Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Waiter, there's something in my ... bread

Tues 24 April 2007

I am a carbohydrate junkie, so while my Easter biscuits just missed the Easter Basket extravaganza, I was determined to hit the bread (dead) line. Andrew, over at Spittoon Extra is hosting (in between wine tasting in Spain and prosecco dinners at L'Ortolan).

Now, because of various hosting commitments, this has been a pretty busy month and I didn't really have time for a baking extravaganza - which was a shame. But I did decide to have a go at making one of my favourite breads: paratha. I judge curry houses by their paratha and as far as I'm concerned, a good dahl and a good paratha makes one of the ultimate comfort meals.

As it was a mid-week cooking session, I consulted Camellia Panjabi's 50 Great Curries of India. This is a fantastic, practical book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Paratha are sinfully simple to make: 1 cup of wholemeal flour is mixed with 165mL of warm water. When partially combined add 2 teaspoons of oil (ideally, this would be melted ghee, but I only had oil to hand). If you wish, add some finely chopped mint or coriander leaves, maybe a bit of chilli - whatever is to hand. Or, as I did, you can leave the mix plain. Knead the dough for about 8 minutes: until it is nice and elastic. Panjabi recommends leaving the dough to rest for an hour.

Paratha in Indian restaurants are always multi-layered and I was wondering how they achieved this. After dividing the dough in six, Panjabi says to roll out each portion into a 20 cm long oval (I couldn't quite roll out the dough that thinly) and then pinch the oval in the middle to form a figure-eight. You then fold the dough back on itself to make a multilayered pancake. I have to confess I didn't quite master this.

To cook the paratha heat some oil (ghee) in a pan, and cook the paratha on one side. Before turning, brush the uncooked side with melted ghee. They're done in a jiffy and ready to be eaten with a bowl of dahl (in this case, yellow split peas cooked and finished off with turmeric, garam masala and some of the hot oil from the paratha pan). The paratha weren't really like those found in curry houses: they tend to be thicker, a lot larger and I suspect they're made from a mixture of white and wholemeal flour. And while the greasiness of a restaurant paratha is part of its appeal, it's not something that's entirely easy to reproduce at home! But, as a quick, simple adjunct to any curry, making my own paratha is definitely an option I'll be pursuing in future. It will also be a good way to help use up any mint or coriander you have left over!

So actually - waiter - there's nothing in my bread, not even yeast and what are these hippy bean-lentil things doing on the side?!

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Blogger Andrew said...

What!!! No Yeast!!! Outrageous


3:53 pm  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Oooh, thanks for the reminder. We love parathas and haven't had them in a while!

That figure-8 technique sounds very confusing! When I roll out parathas, I use the technique described by Madhur Jaffrey in "An Invitation to Indian Cooking".

This is what I do:
Roll a ball of dough out into a disc about 1/8 inch thick. Brush with melted butter; fold in half and brush with butter again; fold in half again and brush with butter once more. Roll out the buttered triangle to about 1/8 inch thick.

We've never bothered making ghee and just use butter for between the layers.

Dahl sounds good with paratha but our favourite way of eating them is for breakfast with whole green chilis and coarse seasalt - maybe a few coriander leaves on the side.


P.S. There are photos of our parathas from last year at blog from OUR kitchen - Paratha: easier than chapatis!

12:49 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

Elizabeth - I think your technique would definitely result in richer parathas ... so I'll have to give it a go.

I don't know I'd bother making ghee - that would definitely be coming from the supermarket!

12:08 pm  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

We don't even bother buying ghee from the supermarket. Unclarified butter works and paratha made with regular butter tastes pretty much the same as that made with ghee.

I hope your Jaffrey-rolled parathas turn out, Alex. Let me know!


1:54 pm  

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