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Passport & Plate - Aloo Parantha (Indian stuffed potato bread)

India | Thursday, 27 February 2014 | 3 photos


Ingredients

The dough:
1 cup flour (+ extra)
Approximately 1 cup water (+ extra if required)
Pinch of salt
Olive oil (for drizzling)

The stuffing:
1 medium sized potato – boiled until soft and peeled (leftover mashed potatoes work in a pinch)
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
3 large cloves finely chopped garlic (do not use a garlic press or the flavour will be overpowering)
¼ Tsp cumin seeds
½ Tsp garam masala
Ground chili pepper to taste (it can be spicier than you’re comfortable with as the bread will soften the flavour)
Salt to taste

How to prepare this recipe
The dough:
Put the flour in a large bowl for mixing, and gradually add the water – you may or may not need the entire amount, so proceed slowly as the dough starts to form. Use additional alternating tablespoons of water and flour until the dough reaches as soft a consistency as possible without being sticky, creating a ball of dough.
Knead the dough for 4-5 minutes.
Roll into a ball.
Drizzle a small about of olive oil into the palm of your hand and gently roll the ball of dough, cover the surface lightly.
Set the dough aside to rest while you prepare the filling.

The stuffing:
Mash all the ingredients together with a fork.

Assembly:
1. Place a large frying pan on the stove on medium heat.
2. Separate the ball of dough into two equally sized balls.
3. Take one ball, and flatten it to about the size of your palm creating a circle about ½ inch thick.
4. With your other hand, grab a generous handful of filling and place it in the center of the dough, cupping your hand so as to surround the filling with dough. Your hand will start to close around the filled dough ball. Pull the edges over the filling to create a stuffed ball.
5. Gently flatten the stuffed dough ball into a circle on a generously floured counter top. With a rolling pin, roll the ball of stuffed dough as thin as you can, without allowing the stuffing to protrude from the dough, the thinner the better.
6. Place the flattened stuffed dough into a dry frying pan. Within 1-2 minutes the dough should start to lightly brown. Once lightly browned, flip. While the other side cooks, drizzle a small amount of olive oil onto the top side and spread with a brush (I used the back of a spoon). Once the other side is browned flip the dough again, repeating the same step with a small amount of oil on the other side.
7. Repeat the same steps with the next parantha.

Serving:
Add a dash of salt if you'd like.
Cut into quarters for serving.
The story behind this recipe

My first trip to India, I will readily admit, I was a bit of a curry-virgin. I could count on one hand the times I’d been to an Indian restaurant. I thought curry was the yellow powder in a bag in the spice isle. (It is not. I assure you). But I knew in spending six months in India while completing my master’s degree, I had a rare opportunity to learn about Indian cooking. So I made it my mission to find my way into the kitchens of Indian households at every chance I could get. This of course proved to be easier said than done. I was a white woman – a guest in people’s homes. And guests simply aren’t allowed in the kitchen.

But I persevered, and eventually, Mrs. Kunwar, the mother of a young man I’d met while doing my research, let me not only into her home, but her kitchen. At first I was invited over for tea and snacks. Mrs. Kunwar, her daughter Rashmi and I would have long conversations in broken English. While half the discussion was in Hindi, I’m convinced we were talking about the same things. Eventually, I was permitted to come into the kitchen – but only to watch. Instructions were in half English, half Hindi. Quantities were imprecise but steps were important to follow. Over time, I was allowed to help – adding ingredients at key intervals, stirring the pot, rolling out chapatti dough (often with laughter from my kind instructors).

This recipe is an outcome of my observations, trial and error, and my overall desire for the perfect afternoon snack (or in my case often a meal). It mixes two of my favourite Indian flavours – curried potatoes and chapatti bread, in what is best described as stuffed flat bread called Aloo Parantha. The measurements are estimates and should be adjusted to suit your tastes. The perfect bread dough is an art form and needs to be felt to be perfected. I’m certain the quantities change every time I made it, so just keep trying until it “tastes right”. It will all come together beautifully in the end. And it will be delicious!

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