Archive for June 2010

Methi Ka Paratha

June 8, 2010

Food connects us to our roots. Paratha is a spur-of-the moment pan-fried Indian unleavened bread that was often made when unexpected guests dropped by. Back then there was no texting, twittering, e-mailing nor even a telephone call! Ha! None of these conveniences even existed at that time while I was about four year old. This is one of my fondest food memories and I was reminded of it on a recent short visit to my cousin’s place in Berinag, India. We had only a couple hours before we had to leave for Nainital and she made my favorite methi paratha.

The word “paratha” derives from the word “parat” in Hindi and means layers of dough rolled in rounds and pan-fried in ghee. These come in different textures, shapes, sizes and flavors and may be prepared in a myriad of ways by using various flours and grated or cooked vegetables, or pureed beans along with spices of choice. Depending upon the taste these can easily be prepared plain, sweet and savory. It is one of those recipes like homemade masala, known as curry powder in the West. While it is essential to use three common ingredients – flour, fat and liquid of choice every household has in India – the rest is just imagination or creativity.

My book “Nani’s Vegetarian Cooking” covers the most common unleavened whole-wheat flatbreads popular in the Indian kitchen such as chapati (or phulka-puffed bread without deep-frying), poori, paratha, bhatura and naan.

Methi Ka Paratha
1 cup methi leaves (fenugreek), washed
2 cups durum wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 tablespoon ghee or unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon, grated ginger
1 teaspoon, grated garlic
1/4 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
3/4 cup water or more as needed
1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons ghee or oil for brushing the layers
Additional ghee for pan-frying as needed

1) In a medium-size bowl, using a wooden spoon (or preferably hands), combine all the ingredients except last four ingredients. Add enough water, a little at a time, to flour and mix with a wooden spoon until it comes together.
2) Empty the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Transfer the dough to a clean, oil-coated bowl and turn the dough top to bottom to coat. Cover and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
3) Divide the dough into 8 to 10 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Use flour as needed to roll out the dough. Working with one piece at a time, using a rolling pin, roll out each ball into an 8-inch diameter. Lightly brush it with ghee and sprinkle sesame seeds on only half of the paratha.
4) Folding with other half then lightly brush with ghee and sprinkle sesame seeds and fold again turning into a triangular shape. Roll out the triangle as thinly as possible. Repeat the process until all the parathas are rolled out.
5) Preheat a cast-iron skillet (or tawa) over medium heat and place one rolled out paratha. Pan-fry both sides of paratha until cooked. Stack the cooked ones in a plate on top of paper towels. Serve warm.
Yield: 8-10

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