Have you ever had a colleague that you simply click with right from the very start? My colleague Sarojini is one of those for me. Originally from the south of India, she spent her teenage years in Brazil, and university years in Canberra before settling in Sydney with her husband and starting work at JDRF. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that we’re quite close – we eat lunch together most days, went to the opera and the Beyonce concert together, and do hang out outside of work with our partners as well.
As a vegetarian with other food intolerances, Sarojini’s food choices can be quite limited when she dines out – and so she makes up for it by being a better than average home cook. After months of ogling her home-made chapatis and curries, I finally went over to her apartment a few months ago to learn how to make flatbreads.
Her amazing collection of spices definitely beats my mishmash of supermarket-bought spices sitting in a spice rack. Her two spice containers were purchased in India, however I’m told that it’s possible to find these in Sydney as well in specialist Indian grocery stores. It’s definitely on my shopping list!
We start our masterclass with learning how to make simple chapatis using a 50/50 mix of atta flour and water. It’s very hands-on, and within twenty seconds of kneading, we have a solid ball of dough that’s ready to be rolled out.
Tip from Sarojini – the atta flour that you can buy in Woolworths and Coles isn’t very authentic. Atta flour is best purchased directly from Indian grocery stores, however it can be harder to find it in quantities smaller than the standard 5kg bag.
Take a large pinch of the dough (vary the quantity depending how large you want your chapati to be) and roll it out with a rolling pin. Sarojini has a small marble platform specifically for rolling out flatbreads, but you can do this on any clean flat and level surface.
Heat up a non-stick pan on high heat. The pan in the photo (available for purchase from good Indian grocery stores!) is specifically designed for flatbreads and so has no edges, however you can just use any flat pan. Put a chapati on once it reaches high heat, and spread a tiny dab of ghee on one side.
Flip the chapati when it starts to change colour, and spread ghee on the other side. The chapati should start to puff up and darken on both sides. It should be completely cooked within a minute, so keep a close eye on it!
We moved on then to making parathas, with aloo paratha (potato paratha) as our first choice. After boiling and draining some peeled and sliced potatoes, add in a generous amount of chopped coriander and various spices such as cumin and paprika. Mix thoroughly with one hand until all the ingredients are integrated.
Using a similar atta flour dough, take a large ball of dough and roll it out, keeping the dough quite thick. Place an amount of the potato mixture into the centre of the rolled out dough, and bring the edges of the dough up until you recreate a ball of dough, with the potato mixture in the middle.
Taking great care roll out this ball of dough, making sure that no holes appear and release the potato mixture. You cook this in the same way as the chapatis with a small amount of ghee on either side. Just keep in mind that you do need to cook it for longer given that it is much thicker and includes other ingredients as well.
And of course – after spending nearly an hour making chapatis and parathas and a daal as well, I completely forgot to take a photo of all the dishes on the table! You’ll have to take my word that it was all extremely delicious, and I’ve now added spice containers and a flat non stick pan to my shopping list.