I was born into a big Anglo-Indian family on both my parents’ side along with another 8 siblings. We lived in a gigantic, beautiful but ramshackle Georgian house on a hill, on the outskirts of Bath with far reaching views. My dad was a teacher at a local comprehensive and my mum did the endless job of looking after her extensive clan.
Our grandparents on my dad’s side, lived with us too from the late 70s and then just my nan (pictured in the centre) after my grandad passed away a couple of years later.
We grew up with our nan; she was always around throughout my childhood and teens until I left home. She was a massively integral and central part of our family. An extremely loving and formidable (in a good way) woman, who shared a great deal of herself through an amazing ability for a good yarn. Together with my mum, she also brought with her a pride in their Anglo-Indian cuisine and longstanding family dishes adopted and made their own. A rich blend of Indian and European cooking. She also made parathas.
At least once a week she would loosen up her arthritic hands by mixing, kneading and rolling a simple dough of flour, oil and water, to make the most incredible, flaky flat breads you can imagine. On to these parathas we would spread honey, jam, nutella, or some dal from the night before. If a sweet spread was used, we would roll them up like thick pancakes and down with a cup of sweet, weak tea. Kids love parathas.
In some ways, I’m slightly sad about the fact that she made parathas and not naan breads. It would have been a lovely coincidence and I’m sure I would have grown up thinking that everyone’s nans made naans.
I think Parathas are traditionally paired with savoury dishes; used to lap up rich dals and currys and sometimes as an alternative to rice. The dominance of the naan bread in this country and contrasting unpopularity of the paratha is I feel unfounded. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fresh, puffy naan, (especially of the peshwari variety) but parathas are without doubt the king of the flat breads. If you’ve tried making your own or had good ones from a restaurant/takeaway you’ll appreciate my thinking, especially as a breakfast bread with honey. They are delicious.
I got thinking about this naan/paratha bake-off and the pros and cons of each and one thing I realised that naans had going for them was the peshwari filling. We never had filled parathas when I growing up so I just always accepted that they couldn’t be bettered. I was wrong. On experimenting with this combination, I realised that the warm, buttery flakiness together with a coconut, ground almond and sultana peshwari filling takes these flatbreads to yet another level. Drizzle some honey over them and you’re in heaven.
INGREDIENTS – for 3 small or 2 large parathas
180g or 1 mug white bread flour.
4-5 tablespoons of melted butter or ghee
approx. 80-100ml water.
pinch of salt (optional)
30g desiccated coconut
30g ground almonds
20g soft brown sugar
- put flour into bowl
- mix with salt – if you’ve decided to include salt.
- pour in 2 tablespoons of the melted butter or ghee
- mix to fine breadcrumb consistency
- gingerly add water and mix to form ball of dough.
- add more water if too dry or more flour if too wet
- remove from bowl and knead for around 5-10 minutes on lightly floured surface
- when formed into a soft pliable dough divide into how ever many parathas you’re making
- roll out the first one with a rolling pin to corrugated cardboard thickness
- drizzle over 1 tsp of melted butter, ghee or olive oil and spread around surface of paratha
- sprinkle over the peshwari mixture
- fold into itself, into thirds, then thirds again
- dust with flour if you need to
- roll out once more
- heat a heavy frying pan and add some butter, ghee or olive oil
- fry paratha for a couple of minutes and then brush oil onto the top and turn over to do the other side
- fry for approximately another 2 minutes until cooked – it should be golden with darker patches.
- make sure the edges are cooked
- while a paratha is frying, roll out the next one.
- pile them onto a plate like pancakes and keep warm
For standard parathas just omit the peshwari mixture. (Matthew)