Parathas are chapatis’ more indulgent siblings. Layered with butter, ghee or oil and then roasted on a cast iron pan where more fat is added, these are not for anybody wanting to reduce their cholesterol levels! Whereas chapatis are an everyday staple in India, parathas are generally saved for special occasions or as a breakfast treat. They can be eaten with both meat and vegetable dishes, or simply with a cup of masala chai.
Parathas, like chapatis are unleavened breads made with wholewheat flour (‘atta’ in Hindi). Chapati atta is generally made from durum wheat and is more finely milled than ‘western’ style wholemeal/wholewheat flour. These days you can find chapati atta in most large UK supermarkets as well as in local Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi shops or online. I’ve read that it can be substituted with various combinations of plain wholemeal, plain white and wholemeal bread flour, but I’ve never tried any of these so can’t guarantee the end result.
There are various different ways to making parathas and they can be square, triangular or round depending on your layering method. I’ve actually deviated away from my mum’s technique as she goes for the slightly (and I mean only slightly!) healthier option of not layering any fat in the parathas. She does however make round ones, and any other shape just doesn’t seem right to me. So after a bit of research online I found a way to create layers and fold the dough so the end product is round. I’ve added photos to help guide you along this layering process. The chapati atta I’ve found here in Mumbai is lighter in colour (unfortunately probably bleached) to what I am accustomed to in the UK, so don’t worry if your parathas look darker than the ones in the pictures.
These are easier to make than chapatis, so have a go and treat yourself!
Plain Parathas (makes 8 medium sized parathas)
300g chapati atta, plus extra for rolling
Large pinch of salt
2 tbsp oil (I use olive)
175g* hand hot water (you may need more or less depending on your brand of flour)
40-50g softened unsalted butter (you can use ghee or oil as an alternative)
* I don’t usually measure the quantities, and go by sight and feel when I make these. As I generally put water straight from the kettle into the bowl of flour, I found it easier to weigh than measure in millilitres. Having said that, water should be the same figure in both grams and millilitres!
Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and add the oil. Rub in until evenly mixed in.
Make a well in the flour and add 150g of the water. Use your hands to mix the flour into the water a bit at a time until you have a non-sticky, slightly soft but firm (not hard) dough. Add more flour or water if necessary – I used the full 175g of water. If you’ve made chapatis before, the paratha dough should be of a slightly firmer consistency. Knead in the bowl for a few minutes until smooth.
Cover and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.
After resting, briefly knead the dough again and divide into 8 equally sized balls.
Place a chapati pan or flat cast iron pan (a regular non–stick frying pan will do if you don’t have one of these) on a medium high heat.
Gently flatten one of the balls of dough between your palms so you have a thick disc of dough.
Sprinkle a little flour onto both sides of the disc and on a clean work surface roll out into a round 2-3mm thick. The thinner you can go, the more layering you will get. Pick up and turn the dough regularly as you’re rolling to prevent it sticking.
Evenly spread ⅓ of a teaspoon of butter on the top surface of the rolled out dough. Pick up the edge closest to you and start rolling it away from you to make a cylinder.
Now roll the cylinder from one short edge to the other. It should look like a snail shell.
Tuck the outside edge underneath, and flatten again into a thick disc. Sprinkle a little flour on both sides and roll out into rounds approximately 15cm in diameter and 2-3mm in thickness, again picking up and turning the dough as you go to avoid any sticking.
Once you’ve rolled out the dough for the second time, pick it up and place it on the hot pan. Quite quickly you will see some blistering on the top surface. When there are 10-20 of these, use a palette knife or similar to turn the paratha over. The dough will look partly cooked but is unlikely to have many brown spots at this stage. Don’t worry if there are any small raw patches at this point.
Now spread ⅓ of a teaspoon of butter on to the top (partly cooked) surface.
Use your palette knife to check the underneath surface. If there are brown spots developing and there are no raw areas, flip the paratha again.
Spread another ⅓ of a teaspoon of butter on this new top layer. Cook the paratha until the underneath surface also now has some brown spots.
Flip once more to cook the just buttered surface for a few more seconds. Flip another couple of times if necessary (not adding any more butter) to ensure the paratha is fully cooked.
Repeat with the other 7 balls of dough. Spread the cooked parathas out of a plate rather than stacking them to help them retain their bite and stop them becoming soft.
Best eaten freshly made, although any leftover parathas can be reheated the next day on your pan.