They say the sins of the father are visited on their children, and it’s this particular naughty inherited indulgence that I hold aloft with pride. It carried me through childhood, adolescence and now into adulthood. Often you hear people discussing the eating habits of their elders and exclaiming how ‘A full English breakfast never did my granddad Jim any harm. He ate one every day until he passed away at the age of ninety-three.’ In our family the equivalent is the paratha. Dad would trough his way through a stack of them, lips and fingers smacked with the buttery sheen of freshly cooked unleavened bread stuffed with a smooth, spiced potato mixture, his eyes glowing with boyhood delight, nodding in silence as if agreeing with the inner voice of his taste buds yelling for just another.
Treated as savoury interruption to the day, I remember parathas as a Saturday treat, where the mornings stretched a little longer and our stomachs yawned for the gut-busting taste of buttered chapattis enveloping the potato masala. The flatbreads were gently fried on a tawa until they scalded a little and took on the appearance of giraffe skin. After being left to cool a while, allowing the parathas to crisp up, we’d sink our teeth into cumin, chilli and turmeric-spiced potato mash wrapped in pan-toasted bread and race to see who could eat the most. I barely managed three, a gargantuan effort, but I was always eclipsed by my brother and father who seemed to tuck them into secret and separate bellies, notching up five or six in a session. These were our brunch snack after Saturday morning telly, where the presenters hammed up their personas in the drive to wake up a slumbering nation, but these days parathas now make an appearance as a hunger busting treat at any time of the day!
How to Make Indian Parathas
- 500g wholemeal flour, plus a little extra for dusting
- Water, enough to make a stiff dough
- 300g Aloo Ki Burtha (minus the tomatoes) mashed
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
Sift the flour into a bowl and sprinkle in a pinch of salt, adding a few tablespoons of water to create a stiff-ish dough. If you have time, cover and refrigerate for around 20 minutes. On a floured surface, knead the dough for a few minutes until the mix has become drier and isn’t sticky. Snatch away lemon-sized pieces of the dough, shape into balls and dust in flour. This quantity should make around 10–12. Place each little mound on the floury surface and, using a rolling pin, shape into a square approx. 15–20cm on each side. (A tip: make sure the outer edges are thinner than the middle of the square.)
Take a tablespoon of the potato filling, drop it in the middle and spread it with the back of the spoon. Now fold each corner of the square into the middle, forming an envelope. Seal the edges with a little water if needed. Flatten again with the rolling pin back to its previous size.
Heat a tawa or frying pan over a medium heat and brown one side of the paratha for around 30–40 seconds or until you can feel the heat coming through the other side. Flip over and do exactly the same with the other side. Add a little oil into the pan and shallow-fry both sides of the paratha until it’s taken on a rich golden treacle colour. Remove and preserve their heat in a warmed oven, or get someone else on paratha duty whilst you polish off yours fresh from the tawa, either on its own or stung with a sharp mango or lime pickle.