A few years ago there was a curry restaurant in the village I lived. The guys who ran it were from Kenya and had a heritage from the Indian subcontinent. It remains the very best indian restaurant I have ever been to. Sadly now it has closed, it really didn't get the business it deserved in that little village. One thing I really enjoyed there were the paratha. Smaller than a naan, a bit more substance than a popadom, and they had a wonderful flaky texture.
I recently attempted to make some for myself. I'm not making claims of this being 'traditional' in any way. This is merely an attempt to make a close approximation to the paratha's I enjoyed.
- 2 cups of atta flour (otherwise known as roti or chapati flour), or 3 cups plain flour.
- 1 cup of water
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp vegetable oil, or ghee
- Extra flour for rolling, preferably rice flour.
A word of caution on flour
Chapati flour sold as 'Chapati flour' by EXE in Kenya is not atta flour by traditional standards, it's essentially repackaged plain flour that's a bit more 'gluteny'.
I was always told that the paratha at the restaurant were made with chickpea flour or gram flour (I forget it was a while ago and I was at the time concerned with being 'gluten free'). I don't have any to test the recipe with, however if you want to I would suggest mixing the chickpea/gram flour with wheat flour to give it some consistency.
You can also use around 3 cups of plain flour, this flour is not as absorbant I found that in normal measures there was too much water. As you use different flour from different areas, you will find that they react wildly differently. So please experiment to find the best for you.
Adding the flour to a large bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in 4 tbsp of vegetable oil or ghee.
Mix this together well and then slowly add the water until it forms a slightly sticky dough. You don't want these to dry out.
Roll into a ball and use the additional 1tbs of oil or ghee and coat the ball of dough, cover, and leave to sit for 15 minutes.
Split the dough in half and roll into two 4 inch halves. Then split each half into 1 inch pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, and then flatten in the palm of your hand. Cover the dough so that it doesn't dry out.
Heat a pan to a medium-high heat.
Now for the part that makes the parathas amazing and flaky.
I have tried a number of methods here, I prefer the square method. Roll your ball of dough out into a circle. Lightly coat with your fat/oil of choice (oil, ghee, or butter). I'm using butter.
Next, fold one edge of the circle into the middle and spread some butter onto the folded part. Then, fold the opposite edge of the circle over this folded part and spread some butter onto this folded piece.
You should now have a tube of dough. Take the right hand edge and fold this into the middle, coating this with butter, and then do the same with the opposite edge bringing it all the way over to the right hand edge.
You should now have a little parcel of dough. Sprinkle this parcel with flour and roll it out flat and as thin as possible, being careful to keep the folds in one place, it takes a little practice not to completely flatten the dough and lose the shape of it. If you roll out the paratha and keep all the folds in one place, you will find it is much more flaky and you won't get the middle popping open like the inside of a pita bread.
There are a number of methods for rolling the layers into the paratha, you can find a good guide with photos over at veg recipes of india it will probably be a lot easier to follow than my explanation here :)
Now what you should be doing is cooking these paratha as you go, you'll be at it for a while otherwise! However, first time get them all ready first. Just make sure to keep them covered otherwise they will dry out and pop apart.
Place a paratha in your heated pan and wait until you see bubbles forming. Once you do, flip your paratha and coat the hot side with butter. Cook the other side for about a minute and flip your paratha again, coating this opposite side with butter. Keep on flipping the paratha every now and until it has some nice brown spots.
It may be an idea to keep a vaguely hot oven ready with a tray so that you can keep your paratha warmed up. Although if you're making these well in advance it's not really necessary.
These are amazing with curry and I guarantee all your friends will enjoy them.