Beet parathas; a classic recipe book

Beet paratha

Beet paratha

Some years ago I found a book in a used bookstore that really spoke to me in the depths of my soul. It electrified me from the title alone, even before I cracked open the pages.

Now a few books have been known to be enormously influential in people’s lives. For some it may be ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ by Nietzche, or ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand. For others it might be ‘War and Peace’ by Tolstoy. For me, it was this:

tasty dishes from waste items by Aroona Reejsinghani

tasty dishes from waste items by Aroona Reejsinghani

For the 1970’s in India, in the midst of famine, this book was quite apropos. I remember talk of the high prices of vegetables at every social gathering. Meat for many was simply out of the question. This book begins with an acknowledgement of the scarcity that every housewife has to deal with. It goes on to celebrate the leaves, stems, peels, leftovers that most of us throw away. The author painstakingly lists the vitamin content of each of these leaves and rinds, including the mysterious Vitamin P (?)

Not only is it completely impressive that she was able to do this research in the days before Google, it is astounding how many recipes she was able to come up with.

In here one finds 5 recipes that make use of banana peels (throw away the outer green part, she advises), 9 recipes that use turnip leaves, 2 that want you to fry up potato skins. Curdled milk, of course, is an industry, and the author dwells on that for a bit. Stale bread gets its own section with 36 recipes. Leftover fish, meat, chicken each get their own sections as well.

Now we no longer live in a world of food scarcity but quite the opposite. Most developed countries don’t spend over 10% of their income on food, in the US, where I live, it is around 7%. But the message of this book is more relevant than ever. The cost of food production remains very high, it just doesn’t come out of our paychecks, but instead we pay for it with depleted soils and poorer biodiversity.

I have to admit I don’t go scavenging around the thrown away peels for my next meal, but instead compost everything. Given my chunky waistline, I figure it is even better to feed the worms than me.

Beetroot

Beetroot from foodreference.com

Beetroot from foodreference.com

Now, about beets. Here is basically the entire beet plant from roots up to the leaves. Stare at the leaves for a bit. You all know that the greens are nothing but chard, right? Beetroot and chard are not even different species but simply different breeds. Just like a Dalmatians may be bred for running and bloodhounds for tracking a scent, but both remain dogs, chard is bred for fancy leaves and beetroots for fancy roots, but both remain Beta vulgaris. The roots of the first and the leaves of the second can be eaten. This website has more on this: Is chard root edible.

If you have no use for the greens, you could discard them I guess, but for goodness sake don’t throw them away and then go buy chard at the market!

Out of the bunch pictured, here are the parts I ended up throwing away for this recipe, the rest was all eaten. I threw away the long tails of the roots. I threw away the part where the roots turn into stems — that tends to be tough. I peeled the roots thinly with a vegetable peeler. Last, some stems have thick fibers that simply zipper all the way off; if I caught hold of some of those, I threw them away, otherwise I chopped them up along with the stems and leaves.

Parathas with beet root and greens filling

A reader might be forgiven for wondering if I’m going through the little-girl spectrum for my parathas; some time ago I did a recipe for purple parathas, this time they are pink.

Anyway, the idea of the stuffed paratha is simple — it is a whole wheat flatbread stuffed with filling inside. The filling for these consists of the grated root and the finely chopped leaves and stems, cooked together with seasonings. Parathas are great with some plain yogurt on the side.

Tails trimmed

Heads and tails trimmed

Greens finely chopped

Greens finely chopped

Grated, cooking with oil

Grated, cooking with oil

Cooked down and dry

Cooked down and dry

Uncooked paratha, pink showing

Uncooked paratha, pink showing

Cooked paratha, stacking up

Cooked paratha, stacking up

See the pink?

See the pink?

Parathas with beet root and greens filling

  • Servings: 8 parathas
  • Print

Ingredients for filling:
  • 3 medium beetroots with greens and stems
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon chaat masala, substitute with dry mango powder, substitute that with lime/lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon oil
Ingredients for parathas:
  • Roti dough made out of about 1 cup whole-wheat flour as in this recipe
  • Oil or ghee or butter for shallow frying on griddle.
Method:

Make the dough and set aside for half hour to rest. Make the filling: peel, trim and grate the roots. Rinse and finely chop the greens and stems. Heat the 1 tablespoon oil in a wide pan. When it shimmers, put in the beets, greens and all. Stir to coat with oil. They will very quickly start to cook down. Add the salt, the red chili, and the chaat masala and stir. The point is to dry out the filling. Once it looks pretty dry, turn off the flame and wait for it to cool. Taste for seasoning and adjust. I generally prefer the filling to be highly seasoned because the dough does not have any seasoning at all.

To make the parathas you can refer to this recipe, but I’m including most of the steps anyway. The dough is the same as used for rotis/chapatis. Roll out a thin circle about 5-6 inches wide. Place a couple tablespoons of the filling in the middle. Gather up the edges of the disk into a pouch. Flatten the pouch with your fingers, then roll it out again carefully so as to prevent the filling from escaping. Once it is a flat disk once again, about an eighth of an inch thick, it is time to shallow-fry on the griddle.

Heat the griddle on medium-high. When some drops of water thrown on it sizzle, it is time to put the rolled out paratha on. Wait for 30 seconds while the underside cooks; then flip it. Wait for another 30 seconds while the second side cooks. Now spread a few drops of oil or ghee on the top surface and flip it, to have the bottom shallow-fry in oil. A minute of this, now spread a few drops of oil on this surface and flip it again, letting it cook another 30 seconds. This way, each surface has been cooked twice, first roasted dry, then with oil, on the griddle.

Stack up the prepared parathas; enjoy them with some plain yogurt on the side. Greek yogurt is very popular nowadays, it would make a great dip for these.

I’m entering this in the Family Foodies challenge for May, which is to do with frugal eating. Perfect! Minds knitted together across the interwebs…that’s what blogging is all about.

This is hosted over at Bangers and Mash and Eat Your Veg…this is a link to the May challenge. May the cheapest skinflint win!

 

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My Parathas turned Purple

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I have a huge amount of respect for nutrition scientists. But one can sense that in food, they have met a worthy adversary.

Carbohydrate, fat and protein

WHO Food pyramid

WHO Food pyramid

There were the days when they confidently issued proclamations about ‘food pyramids’ that could be rendered in the colors available in a child’s crayon pack. There was carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Various experiments were performed on unsuspecting dogs and rats that led them to believe that out of the three, protein was the one true nutrient.

Then came sailors and prisoners who were given protein enough, but were afflicted with swollen gums, purple spots, and finally, death. This disease was called scurvy. This disease had been known since the Roman times, and had often been treated with herbal cures such as lemon juice. Another time, a sailor stepped ashore and ate some cactus fruit, and found that it had curative properties too.

The vitamins

So what was it about lemon juice and cactus fruit that had the magical property to cure scurvy? Surely, they thought, since scurvy was a disease of ‘putridness’, whatever that means, and clearly, acid cuts ‘putridness’, it has got to be the acid in lemon juice that does the trick. So they began dosing sailors with diluted sulfuric acid and vinegar, to no avail. This acid treatment went on pointlessly for years, apparently, until a doctor named James Lind had a forehead-smacking moment and realized the sulfuric acid was doing more harm than good.

James Lind feeding citrus fruit to a scurvy-stricken sailor aboard HMS Salisbury in 1747 (Artist: Robert A Thom)

It was through such nightmarish means that scientists were forced to accept that the complexity of nutrition went beyond the big three of fat, carbohydrate and protein, and the ph dimension of alkaline and acid. By the early twentieth they had identified nutrients that were given the name ‘vitamins‘ which meant ‘force of life’, or something. Vitamin C cured scurvy while Vitamin B cured beri beri and pellagra; others were discovered too.

So food science climbed up the ladder of complexity, but you can tell how many nutrients they expected to find in food, because they started naming them after the alphabet. There may be ten, there may be twenty, surely it would not go beyond A through Z, right? They found 13 vitamins.

Phytonutrients

The farther one goes, the farther behind one gets. Now they have identified so many nutrients that this layperson (me) has lost all hope of catching up.

Phytonutrients‘ is the name used to describe all kinds of nutrients available only through plants. They help plants perform all their planty duties: fight germs, fight aging, fight toxins, stay alive, in other words. They give the plants their colors; their smells; their pungency. When we eat plants, we get the benefit of these chemicals too, for surprisingly similar functions.

Now there is a type of phytonutrient that is a pigment that gives plants a purple color (anthocyanins). There is tons of tantalizing research about how beneficial these pigments are for us. There is evidence from folk medicine — hibiscus has been used for liver dysfunction, while bilberry has been used to cure night-blindness. There is evidence from the test-tube that the purple pigment prevents the growth of cancer cells. There is evidence from tests on rats that the purple aids in cardiovascular health.

The pigments have antioxidant properties, so that is one reason why they might have so many benefits. But scientists are now alive to the dangers of accepting the simple explanation. These pigments belong to a set of 4000 other compounds called flavonoids; plants use all of them in concert to perform various functions through their lives. So it is not just this or that chemical that provides this or that benefit; it might be any of the 4000 thousand put together that does it. So it isn’t the purpleness itself; it is the army of its cousins working together in the plant.

That makes sense — plants do not live on vitamin supplements. They use whatever they’ve got in whatever combination they can, to do the things they need done. If we eat those plants, we ingest those chemical complexes and gain similar benefits.

We have come a long way from the time scientists dosed sailors with vinegar. Now one can imagine them shaking their fist and saying, ‘Just — just go eat purple food.’

Well, that’s easy.

My purple parathas

I love stuffing cauliflower or potato into rotis to make parathas. Eating them with plain yogurt is soul-satisfying. But on this day, I made them purple.

Ingredients for the roti:

  • Have a look at this recipe (Rolling the Roti) and make as much as you need. I made 2 potato parathas and 8 cauliflower ones = 10 rotis total.
  • Oil or ghee as needed.

Ingredients for potato filling (for 2 parathas):

  • 1 medium purple potato
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro
  • 1 small green chili sliced, or substitute with half a teaspoon red chili
  • 1 teaspoon chaat masala
  • Salt to taste

Ingredients for cauliflower filling (for 8 parathas):

  • About 4 cups purple cauliflower florets
  • An inch of ginger, minced fine
  • 1 – 2 green serrano chilies
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 – 3 teaspoons chaat masala
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Half a teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
  • Sprinkle of asafetida (optional)

Method for potato filling:

Microwave the potato until it is soft. Mash it, peel and all. Mix in the other ingredients, squeeze it into a sort of dough, and divide into two disks. The filling is ready, each disk will go into one paratha.

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Method for cauliflower filling:

Grate the cauliflower, mince the ginger and chili. Heat the oil in a large thick-bottomed pan on medium heat. When it shimmers put in the asafetida and the cumin. When they sizzle put in the ginger, chili, and grated cauliflower. Stir to coat with oil. Add the salt and the chaat masala. Raise to heat to nicely dry the cauliflower. It is very important to get the cauliflower to be as dry as possible, or it will make your life hell while rolling out the parathas. When it is dry enough, turn off the heat and let it dry.

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Method for composing the parathas:

Roll out a roti about 6 inches in diameter. Place the right amount of filling in the center. For the cauliflower it is about 3 heaped tablespoons, for the potato filling it is about a 2 – 3 inch disk of potato. Gather up the edges of the roti and give it a squeeze. Flatten the pouch into a disk and start rolling it flat with the filling inside.

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While rolling parathas the ever-present danger is that the filling will come squeezing out like toothpaste out of a tube. One must learn to avoid that. One way is to use a very gentle hand while rolling — you don’t want a few long, weighty rollings, instead many quick, darting, gentle rollings. Use dry flour as needed to patch up holes.

The ideal paratha, when rolled out, has such a thin roti cover that one can see the filling peeping out in various places, but it doesn’t actually fall out. Keep your eye on that ideal.

Meanwhile have a cast-iron griddle or tawa going on a medium-high flame. Slap a prepared paratha on. After 30 seconds, the top surface will seem a little set. Flip it over. Wait 30 seconds. Now spread a bit of oil or ghee over the top surface and flip it over for another 30 seconds. Repeat. In total, each side has been cooked dry twice, then cooked with oil twice.

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While one paratha is cooking, did you think it was time to stand around and have a coffee break? No, my dear, get busy rolling out the next one. When one gets practiced one can have two griddles going at once.

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Have it with some plain yogurt on the side, nothing else is needed.

A Sindhi breakfast Julia Child might approve of

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If I name the following ingredients: flour, potatoes, salt and pepper, dairy — a very commonplace list, in the Western part of the world — what doesn’t come to mind is a morning in a Sindhi town 60 years ago. And yet, so it is. My grandmother made these very rustic kachoris for my mother’s breakfast decades ago, and it is such a simple idea, but so complex and satisfying, that I still crave it and make it in my 21st century Californian kitchen, and yes, have it for breakfast.

This amount makes enough for a simple breakfast for one.

Potato Kachoris

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium red potato
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour, I use King Arthur Premium
  • 1.5 tablespoon plain yogurt
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1.25 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Oil for frying

Method:

The traditional recipe asks you to boil the potato in lightly salted water until done. I have replaced that step with microwaving in nearly all such recipes that need a tuber to be cooked through before using. Not only is it quicker, but I feel like it avoids some of the nutrients leaching out into the water that one has to then throw away.

So go ahead, nuke the chap. Five minutes should put paid on a medium potato.

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When it is no longer shooting steam lava at you when you touch it, cut it into cubes and roughly mash it, peel and all. It can be lumpy, I personally don’t mind that.

Add the flour, salt, and pepper.

Now. You may be alarmed at the amount of pepper I am having you put in. Don’t be! Remember, pepper drove world-traffic all the way to the South Indian coast for centuries. Pepper is the Helen of Troy of spices. You want to feel it.

Mix and squeeze the flour in with the potato mixture with your fingers, till it is a rough, shaggy mass. Now put in the plain yogurt and knead briefly to make it a rough dough.

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This amount of dough will roll out to about 4 small circles of 5 – 6 inches each. So break golf-ball sized pieces, and roll each out. Now if you are used to rolling rotis you will find that these don’t roll out as smoothly or as thin. This, naturally, is because of the influx of the natural lumpiness of the potato (which I insisted a few lines ago that you don’t quell completely). That’s fine! It all adds to the rustic charm. The only thing you have to be aware of is, you may have to fry them a tad longer than normal, because they are thicker.

OK. So circles rolled out, heat about an inch of oil in a thick bottomed fry-pan. When the oil shimmers (but before it smokes! That is when the oil starts to break down and do Bad Things to us) put in a rolled out circle. Let it cook on one side for about half a minute, bobbing it up and down with your slotted spoon or tongs. Then flip it, and cook it for another half a minute. Take it out and drain it on paper towels.

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Have it with some more plain yogurt on the side. Surprisingly heavenly. Julia Child, eat your heart out.

Rolling the roti half a world away

In my home in Bombay, we never bought flour, we bought wheat. And we didn’t buy wimpy five-pound bags either. We bought enough wheat in bulk to fill up a tin canister as tall as one’s knees. Once a month or thereabouts, we would hire a neighborhood working lady to hoist that tin canister up on her head and carry it to the neighborhood burr mill. They would stone-grind the wheat into flour, completely whole — germ, bran and all — which they would testify to by weighing the product before and after. The burr mill would single-file through the customer requests, in order to be able to testify to flour wholeness.

This is chakki ka atta (translated: burr mill flour), that we used rest of the month to make chapati (roti), poori, or paratha.

Let’s start with the simplest of them, the chapati. There are just two ingredients — water and flour.

Kneaded together, a new ingredient magically comes alive inside the dough. This is gluten, the protein that is formed inside dough in the presence of water. Gluten is what gives dough its stretchiness and its stubbornness. Wheat dough is not just pliable — it wants to fight back. It takes a shape, but wants to go back to its previous shape. The pliability; the ability to hold a shape; the elasticity; all this is because of its gluten.

I like to imagine multitudes of tiny balloons inside the dough, all of which can be blown up without breaking, while keeping the dough from breaking into bits. These gluten balloons fill up with air so bread can rise and hold all the air inside instead of escaping. The gluten balloon allows chapatis to puff up with steam.

That brings me to a common misunderstanding — chapatis/rotis are often called the unleavened flat breads of India. But they are not unleavened. Leavened just means risen, and rotis are indeed risen, at the last minute of cooking, when they puff up with steam. Steam leavening is a respectable form of leavening that is probably the most ancient. I picture housewives in the Indus Valley civilization slapping circles of dough on their wood-burning griddles and watching them puff up.

They are unfermented, however, and no external leavening agent like yeast or baking soda are added.

During my childhood we had a chapati meal for either lunch or dinner every day. Two circular chapatis with a few dark brown spots, folded into quarters. A dal, a vegetable and a cup of yogurt completed the meal. When this is everyday food, one scorns it; half a world away in California, deprived of one’s neighborhood burr mill, a source of wheat, and the proper chapati-making expertise, it becomes an undertaking.

For years I tried to approximate chakki ka atta in California by mixing half and half of whole wheat and all purpose flour. But I was never thrilled about the lack of wholeness there (yes I’m a bit of a fanatic); and one day I used straight whole wheat, the rotis came out perfectly fine, so I have stuck with that. This makes sense — the species of wheat used for bread-making in the West (triticum aestivum) is the same as most of the wheat grown in India, mainly for the use of making chapatis. (There are many different subspecies though.) The grain size of chakki ka atta is probably smaller. But I haven’t found this to be a huge problem. I use King Arthur’s Premium Whole Wheat flour and get perfectly good, puffed up, rustic rotis.

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

3/4 cup + 3 tbsp water

Method for dough:

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Making roti: whole wheat flour and water

Put the flour in a bowl, make a sort of well in the center, and pour the water in. Use a spoon or a chopstick to stir the water into the flour till you get a shaggy mass and most of the flour is moistened. Cover with a plate, and walk away for 10 minutes or so.

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Making roti: a shaggy mass

Why? The short wait gets the process of the flour absorbing the water started, and just allows the kneading to happen faster. It’s the lazy person’s method — allow time to do the work that you would have otherwise had to expend elbow grease for.

If the 10 minutes stretch to 20 minutes, that’s fine too, but do cover the flour, to prevent it from drying out.

Come back to your dough and combine it into a rough ball with your fingers. This should be relatively easy to do (should take just a minute) but will still have a shaggy appearance.

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Making roti: a shaggy ball

Now the kneading begins. Clear a 2′ by 2′ square on your counter and place the dough there. Push it, squeeze it, fold it; squeeze it and fold it over and over again, for about 7 minutes. Use your strength. Be firm with the dough. From a shaggy mass the dough will become satiny smooth and hold together in an oblong. It should feel a lot like human muscle when squeezed, but more like slack than taut muscle. If too sticky, add some dry flour, spoon-by-spoon; if too taut, spread it out flat, sprinkle some water on it, and incorporate it with more kneading.

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Making roti: completed dough

Keep it aside for half hour or so before making rotis with it. The extra wait allows the gluten to relax. This is a lot like exercising: the way one pushes one’s muscles to work, until they feel a little too taut; then one waits a few minutes to relax before exercising some more.

Coat with oil on the outside to keep from drying out. If you want to stash it for another day, it will be good in the fridge in tupperware for a week or even two.

Method for rolling and roasting chapatis

Step 1: Make a few golf-ball-sized balls. I make around 8 (the evening’s dinner amount), roll them to make smooth balls, flatten them slightly into disks, and cover with flour to keep from drying out.

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Rolling rotis: make flat disks covered with flour

Step 2: Roll. Start with the first disk you made. This gives it a few minutes to relax after being handled. Use a good heavy rolling pin and roll out into a thin disk about 6-7 inches in diameter. You will need to sprinkle some dry flour on the counter and on the dough to keep it from sticking; here I use all purpose, but whole wheat will do as well.

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Rolling roti: thin six inch circle

Step 3: Roast. Have a griddle on medium-high heat. No oil needed. When hot, slap a disk on. Wait thirty seconds; the chapati will start to show small bubbles. Flip. Wait another thirty seconds; this time the small bubbles will combine into a few bigger bubbles.

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Roasting roti: ready for first flip

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Roasting roti: ready for second and final flip

Now you have a choice. Either flip once again for the last time, wait thirty seconds (hopefully it should puff out more) and take the chapati off the griddle.

Or, turn on the flame on a separate burner, and flip the chapati onto the open flame using the burner grate to place it on. It should puff up in a few seconds. Turn off the flame and pull it off with tongs. Don’t leave it on longer than ten seconds or so, because it will burn.

Roti: puffing up on burner

Roti: puffing up on burner

If you want, sprinkle some ghee on top of the still hot chapati.

Some of these steps take practice. So get thee to the kitchen and get started!

The lowly loli: an ancient Sindhi breakfast

During my mother’s childhood in Sindh, her breakfast every single morning was loli. It was the cornflakes of her day.

What is a loli? It is a whole wheat flat bread (roti) with spices, basically — but here is the interesting thing — it belongs more to the pie crust family than the bread family. The reason I say that is that it employs a twist in its mixing. Instead of adding water first and then fat, the fat is added in first; combined thoroughly with the flour to make sort of breadcrumb-sized balls, then just enough water is put in, just enough to combine. No kneading necessary, just a coming together.

No kneading — hence, not bread, in short. Gluten is not developed.

If you think of the way pie crust is made, it shares its basic method with the loli. Fat is cut into the dry flour, thereby creating pellets of floury fat, then water is added just enough to make it combine into a ball. Then it is rolled out, and the result is a rough, uneven circle, that cracks in various places, but holds together enough to lift carefully from place to place. This method results in a flaky pastry that does not exhibit the stretchy integrity of bread or roti, where the gluten does a lot of the work.

Lolis are similarly flaky, except of course they are spicy, not sweet. So let’s get started. This amount makes enough breakfast for two.

Step 1: Dry mixture

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Spices for loli: onion, chili, cilantro

Chop finely a third of a medium red or yellow onion; two serrano chilies; a third of a cup of cilantro. Add to this 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I use King  Arthur’s premium whole wheat) and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Stir with your fingers, taking care to break up the onion bits into its layers.

Step 2: Fat

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Loli flour with spices and oil rubbed in

In the old days, one added ghee; I have to admit I use pure olive oil or other cooking oil now. Add about two tablespoons oil to the flour and stir nicely with your fingers, until you get a breadcrumb texture.

Step 3: Water

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Loli dough, combined

Add two tablespoons of hot water (why hot? I don’t know. I do as I’m told). Combine it gently with the flour, not to knead (see above) but just to bring it into a ball.

Step 4: Roll

Take about a tennis ball sized amount: there should be about two tennis balls in the dough that you made. Flatten with your fingers into a circle, either by patting, or by rolling out. The circle will be about a quarter to an eighth inch thick and crack in various places, but try to hold it together. Make diagonal lines on it with a knife to get it to cook on the inside.

Step 5: Cook

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Cooking loli – first flip

Heat a griddle or tawa on medium high heat. When hot, slap the loli on. Wait one minute, then flip.

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Cooking loli – second flip

Wait another minute, and flip again. Wait another minute, spread some ghee and oil on the surface, and flip again.

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Cooking loli — third flip

Wait another minute or thirty seconds, spread another few drops of ghee or oil on the surface, and flip one last time. Thirty seconds or a minute more and you are done.

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My rough and rustic loli

Have it with some nice hot sweet tea.
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Thepla — spicy flat bread from Gujarat

One of my themes in food is simplicity. Not only because I’m lazy, but also because I like to have each ingredient be meaningful, and not be drowned in a cacophony of flavors.

Few recipes are purer and more basic than the roti recipe. Whole wheat flour mixed with water, kneaded, rolled out, and roasted. Just two ingredients, and yet there is an infinity of variations on that theme.

Add a few ingredients, and a whole new set of possibilities open up. I first tried theplas when I was nine, and a classmates mom made a whole stack to share at school. What I remember is the strong flavor of asafetida (the ‘fetid resin’, or, the ‘devil’s feces’), along with some heat. Just a few additions, and yet, this is an entirely different meal than the basic roti.

Step 1: The flour mixture for one serving.

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3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur’s premium whole wheat), half to one teaspoon asafetida, half a teaspoon turmeric, half a teaspoon or more red chili powder, a fistful of dry methi if you can’t acquire the fresh one, one quarter cup plain yogurt (I prefer Nancy’s plain whole milk yogurt, if not homemade), salt to taste. Knead into a taut dough.

Step 2: Roll out.

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Using sprinklings of all purpose flour as a non-stick device, roll them into five-inch rounds on the counter or wooden board. A ball of dough about two inches in diameter will produce a round that large. Try to get it as thin as you can.

Step 3: Roasting.

Get your griddle nice and hot on a medium-high flame. The roasting follows the standard pattern: first side, about 30 seconds, until the dough turns a shade darker and small air bubbles start to appear; flip it. Second side, another 30 seconds, until the air bubbles combine and form a few large ones; spread a few drops of oil on the thepla and flip it once again; 30 seconds more, spread another few drops of oil, and flip it once more for the last time. So we have had four flips, and each side has been cooked twice, once with and once without oil.

This series of pictures shows the progression.

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Next:

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Next:

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Next (and yes, I got it a little extra burnt):

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Stack up the prepared theplas on a platter. A good accompaniment is a sweet mango pickle; yogurt is a standard too.

Here is my Sunday morning meal: theplas, yogurt, and some sour mango pickle.

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