|parathas at thirty-two|
my phupi (aunt) tells me that the best way to eat a paratha is the way kashmiri's eat it. they sprinkle it with salt and eat it washed down with a cup of strong yet milky and very sweet tea. i like the contrast of sweet and salty in this combination. i find eating paratha with something more substantial like a fried egg (which the way o likes it) difficult as the dough is rich with oil/ghee. my dadi (paternal grandmother) made the most delectable parathas. they were soft and flaky with lots of layers. she would often treat my brother and i to 'chirri roti', literally a paratha shaped like a bird. chirri roti was sweet because sugar was tucked into the centre of the paratha which would turn to syrup from the heat of the griddle. as i grew older i acquired the taste for achar, the spice heavy oil of would discolour my nails. i loved the pungent taste of it with the very mild bread. sometimes for sunday brunch my dadi would make stuffed parathas. she would boil potatoes and mash them with cumin, a little spice and some fresh coriander. the potato mash would be covered with dough, rolled out and fried on a griddle. these were best eaten with a cool yoghurt and a fiery mint sauce.
i do not know why but breakfast in the mountains - nathiagali and murree and even in the nearby margalla's in islamabad had to be paratha with omelette. in nathiagali at green's hotel we'd sit out in the garden with daisy chains in our hair. the omelette here is well fried and looks a little shriveled. sometimes it was cut through with the fresh sharpness of a green chili. the pleasure of this breakfast belongs to muree and nathiagali alone. i've eaten something similar when i was in udaipur in india and it just did not taste the same.
as a child i watched my dadi make parathas. she would often call them 'saamp wala paratha' as there are different styles of making parathas. saamp is the urdu word for snake and is actually quite helpful because you have to lengthen the dough so that it looks like a little snake and then coil it. my first attempt at making parathas in my flat in london were from a combination of memory, a conversation with my phupi and a lovely illustrated blog from indian simmer's prerna.
i made enough dough for the two of us using
1 cup of wholewheat flour
1 tbsp vegetable oil plus more for brushing and frying
enough water to work the flour into a dough
extra flour for rolling the parathas
start by placing the flour in a bowl. make a little well in the centre and add the oil and a little bit of water. work the water into the dough gradually until you get a soft dough that does not stick to your hands. then grease the surface of the dough and let it sit for around fifteen minutes. the traditional manner of cooking a paratha is on a tawa which is a slightly convex pan usually made of iron. since i didn't have one i used a large frying. you could use a frying pan or a pancake pan as well.
when you are ready to make the parathas divide the dough into three equal parts. the ball should rest easily in the cup of your palm. roll it into ball. flour the surface on which you are working and then roll the dough ball into a thin circle. brush the surface of the rolled dough with oil and then fold it into pleats. take the two ends of the pleated dough, pull them a bit and then twist in opposite directions. now place it on the worktop and coil the dough, tucking the loose end inside. press it to flatten it a bit and then dust and roll. the paratha should be roughly six inches in diametre. brush it with oil.
brush the pan with oil and heat it to medium high. when it is hot place the paratha on the griddle (oiled side down). brush the surface with oil. it is ready to turn over when the underside has small brown patches.