It is the Sunday mornings I miss in particular about being unmarried and living at home with my parents in good old Hounslow, our little suburb in West London. Staggering downstairs around 11am, dad would thrust a perfect cup of tea in to my hands whilst mum made the usual, savory-stuffed pastry ‘parantha’. Paranthas are Indian flat bread that are given a searing in butter for perfect crispness. The scene was pretty much replicated by our neighbors, my grandmother’s home 2 blocks away and my friend’s house across the street. We lived in a little Indian colony and to tear in to a parantha over a cup of sweetly spiced tea made it ‘Sunday as usual’ for most of us.
Walking through the kitchen, I would fight the haze created by copious amounts of butter sizzling on the skillet. My mum has always had a very liberal hand. As she rolled out little balls of dough, stuffing them with spiced cauliflower, radish, potatoes or ground meat, I would hover over her with special instructions. I wanted mine with the tiniest amount of pastry and a whole lot of stuffing and of course, some extra green chili and ginger. The hot and crisp parantha would land on my plate as I busily scoffed my first. Once I got going, the paranthas keep coming until I gave an honest, strong NO and not a whimpy ‘I shouldn’t but I totally could’ gesture. Each filling is dressed a little differently. They all have the crunch of fresh onions, cilantro and ginger, but then, cauliflower and potatoes are given a sour twist of dried pomegranate whist the ground meat is brought to life with a sprinkle of mango powder.
Whilst many set up their plate with some pickle or chutney, a little bowl of plain yoghurt and an additional piece of butter, I am a purist and won’t make space for anything to come between me and my parantha.
Whilst paranthas make for great live action entertainment, you can certainly make them ahead of time and reheat on the skillet when you are ready to serve.
Recipe for ground chicken ‘keema’ parantha
2 cups of flour
¾ tsp. salt
3/4 cup water and reserve ¼ cup of water
1 tbsp. oil
1lb. ground chicken/ beef or lamb + 1 tsp. grated ginger
¼ cup frozen peas
1 tbsp. ginger, grated
¼ cup onions, finely diced
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro
¾ tsp. mango powder
Salt to taste
Black pepper, ½ tsp.
Garam Masala, ¾ tsp. (Indian spice blend, now available at most supermarkets)
Coriander powder (available at local supermarket)
2 tbsp. butter
¼ cup flour for dusting
1) Combine the flour and salt in a deep and wide mixing bowl
2) Add the water in three stages, needing the dough with your hands. Once the dough forms a ball and feels like pizza dough, allow to rest for at least 30 minutes (makes it more pliable and provides for a nicer crust)
1) Saute the meat with the ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Break the meat apart well. Add frozen peas, cook until moisture has evaporated.
2) Cool meat, combine with remaining ingredients
1) Heat a skillet on med-high
2) Divide dough in to golf ball-sized pieces, lightly coat with flour. Dust the work surface with a little flour. Roll in to small disks (the size of a coffee cup). Fill center with 1 tbsp. of filling and gather the ends and pinch closed. Flatten by hand and roll out carefully, not to break the dough and let filling come out
3) Roll out, switching sides a couple of times until it is the size of a quarter plate. Dust off excess flour
4) Place on the hot skillet and cook on both sides until it becomes crisp and little golden brown spots appear (usually 3 minutes). Flip and cook the other side, glaze with butter (no more than a light smear) and flip one more time to make it crispy and flaky
5) Serve immediately
Saira Malhotra, is of British–Indian descent and is a chef, food writer and cooking instructor based in New York City. Raised in Hounslow, U.K, or rather ‘Little India’, where the air is aromatic with roasted spices, little did Saira know these moments would follow her from being a student in France and Italy to residing in NYC with her husband and kids and parlay themselves unexpectedly in to a culinary career. She is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York City. Come visit her at her food blog: www.passportpantry.com where she shares approachable and international recipes