Search This Blog

Friday, September 11, 2009

Chapati - Indian flat bread

These simple Indian flat breads were one of the favorites of our cooking class in the Spring Semester but I never came round to posting the recipe, so here goes. I may teach how to make them again this Semester.

Chapati's are gridle baked bread rounds that swell like a little balloon when placed over the fire. The secret to making this happen is to roll them to an even thickness all around -- they can be thick or thin and they don't even have to be completely round so long they are evenly rolled -- then they will puff. If they have a hole then the air will escape and they will become more cracker-like instead, in which case they are still very edible.

They are delicious eaten hot off the flame, spread with butter or olive oil. If you don't eat them right away them put in a sealed storage container to retain the softness. Warm them up in the oven and they will be soft again. They make good wraps if they are soft.

Typically they are eaten with Subji (Indian vegetable stew) by tearing off a section of the chapati with your fingers and wrapping around the vegetable and pop into your mouth! :-) According to Ayurveda (an ancient holistic system of medicine that is still widely practiced in many parts of India today) there is a whole science to cooking and eating that is practically unknown in the west. Eating with ones fingers is considered stimulating for the digestion and makes for a satisfying meal - though that is often considered uncultured in the west where forks, knifes and spoons are the norm. I think its a good idea to be conscious that each culture has its own ways and its very educational to explore the reasons for these, and broaden our horizons, and understanding in an increasingly multi-cultural global society.

Makes approx 12 chapati's - serves 4-6 people. Prep & cooking time: 30 - 45 mins

  • 2 cups flour - I like to use 1/2 & 1/2 whole wheat & white flour
  •  1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp oil (optional)
  • warm water - enough to make a soft dough
  • extra flour for rolling
  • oil/butter or ghee for spreading on chapati's when cooked
  • flat cast iron gridle pan - ideally use a tava - an Indian pan made specially for chapati making
  • a pair of metal tongs to turn chapati's on the flame (I use my hands, but the risk is burning yourself if you arent quick). Otherwise these utensils can be bought at an Indian/Asian grocery store
  • Rolling pin
  • Combine flours, salt and oil in a mixing bowl and rub together til it resembles coarse meal.
  • Add 1/3 - 2/3 cup warm water -- just enough to form a soft kneadable dough -- it shouldnt be very sticky , add more flour if so. Turn onto a smooth clean working surface and knead for 5 - 8 minutes til its really smooth. 
  • Ideally leave it to rest for 1/2 hr or so in which case you should sprinkle with a few drops of water & cover it with a overturned bowl.
  • Reknead for a minute or so, roll inot a snake and cut into 12 even pieces.
  • Roll each piece into a smooth balls, flatten into a small disc in you palm and on a lightly floured surface roll into a consistently even round shape.
  • Heat the griddle pan over low heat for a few minutes. Do NOT oil it.
  • Carefully pick up the chapati, dust off excess flour and smoothly slip onto the hot pan - avoid wrinkles it or trying to re-adjust it once you set it down.
  • Cook for a minute or so - until little bubbles begin to form. Turn over with the tongs and cook for about another minute.
  • Turn on another burner next to the pan onto high heat, pick up the chapati with the tongs and place over the flame. If made well it will swell up into a balloon shape. cook til it has brown/black speckles. Place into foil or container, palce a dab of butter or oil on it to melt. 
  • Cook all the chapati's like this and stack upon each other to retain their heat.
  • Serve immediately with a salad and or subji (Indian vegetable stew). Cold they make good lunch box snacks spread & rolled up with tahini & honey etc.

No comments:

Post a Comment