After arriving in India at 4:00 AM Friday morning, we slept for a few hours and got up at 10:00 AM with a severe case of jet lag. Once hubby and I were awake enough for breakfast, we had our first meal in India. The ultimate Punjabi breakfast of aloo parathas and chai. Aloo Parathas are Hubby’s favorite comfort food. He grew up eating them almost everyday. If I go too long without making them, he’ll soon start to request them. Parathas are like chapatis in that they are Indian flat-breads, but what makes them different from chapatis is that they are layered with either a stuffing of some kind such as potatoes or you can also stuff them with paneer (Indian cheese), cauliflower, radish, fenugreek leaves or eggs. Plain parathas have layers of ghee (clarified butter) folded into into them. Some parathas have the stuffing made into the dough itself, while others have the stuffing enveloped into the dough. Aloo parathas are filled with a spicy potato mixture that has been enveloped into the dough and then rolled flat.
It has been a goal of mine to one day make Hubby’s favorite breakfast food as skillfully as Mummy-ji makes them. I make aloo parathas on a regular basis but Mummy-ji’s parathas are in a class of their own. Spicy and full of flavor, they pack quite a punch. The dough is especially soft and she is able to keep them in a perfect circular shape. One of the harder parts of making aloo parathas is to learn not to break the dough as you roll it flat, causing the potato stuffing to spill out.
Mummy-ji’s parathas are rolled wonderfully thin without hardly ever breaking, a skill that seems to only come with making many parathas for the whole family every day for the last thirty plus years. I guess I’ll just keep practicing till I catch up. I’m sure Hubby won’t mind at all.
“Slowly, slowly” she told me as I was trying my hand at making a few of my own parathas. Rolling them out slowly seems to be the key to preventing breakage, but I watched her make five parathas in no time at all, so it might be more about a light touch than just speed.
With Hubby as my translator I quizzed Mummy-ji on her tricks of the trade. I always thought it was best to grate the onions when making the potato stuffing, that way there are no large pieces of onion that might break through the dough as you are rolling but she mentioned it is better to cut the onion because you don’t want any liquid from the onion making the stuffing wet. Mummy-ji makes fresh potato mix every morning but she mentioned if I plan to keep it in the refrigerator than I should make the mixture without adding salt. Add the salt individually to the to the potato mixture as you are making the parathas.
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Mummy-ji’s Aloo Parathas
(video tutorial at the end of post)
Servings: 4 parathas
Time: 30 minutes
3 baby potatoes – these should be the size of only half of your palm, if they are the size of your full palm, only use 2
1/2 medium purple onion (sweet onion), or 1 small purple onion
2-3 small Thai chilies (or 1/2 teaspoon chili paste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (found at any Indian grocery store or in the spice section at Whole Foods)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
10 sprigs of cilantro, remove the stems and finely chop
small bowl of chapati flour (for rolling)
1/4 teaspoon of Ghee (clarified butter) – Substitute butter, oil or oil spray
You will need a batch of chapati dough for this recipe. If the chapati dough has been freshly made, make sure it “rests” for at least 20 minutes by placing it at room temperature in an air-tight container.
For the Potato Stuffing:
1. Boil the potatoes by bringing a pot of water to boil, drop in 1 teaspoon of salt (you want the water to taste like sea water) and drop in the potatoes (keep them whole, with the skin on so they do not take in a lot of moisture). Let them boil until you can easily stick a fork into them, about 10-15 minutes. Once boiled, remove them immediately and let them cool to the touch. Peel the potatoes and mash so there are no large chunks.
- If using medium size potatoes they will need to boil for 20-25 minutes. Large potatoes need 35-45 minutes to boil.
Add the chopped onion, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and garam masala, 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder and 2-3 finely chopped chilies (or use 1/2 teaspoon of chili paste).
- To make chili paste: take a large bunch of chilies, remove the stems and run them through a blender or food processor. A small food processor or blender can do a good job of blending only 10 or so chilies but a larger food processor or blender will need a bigger batch in order to make a paste. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for about a week.
Add the chopped cilantro.
Mix the spices into the mashed potatoes.
Divide the mixture into four equal rounds half the size of your palm (should be about the same size as a small potato).
preheat a flat pan or smooth stove-top griddle on medium high heat
Take a piece of the chapati dough (the size of your full palm) and roll it out flat. Keep it a bit thick or else the stuffing will break through during the rolling.
Place a portion of potato mixture in the center of the dough and “envelope” it by gathering up the dough in a tight bunch around the potato mixture and pinch the gathered dough to seal it.
Place the dough, pinched side down in the bowl of chapati flour and press softly with your knuckles to flatten the dough. Turn and repeat on the other side. Try to flatten the dough as much as possible while it is in the flour, this will make rolling out the paratha much easier.
- Mummy-ji likes to take the paratha back in her hands to flatten it even more by grasping the dough with one hand and pressing between her fingers and her palm. Using the other hand to turn the dough in a circular motion, she presses the dough continuously into a circular disk. You may need to lay the dough back in the flour if it is sticking to your hands.
- I prefer to lay it on the rolling board and press it with my palm to flatten it further.
Roll the dough with delicate pressure to about 1/4-inch thickness. As you roll, try to keep it in a circular shape. Try to roll slowly and with light pressure so the potato mixture doesn’t spill out.
Place the paratha on the hot griddle. Let it cook for about a minute, or until light brown spots appear on the under side.
Here is what a paratha looks like as it is cooking:
Clockwise from left: 1. after letting the paratha cook for a minute, flip it and you should see light brown spots on the under side 2. Flip again after a minute and the paratha will be lightly cooked on the top side 3. Cook on both sides for another minute, keep the paratha moving on the griddle to avoid burning. 4. Finishing with a healthy addition of ghee (butter).
Move and turn the paratha frequently so it does not burn. The paratha is done when all the dough has turned a very light golden brown with small brown spots on both sides.
Tips: it may take a few times to learn not to let the potato mixture break through the dough as you roll it out. It helps to start with a very soft dough (made soft by lots of kneading) which will roll flat with less pressure.