Usually, I love my time in the kitchen. More often than not, TH stays out, and is very appreciative of the food I put on the table (even when it is store-bought bread on days such as today when I am too rushed for even a 30-minute meal). But there are (many) days when I am not inclined to step into the kitchen at all.
One such day last year was my birthday. It is rather pathetic to have to cook yourself a special meal when it’s the perfect opportunity for others to show their love for a change. Yet, neither my son nor TH can be expected to bake a cake (not everyone is like Jai!). Every time I am not inclined to cook, the son is willing to order pizza and TH is only too happy to step out to get a fresh loaf of bread. But that day I insisted on a home cooked meal, and varan-bhaat was not going to cut it.
As it crawled towards dinner time and I showed no signs of getting off the couch, TH finally got the message and decided to grab the bull by the horns😀 . Off he went into the kitchen and busied himself to prepare paranthas stuffed with my favourite vegetable – no prizes for guessing this time – potatoes. To bide my time till the paranthas were ready was a seasonal twist on my favourite drink – mango margaritas! Yes, he excelled himself.
Ever since then, I have been meaning to blog about his aloo paranthas. On occasion, I have heard what sounded like a complaint – how come it never made it to these pages. This post has been on the cards for almost a year now. Here they are, finally, TH’s special – absolutely the bestest-overstuffed-aloo-paranthas. They are #1 on Ani’s list of favourite foods.
Aloo paranthas come in many avtars. The best ones are the home-cooked kind. Every family has their own twist to the spicing of the potato stuffing. There is tandoori aloo parantha which is baked in a fiery hot tandoor, and smeared with butter or ghee; giant versions of these are available at Giani’s, near Fatehpuri Mosque (Old Delhi). One of these can feed two people of us. The Amritsari kulcha, a double layered tandoori bread, is also a potato-stuffed parantha. Spiced mashed potatoes are wrapped in leavened dough which then gets another layer of a butter-rich dough that gives it its characteristic flaky texture.
In my mum’s house we used to mix chopped onion, coriander powder, anardana (dried wild pomegranate seed), fresh ginger, fresh coriander, and green chillies into the mashed potatoes. TH’s family had a different take, and one that has grown on me. It is a much simpler mix and an excellent stuffing for paranthas. I stuff much more potato mixture into my paranthas than is usual, and TH manages to stuff his with even more! That is the reason his are the best; aloo paranthas are first about potato, right? Here is how he does it (pay special attention to the folding of the dough around the stuffing):
6 large potatoes
1 C chopped fresh coriander/cilantro
garlic, mashed to a pulp (to taste)
handful of hot green chillies
for the dough:
3 C whole wheat flour
salt (or not)
a tablespoon of oil (or not)
water to knead
Boil, peel and mash the potatoes well. Pound green chillies with a pinch of salt till pulpy. Mix together all the ingredients for the stuffing.
Mix flour and water (with salt and oil, if using) and knead for 5 minutes to form a medium soft dough. Let rest for 10 minutes. Knead again till smooth. Pinch off balls roughly 1″ in size. Flour or oil your hands to roll dough into a ball. Dust with flour, flatten, and roll into a 3.5-4″ disc. Place stuffing, twice the size of the ball of dough you used (beginners should halve the stuffing!). Fold over, pinch edges together, and reshape into a ball [this is TH’s method for over-stuffed paranthas; I gather the dough much like for a dim-sum or modak, and pinch off excess dough from the top]. Flatten and roll out, as thin as possible, dusting with flour to help you along. Rotate as you roll😀 to get an even thickness.
With practice you will be able to roll them in such a way that there is a thin layer of dough holding a generous amount of stuffing without tearing through. It is important that the dough be soft so that it can roll out along with the potato stuffing. If you are using refrigerated dough, make sure it has come to room temperature (and softened) before rolling out the paranthas; otherwise the softer potato will yield more to your pressure and tear out. Also, make sure your potato stuffing has cooled sufficiently before you proceed with preparing the paranthas. This recipe is specially for my Madrasi friend (she lives in Madras, people; therefore, Madrasi!) who has been waiting, hoping paranthas are easier to roll than roti!
Heat a tava, cast iron or non-stick pan. Brush off excess flour from the surface of the paranthas. Flop them on to the hot tava using your outspread hand for support. Cook on medium-hot on one side only till the colour changes and the parantha has just firmed up enough to be flipped over. Apply 1/2-1 teaspoon of oil evenly on the surface, using the back of the teaspoon to brush it all over. A larger slotted spoon does this job faster if you are using less oil. Flip. Oil the other side of the parantha (and watch it puff up!); flip and cook till golden. The more oil you use the crisper the parantha is going to be. Serve hot with a bowl of plain yoghurt and mango pickle. If your fitness permits, serve with a dollop of butter.
Stuffed paranthas are best served hot, which is why it was nice to be the first one to be served for a change! If you are planning to serve them to an army, and want to make them in advance, do what I do. Half-cook the paranthas – they should barely get some spots on both sides – and cool before stacking. Shallow fry just before serving. This makes for faster service and everyone still gets them hot off the tava without a long wait. Once you get the hang of rolling, you’ll find that the frying takes longer, and you can actually have two frying pans going! Of all stuffed paranthas these are the easiest to make because potatoes make a cohesive stuffing that is easy to roll out, unlike mooli (daikon radish) or cauliflower which make moist stuffings that tear through the surface of the parantha. Those are family favourites too, and the recipes will follow when they will😀.
These paranthas are perfect for sending over to Srivalli’s roti mela! With this special family recipe, I am back!