Just like the Dosa and Idli of the south stuffed parathas are the choice of breakfast for many in the north. Aloo paratha – potato stuffed whole wheat flat bread is the most popular of them all . Fresh made Aloo Paratha served with a bowl of curds (yogurt) and a spicy pickle makes for a hearty vegetarian breakfast or snack. Remove the curds from the equation for your vegan friends. For those of us with a more substantial appetite add a side of spicy curry or kabob.
Parathas are made with finely ground whole wheat flour known as atta. Atta retains almost all of the nutrients and fiber in the wheat berries making breads made with it “good for you”. The rotis or the unleavened flat breads made with atta are consumed fresh as they tend to dry out and harden over time. Stuffed Parathas especially the ones made with potatoes and cheese have an advantage here. These stay soft for hours making it ideal to take along on picnics or in lunch boxes.
The various stuffing elevates these parathas from a boring pieces of bread to a dish to be relished on its own. The stuffing add additional nutrients , a dash of spices and help to retain moisture. Serve these with a zesty green chili pickle, or a bowl of yogurt or just a slice of onion.
Making aloo parathas is not complicated. Make a basic dough with flour an water, with a pinch of salt and optionally a little oil. Let it rest for 15 minutes. Mash the boiled potatoes and add spices to your taste. It could be as bland or as hot and spicy as you like. Usually the dhaba style (street food) Aloo Parathas are spiced heavily – with chilies , garam masala and dried or fresh herbs. Amchoor (dried mango powder) or lemon is also added for tang. The sour ingredients takes the edge off the spices and serves to tie the spices together. When making at home adjust spices to your taste. As a rule of thumb, indulge in spices if the parathas as served alone – without any curries or kabobs on the side.
Divide the dough into equal sized portions. Divide the potato mix equally into same number of portions as well. Roll each of these portions into smooth balls. Take a dough ball and gently flatten it a little by pressing into your cupped palm, as in the picture above. Place one potato ball in the dough cup and pull the edges of the dough over it and pinch close. Dust a work surface with a little flour and roll out into a thick disc, about the thickness of eighth of an inch or so.
Another popular method is to flatten 2 smaller dough balls into discs of 4″ to 5 ” diameter. Spread the stuffing mix on top of one of the discs leaving about 1cm from edges empty. Place the other disc on top and press down on the edges. Flatten using a rolling pin .
The amount of potato stuffing varies by cook. In case of potatoes you can increase the amount of stuffing to almost double the size of the dough and still be able to roll out the parathas without tearing. But this requires some practice. A good way to start is to use the same amount of dough and stuffing.
Traditionally these are made on iron griddles known as tawa. Tawa has an ever so gentle slope to the center from sides. This comes in handy when sprinkling oil on the sides. If using a flat griddle or a heavy bottomed frying pan either brush on the oil evenly or use a spray bottle for even coverage with less amount of oil.
Heat the tawa and cook the parathas till lightly browned on each side. Check the video for more details.
Is there a secret to making soft and delicious Aloo parathas ? I dont know about the secrets, but here are a few tips to avoid some sticky situations
- The dough should be soft, neither too wet nor too stiff and dry
- The potato mix should be dry but not crisp and definitely should not have extra moisture.
- The potato mix should be smooth and not lumpy.
- Brush oil on the parathas evenly.
- The tawa (cooking pan) should be hot .