Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Palak Aloo Parathas

I love Indian food, and I love bread. This last fact doesn't sit very well with my carbophobic parents, but that's ok. I just save my bread-making adventures for the times when I'm not visiting them. Since I've been staying with a couple of friends while I've been performing at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, I've made Aloo Gobi (potato & cauliflower curry) and Palak Aloo (spinach & potato curry). The Aloo Gobi turned out better than the Palak Aloo (coconut milk is *always* a good thing!), but they were both yummy. A couple of days ago, I made a batch of PPK Chocolate Chunk Scones (definitely my best ones yet!), and had quite a bit of a bag of flour left over. I also had two potatoes and a bunch of spinach. So, what to do but combine Palak Aloo with Indian bread?

Now, a big problem with Indian recipes is lack of detail. I finally have come to the conclusion that, while American children are learning their colors and numbers as toddlers, Indian children must be learning to cook amazing food. That must be why all Indian recipes seem to assume that the reader already knows how to do everything, so why should they bother explaining it? One particularly good example of this is here. This "recipe" lists such helpful instructions as "For the cover make dough out of whole-wheat flour (atta), as you would do for any parantha/roti." (no, it doesn't list how much flour, nor does it even say to use water specifically, or how much) and "Put it in a pre-heated oven at 450-degree. When top side is done change the side and keep a check (till properly baked)". How in the world do I know when it's done?

I spent a few hours looking up as many recipes as I could find for Indian breads (I love naan, roti, and chapatis, but wanted to try stuffed parathas first), and compared all the steps listed for parathas of all sorts. I finally came up with the following recipe.

A few notes - my pictures show 2 potatoes and dough that was divided into 8 equal pieces. With two potatoes, you're going to have a lot left over. They also show the spinach mixture mixed into the dough after it had already rested for an hour. You'll want to add the spinach mixture to the flour first, then add the water, and then mix it all together to form dough.

Palak Aloo Paratha

5 cups whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups water (plus a tiny bit extra if the dough is still too dry)
salt (I just sprinkled some across the top before mixing)

***Spinach Mixture
1 large bunch spinach, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 to 1 green chili pepper (I used serrano), chopped
1/4 tsp asafetida powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder

If you've got a food processor, grind the spinach to a paste in it without adding any extra water. If you don't (like me, with my food processor 12-13 hours away), just chop by hand as finely as you can. This is good exercise. *grin* Add the rest of the spinach mixture ingredients to the spinach and mix. Add ingredients for dough to spinach mixture and knead with hands until they form a firm dough. It'll feel a bit like Play-Doh - if it doesn't hold together, add a tiny it more water, and if it's gooey and sticks to your fingers, add a bit more flour. After it is mixed, let it rest for an hour. (I covered mine with a towel.)

***Potato Filling
1 potato, roughly chopped and boiled
Garam masala, salt, and pepper to taste

Mash the potato, add the other ingredients, and mix well.

Paratha Dough & Boiled Potatoes
Dough and boiled potatoes - yes, dough without the spinach. Learn from my mistakes.

Spinach and Potato Mixtures for Paratha
Spinach and potato mixtures

After your dough has rested, divide dough into eight equal portions (or 16, if you don't want each paratha to be the size of a plate). Roll each one into a ball until they are smooth.

Spinach Paratha Dough Divided
Dough divided into 8 pieces. I highly suggest 16 instead.

Lightly flour a clean surface and roll each ball into a 7 inch circle (or 3-4 inch circle, if you're doing 16 pieces).

Take two rolled dough circles, spread about 2 tablespoons of potato mixture on top of one, and put the other dough circle on top. Seal the edges with your fingers.

Potato Filling on Spinach Paratha, Ready to be Sealed
Potato filling on spinach paratha, ready to be sealed.

Heat a large frying or cast iron pan (or skillet) over medium heat. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil on one side of a paratha, put it in the skillet, oil side down, and cook for about 2 minutes. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil on the other side of the paratha and flip it over. Cook for another minute or two. Paratha should be golden brown.

Palak Aloo Paratha

If you've made 4 parathas instead of 8, they may look great, but taste a bit doughy and not quite *done*. I put mine in a 350 degree F oven for 15 minutes, which seemed to help.

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