In search of “the” perfect potato stuffed flatbread
Aloo paratha – potato stuffed fried flatbread. I thought it was going to be a lifelong search but I may have found the first near perfect version.
A combination of crushed and whole spices and whole grain flours supply the textures and tastes. Traditionally fried in ghee, these new age parathas are low in fat – made using a a clever application of oil with a silicone brush.
To start – grow your own potatoes. They are easy to grow and there is no comparison of the taste and smell of fresh potatoes grown in your backyard compared to the rather tastefree lumps in the grocery store.
Here is a recipe that makes 8 six inch parathas – should make four servings but often ends up making only two.
Once your potatoes are safely harvested, pick 4 medium size ones and boil them with the skin on until tender (about 45 minutes on medium-low). Let cool. I like purple potatoes for this purpose but that is more for the looks.
Preparing the potatoes:
- Peel skin and smash the potatoes to remove large lumps. Small lumps add to texture.
- Add salt to taste
- 2 tsp of amchoor (fine mango powder). This adds sourness. I haven’t found a substitute for this taste yet.
- 1 tsp of crushed red pepper, may be substituted with 1 finely chopped jalapeno
- 1/2 tsp of roasted and crushed cumin seeds
- 1 tsp anardana (dried kernels of pomegranate). These are small when dry and usually a bit sour. Their sour crunch adds texture. I haven’t found a suitable substitute.
- 1 small shallot finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp of finely chopped coriander leaves or a mixture of coriander and mint leaves.
Amchoor and anardana are available in Indian grocery stores. Mix the ingredients and subdivide into 8 balls. The potato balls hold together easily.
Making the dough:
- 1 cup of whole wheat flour e.g. Bob’s
- 1 inch piece of ginger grated. If in season and available, you can add “mango-ginger”, a variety of mild ginger that has an added raw mango flavor.
- 1 tsp of crushed coriander seeds.
- 1/2 tsp of Lucknow saunf (fennel seeds). Can be substituted with ajwain.
- Pinch of salt
If you enjoy biting into ginger, like I do, you can grate the ginger coarsely or julienne finely. You can also reduce the wheat flour by 2 Tbsps and replace with wheat bran or buckwheat flour (kottu ka atta). Buckwheat flour adds a delicious nutty flavor. For Indian households, it may also remind folks of festive Diwali and special occasion meals. Mix the ingredients together, add water and make into a pliable dough ball. If mixing bran, let rest for up to an hour. Subdivide into 8 balls.
Tip: For novices, the dough ball should be about the same size as the potato ball or slightly smaller. The final rolled parathas will be smaller and easier to handle. Eventually you will be able to work up to twice the stuffing. Also, if you add fewer wet ingredients e.g. omit shallot, and use crushed red pepper flakes instead of jalapeno, the dough will be firmer. Bake the potatoes instead of boiling.
If you are comfortable handling dough, like in pizza or pastry, this step of rolling and stuffing will be relatively easy. Otherwise a bit of practice and patience is called for. See more illustration for rolling and frying stuffed paratha, check out pea stuffed paratha.
For stuffing the paratha, roll the dough with some dry flour into 5 inch diameter tortilla. Place the potato ball in the center of this tortilla and pinch the edges like a dumpling. At this point, you can let each stuffed dough ball rest for a few minutes while you prepare the rest.
Traditionally, the parathas are fried on an iron griddle called tawa. I find that a cast iron pan works well. Keep handy a small bowl of canola oil and a 1/4 tsp measure to spoon out the oil, a silicone brush to spread the oil about and a broad flat spatula to flip the paratha.
Heat the pan on medium high. Using more dry flour if necessary, gently re-shape the stuffed dough ball into a ~6 inch diameter tortilla. Thickness should be about 3-4mm. Move the stuffed tortilla from rolling surface to the hot pan. When the top turns a shade darker, flip it over. Spoon 1/4 tsp of oil on the top surface and spread using the silicone brush. Flip back and oil the other side. Each side will take 45 sec to a minute to cook. You can double the amount of oil (1 tsp total) for a cracklier surface.
It is best served straight from frying pan to plate and eaten immediately. So, keep the raita ready. Dunk pieces of hot paratha in cool raita and enjoy!