Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Spicy Onion Paratha #TwelveLoaves

The name paratha comes from two words in Hindi and Urdu, parat meaning layer or flake and atta, which is flour, but not all paratha are multi-layered; some are simple flatbreads. All are cooked on a tawa or griddle. (P.S. It's pronounced prata. Just two syllables with the stress on the first.)

When we lived in Malaysia all those years, I volunteered in a monthly Booster Club fundraiser called PAC Shack. PAC stood for Panther Activity Center and once upon a time, it was actually a shack out in the field where moms and dads and even students served burgers with all the fixings and other goodies to raise funds for team uniforms and sports equipment. By the time I joined the Booster Club roster of volunteers, we had a kitchen up in the main high school building with little ventilation, sad extractor fans and cardboard spread on the floor to stop us sliding around on the inevitable grease that accumulated from cooking fatty meat patties on the big diner-type flat grills.  By the time I had left KL, we had moved into bigger better facilities, with room to work and a kitchen sink with actual hot running water. But the one thing we never could get around were the tears when it was time to peel and slice onions in an enclosed space, no matter how well ventilated. The onions were always my job because I was the only one who didn’t bawl. I’d take my 10-15 pounds out to a picnic table overlooking the school pool and get after it all by my lonesome, creating mountains of sliced onions to adorn the more than 600 burgers the other ladies were inside grilling and wrapping and popping in huge warmers before the lunch bell rang.

The moral of this story is, always get someone who wears contact lenses to slice your onions.  Those were my shields of eye protection! I found out the hard way that without them, I do cry.

This month my Twelve Loaves group decided on onions as our theme and I was delighted! I've been making paratha and chapati and naan for years so they seemed like the perfect oniony departure from the normal yeast bread I usually undertake for these challenges. I found a recipe online for an onion paratha that sounded fabulous. And indeed it is. I've added garlic and a bit more coriander, quantified for clarity and changed the method up in a quite a few ways that I hope will encourage someone to give it a try.

1 cup or 150g wholemeal wheat flour, plus extra for dusting as you roll the flatbread out
1 medium onion (about 6 1/3 oz or 180g)
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 small hot chilies
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Small bunch (about 3/4 oz or 20g) cilantro or coriander leaves
1 tablepoon olive oil, plus extra for sautéing the vegetables and greasing the griddle
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Mince your onion, garlic and chilies as finely as you can. Do the same with your cilantro. I cut off the long, hard stems but minced the tender parts with the leaves.

In a medium-sized saucepan, drizzle in a little oil and add your cumin seeds.

Watch closely so they don’t burn but let them toast till they are a little darker and then add in your minced onion, garlic and chilies and stir well. If the pan is too dry, drizzle in a little more oil.

Cook the mixture over a low to medium heat, stirring often. You want everything to brown but not to scorch. When the mixture is nicely browned, add in the chopped cilantro, along with the ground coriander and the garam masala. Stir well and remove from the heat and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flour, onion mixture, 1 tablespoon olive oil and the salt.

Add in 1/4 cup or 60ml warm water and mix thoroughly.

Now add more warm water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing well in between additions. Different flours require more or less water but you are looking for a nice cohesive soft dough. I ended up adding three tablespoons to get the right consistency.

Knead the dough by hand or machine for a few minutes.  Form it into a nice round ball.

Drizzle a little oil in a bowl and roll the ball around to grease it. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside to rest for 20-30 minutes. I find that the longer I let the dough rest, the easier it is to roll into circles once it’s divided, so I make it earlier in the afternoon and let it rest until just before I am ready to serve dinner.

When you are ready to cook the paratha, divide the ball into six equal pieces.

First cut it in half, then each half into three pieces.

Sprinkle your clean work surface with some flour and use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a circle. Sprinkle on extra flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking.

The hand is for scale. Each circle is about 8 inches or 20cm across.

Heat your griddle pan and drizzle on a little oil. Place the circle on the hot pan and watch it carefully. Brush the top with some more oil.

When little bubbles start to form on the top flip the paratha over to cook the other side.

Press down with your spatula to make sure that the paratha is making contact with the griddle. Cook for a few minutes, flipping a couple more times if necessary, until both sides have lovely brown spots all over.

I like to stack the paratha in a little sleeve made of folded aluminum foil to keep warm until I am ready to serve.

These are great with any kind of curry, like potato, chicken, fish or just dal but I must confess to warming one the next morning and nibbling on it while I sipped my cup of coffee. Divine.


Are you a fan of all things bread and all things allium, by which I mean the onion family?  Then you are going to love this month’s Twelve Loaves recipes.

If you would like to join us this month, it’s easy:

1. Bake a bread using anything from the onion family and post it on your blog before the end of May 2014. This must be a new post. Your bread of choice recipe can include onions, scallions, garlic, shallots, in fact, anything allium-related but it must be IN the dough. In addition to being in the dough, it could also be added to a glaze. Whatever you bake, (yeasted, quick bread, crackers, muffins, braids, flatbreads, etc.) have fun!
2. Mention the Twelve Loaves challenge in your post. This helps us to get more members as well as share everyone's posts.
3. Add your link to the linky tool at the bottom of this post.

#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess.  #TwelveLoaves runs so smoothly thanks to the help of Renee from Magnolia Days and Heather from girlichef.

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