take your oiled paratha, and begin to roll it up making sure that the oil is not on the outside of the paratha.
14b. When you have a cylindrical shape, begin to form it into something like the above picture, making sure that the top end is on the top and the bottom end is on the bottom.
15b. Press it down and form into a patty. Dredge in flour and roll out into a circle six inches in diameter.
NOW FOR THE COOKING!
The cooking is the same for both techniques, so don’t worry…
16. Place your paratha on your heated skillet or tava. You’ll see the color of the paratha change and it will begin to puff up in certain places. Turn the paratha over.
17. Check the paratha for golden-brown blotches all over it. Allow the paratha to cook for a few seconds, then add enough oil to coat the top half of the paratha.
18. Flip the paratha.
19. Now, with your spatula, lightly press on the puffed areas to help allow the paratha to fully puff up. Make sure the paratha has golden-brown blotches on both sides (should look like above picture) and place it on an oven-proof plate in the oven (you can turn it on low, if you want) or place it in a casserole dish or tortilla heater.
Repeat steps 9 – 19 with the other paratha balls (remember that there are two different techniques to choose from for steps 13 – 15)
Serve with mango chutney (recipe below) or any Indian Side dish such as Aloo Gobi, Curry Chicken, or a nice healthy Bhindi Masala (Spiced Okra) .
• Parathas can be stored in an air-tight container for up to two days
•[UPDATE]: Don’t have a Tava? Use a regular ‘ol cast iron skillet. That should do the job…
• 1 mango
• 1 teaspoon of sugar (or to taste)
• A pinch of kosher salt
• About ½ a tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste (I like my chutney spicy, so I add more)
Take a ripe mango and cut it up (Don’t know how to cut a mango? Click HERE to learn how).
Please note that the color doesn’t always matter- it’s always the smell. If it smells very “mangoey” it should be ripe and sweet.
Once your mango is cut, place it in a bowl.
Mash the mango pieces with your hands or with a potato masher. Don’t over-mash because you’ll end up with liquid chutney.
Add the sugar, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes, and mix.
Store in the refrigerator before serving with parathas or serve at room temperature.
• Can be stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
• Do not put the mashed mango through a sieve because then you’ll end up with a spicy mango juice instead of mango chutney.