Flaky Indian-Style Flatbread Stuffed with Potato
MAKES: 8 to 12
TIME: At least 1 hour
I adore this bread and was fortunate enough to learn how to make it from an expert, the great Indian cook and cookbook writer Julie Sahni. This is essentially her recipe, though I’ve modified it over the years.
You can cook this paratha ahead and keep it at room temperature for up to 24 hours to serve without reheating or warm it briefly in a dry skillet or even a microwave. But there is nothing like one fresh from the skillet.
Ajwain comes from carom seeds, which look like celery but taste like very strong, slightly coarse thyme.
11/2 cups whole wheat flour
11/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon ajwain, dried thyme, or ground cumin
2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, plus more for brushing the breads
11/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 jalapeo or other hot chile, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
Melted butter (optional)
Combine the flours with 1 teaspoon salt and the ajwain in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add the oil and 3/4 cup water through the feed tube. Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it’s dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add all-purpose flour, a tablespoon at a time.) Remove the dough and, using flour as necessary, shape into a ball; wrap in plastic and let rest while you make the potato mixture. (Or refrigerate for up to a day or freeze for up to a week.)
Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and add water to cover and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat down so the mixture simmers steadily; cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes, then drain. Mash with the chile, coriander, a large pinch of salt, some pepper, and the lemon juice; taste and adjust the seasoning (you may prefer more chile; sometimes aloo paratha is quite hot).
When the dough has rested, set out a bowl of flour and a small bowl of neutral oil, with a spoon or brush, on your work surface. Lightly flour your work surface and your rolling pin. Break off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. Toss it in the bowl of flour and then roll it in your hands to make a ball. Flatten it into a 2-inch disk, then use a floured rolling pin to roll it into a thin round, about 5 inches in diameter, dusting with flour as necessary.
Mound about 2 tablespoons of the filling into the center of one of the rounds of dough. Bring the edges of the round up over the top of the filling and press them together to make a pouch. Press down on the neck of the pouch with the palm of one hand to make a slightly rounded disk. Turn the disk in the bowl of flour and roll it out again into a round, about 6 to 7 inches in diameter. Pat it between your hands to brush off the excess flour. Put the paratha on a plate and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Continue to roll all of the remaining dough into parathas and stack them on the plate with a sheet of plastic wrap between them. You can keep the paratha stacked like this for an hour or two in the refrigerator before cooking them if necessary.
Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or two, then put a paratha (or two if they’ll fit) on and cook until it darkens slightly, usually less than a minute. Flip the paratha with a spatula and cook for another 30 seconds on the second side. Use the back of a spoon or a brush to coat the top of the paratha with oil. Flip and coat the other side with oil. Continue cooking the paratha until the bottom of the bread has browned, flip, and repeat. Do this a few times until both sides of the paratha are golden brown and very crisp, 2 to 3 minutes total for each paratha. As the parathas finish, remove them from the pan and brush with melted butter if you’re going to serve hot; otherwise wait until you’ve reheated them.
Cauliflower Paratha. Traditional and similar, but with that distinctive cauliflower flavor: Instead of the potatoes, use 1 small head cauliflower. Use mustard seeds instead of the ground coriander.