Archives for posts with tag: flatbread

When I was seven my family went on vacation to Cairo before going to see relatives in Pakistan.  I guess my parents wanted to enrich our childhood by taking us to see some of the wonders of the world – the pyramids.  Being seven, I didn’t appreciate or understand the greatness of what I was seeing.  I don’t remember much about this trip, but I do remember some highlights.  I’m sure my sister, who was four at the time and I were probably complaining about the heat and continually asking when we would see Mickey Mouse.  My parents were probably kicking themselves for taking their two little brats see these ancient landmarks.

My dad is infamous for telling us stories from our childhood.  Stories we usually would not like every random stranger to know.  Regardless, my dad is always ready to share that he had to carry my crying sister on his back inside the Great Pyramid at Giza and how I complained that the pyramid had a weird smell to it.  As you can see, my sister and I really savored our experience there.  But I do remember bits and pieces of this trip.  We went to the Egyptian Museum, I relished the thought of telling my classmates that I had seen the mummy of King Tut.  We had a guide too, who helped us weave our way through souks and also showed us the famous Tahrir square.  I also recall that we stayed at the Shepheard Hotel, a hotel that my father told me that my grandfather had stayed at during a visit to Cairo.  In that hotel my sister and I feasted on mango ice cream and salade Niçoise.  Out of all the choices of food we had, these two were on our daily wish lists.  At the Shepheard hotel, I recall watching an Egyptian marriage procession in amazement.  I heard ululation for the first time, I did not know whether these high-pitched voices indicated happiness or sadness, whatever the case, I stood there in awe.

Amongst all of these memories, my father always highlights one story in particular.  Looking back, we laugh about the incident, but at the time I still remember my childhood panic.  It was nighttime and after a long day of sightseeing we were back at the hotel.  My sister and I were hungry and requested what we called “Egyptian Pizza,” which was available on the street close to the hotel.  My parents decided to get us some of this Egyptian pizza while they explicitly told my sister and I that they would be back in 5 minutes and we should stay in the room.

A few minutes after they left, I panicked.  I told my sister I was going to look for them.  I went down to the lobby in my nightie and untied Keds sneakers.  Because it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing your Rainbow Brite nightie as long as you’ve got sneakers on – the logic of a child. Anyway, I hustled around the lobby looking for my parents.  I couldn’t find them so I went back up to the room.  My sister was gone.  Apparently, she had also panicked.  I went back down and saw her crying and sitting with an Egyptian man.  He asked us where our parents were and my sister said they left us.  He looked puzzled.  I at seven was slightly more mature and said they were coming back and went to get us pizza.  I don’t remember much else except that within a few minutes my parents arrived and saw us in the lobby with the man and my sister full of tears.  They must have realized that they shouldn’t have left us alone.  This is a story that is repeated practically every time I go to see my parents.

All that commotion was for this flatbread.  I think you can find this in Levant cuisine as well as Turkish cuisine known as Lahmajoun and Lahmacun.  I suspect this Egyptian version might have been Armenian because of the large Armenian population in Egypt.  I recreated it here, with a different crust.  I love adding flax and chia seeds to my dough.  They had a lovely nuttiness and texture as well.  The spicy and smokey ground meat is delicious and the bell peppers minced in shine through.  I made this and was reminded of that trip to Cairo.  I guess my parents did the right thing by taking us to Egypt.  If anything, I have this story to tell.

Spicy Beef Flatbreads

makes 4

Ingredients

for the whole-wheat, flax, chia dough:

1 1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast (or half a sachet)

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 cup warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling

3/4 whole-wheat four

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

2 tablespoons ground chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

for the beef:

1/2 lb ground beef (you can also mix ground beef and ground lamb, or just use lamb)

1/2 an onion, chopped

5-6 mini bell peppers, red, orange, yellow, or 1 large bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 green chili, chopped (seeds removed, if you like)

1/2 cup chopped parsley, mint, and cilantro

2 scallions, chopped

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon, red chili flakes, use less for less spicy

1 teaspoon ground cumin

kosher salt, to taste

olive oil

fresh parsley, mint, labneh, olive oil, olives, and fresh lemon wedges, for serving

Method

First, make the dough by combining the yeast, sugar, and water in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Let the yeast bloom for 10 minutes.  Next, add in the olive oil, champagne vinegar, and salt.  Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Attach the dough hook to the mixer and put the bowl on the mixer and turn it to low-speed.  Gradually add the dry ingredients into the bowl, once the dry ingredients are all in the bowl, turn the speed to medium and let the dough knead for 2-3 minutes.  If you need extra water or flour, add it tablespoon at a time.  It should be a smooth dough.  Once kneaded, drizzle some olive oil over top so that it doesn’t form a skin and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours.

Once the dough has risen punch it down and knead slightly and put it back in the bowl for the second rising, about 30 minutes.  Once the dough has risen again knead it for a few minutes and separate it into four balls.

Next, in a food processor, add in the onions, garlic, peppers, green chili pepper, and herbs.  Pulse a few times until finely chopped.  Next, squeeze out the excess water from the vegetable mixture in a kitchen towel or strong paper towel.  In bowl, combine the vegetable mixture with the ground meat and spices.  Mix it together with your hands.  Set aside

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Next, roll out the dough to 8-9 inch diameter circles, like individual sized pizzas.  dust with flour to prevent the dough from sticking.  Drizzle the dough circles with olive oil. Place the dough on a flat baking tray and then spread the meat mixture over the dough evenly and drizzle with olive oil again.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until the dough is golden brown.  Serve with fresh parsley, mint, labneh, olive oil, olives, and fresh lemon wedges.

“You just want me to be fat and making parathas in the kitchen all day,” my mother would exclaim when my sister and I got into a little fight with her.  You see, when my sister and I were teenagers my mother would often wear the same sort of clothes we wore and we would become incredibly annoyed.  Maybe she was right in a way.  We did want her to do more baking and wear ugly sweaters like everyone else’s moms.  My mother always had a young spirit and had a young outer façade to match it.  My sister and I have since gotten over our teenage qualms and are happy to have our mom raid our closet and vice versa.

She saw making parathas and rotis as the ultimate form of subservience, the sign of an unhappy woman.  I know that it was a silly thing for her to think, regardless I developed the same sort of picture in my mind.  When I got married, my mom said to me, “there’s no need to make roti everyday.”  That was certainly not in my plan and I only attempted to make them two years after marriage.  This was because I was inspired by of all the fabulous bakers and adventurous bloggers I came into contact with.

In stark contrast to my own mother is my mother-in-law.  I only hinted at the prospect of trying to make rotis and she was back the same day with a tawa.  She made sure to buy me atta and proceed on giving me a lesson in the art of making rotis.  For indeed it is an acquired art, you can not master it at one go.  When I went back to my own home, my mother-in-law would call and ask how the roti and paratha making was going.  I would fib and say I tried and that my roti were not coming out round.  These white lies were just to make her feel better, because she felt her son was being taken care of if he was receiving fresh roti and parathas.

One day, I bit the bullet and tried.  I got over my preconceived notions and complexes related to roti and paratha making.  My first few attempts were pathetic, a real blow to my self-esteem.  I consider myself a decent cook and to fail so miserably at something so simple was embarrassing.  My roti resembled and tasted like cardboard and I hadn’t even dived into the world of parathas yet.  Thankfully, slowly but surely I got there and now I can confidently say that I can make roti and paratha.

This is not going to be a daily routine in my household though, a special biannual treat, if you will.  After all, I am still my mother’s daughter and I am glad she raised me how she did.

Aloo Parathay

Makes 4

Ingredients

for the dough:

2 1/2 cups Durum wheat flour, roti or chapati flour (I use Golden Temple)

3/4-1 1/2 cup of lukewarm water

for the filling:

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

3 boiling potatoes, peeled and cubed into a medium dice

1/2 a red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

a few leaves of mint, chopped

green chilies, chopped (as many as you like, I used 2)

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

pinch of ajwain (carom) seeds

red chili powder/cayenne pepper, to taste

crushed red chilies, to taste, optional

salt, to taste

canola or vegetable oil, for frying

Method

Prepare the dough by kneading the flour and water together.  Add the water a little at a time until the dough just comes together.  You may not need all of the water.  I knead by hand, but you can also do this in a food processor or stand mixer with the hook attachment.

Knead for about five minutes until the dough is firm yet elastic.  Place the dough in a bowl and dab on some water over the dough so it doesn’t form a skin and cover it with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest for at least a few hours in the fridge or on the counter if you are using it the same day.

Once ready to make the parathas, let the dough sit at room temperature for a few hours if it was in the fridge.  The dough can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

To make the potato filling boil the potatoes in some cold water in a pot on medium to medium high heat until the potatoes are fork tender and easily mashed, about 15-20 minutes.  Drain the water from the potatoes and mash them with a fork or potato masher.  While the potatoes are boiling, toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry fry pan on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Transfer the spices to a mortar and pestle and coarsely grind them.

Next, add in the oil, onions, cilantro, green chilies, all the spices to the mashed potatoes and mix everything together. Set aside.

Now, you will have to roll out the dough.  Separate the dough into eight even-sized balls.  You will need two balls per one paratha.  Roll each ball out so that is is smooth with no seams.  Next, flatten out the ball with you hand so that it becomes a small circle.  Put your thumb at the center of the circle and press your fingers at the edges of the circle as to expand the circle.  Press your fingers all around and rotate the circle until it starts getting bigger.  At this point, use a rolling-pin to roll out a circle with a 6 inch diameter.  For each paratha you will need two 6 inch diameter circles.

Place 1/2 a cup of the potato filling over one 6 inch diameter circle, leaving an inch free all around.  Place the second dough circle on top and using your fingers pinch the edges shut.  Using your rolling pin, roll out the paratha until it approximately has a 10 inch diameter.

Heat your tawa, griddle, or frying pan to medium heat and place the paratha on the warm surface.  Let the paratha cook like this for a minute or two then flip it over and using a pastry brush, brush on about a tablespoon of oil on the top of the paratha.  Flip it again so that the oiled side is at the bottom.  Grease the top with another tablespoon of oil.  Once the bottom has turned golden brown, about 2-3 minutes flip it over and brown the other side.  Once both sides are golden brown remove from the heat and repeat the process until the dough is finished.

Serve with raita, achar, or green chutney.  I particularly like paratha with shami kebabs.

My mother-in-law is a star in the kitchen, especially when it comes to Pakistani cuisine.  You ask for it and she will make it, happily.  Some people do not bother with serving others food.  They are stingy or not gracious hosts.  These comments could never be associated with my mother-in-law.  She loves feeding her friends and family.  I always tell her, “Aunty, you should open up a restaurant.”  If it was not so tiring and such a big commitment, I think it would be ideal for her.

She goes all out with her preparations.  I love seeing this quality in people, the trait of being a great host.  Inviting someone to your house should not be seen as a hassle, but an occasion to share food and good times with others.  She makes very elaborate and time-consuming dishes when she is having a gathering.  She would rather not invite people over than make something simple that you would eat in your house on a daily basis.  I am like her in some ways.  I do take pride in inviting people over to my place.  In this day and age, I understand that people are busy and entertaining is the last thing on their minds.  But, there is something so appealing and welcoming about a good host.

I mention all of this, because my mother-in-law also makes her own fresh naans.  Most of the time, she lives in Dubai, but she also visits Toronto quite frequently.  Both of these places have no shortage of establishments that serve up fresh naans.  Yet, she takes great pride in her kitchen and would rather serve something fresh and home-made.  Making naan for 2-3 people, like I have made here is not that grueling.  However, she will make naans for 15-20 people with a smile on her face the whole time.

I hope you try this recipe, it is really worth it to put in the effort.  The recipe is not hard at all, just a little time-consuming.  The result is so worth it.  They are usually made in a tandoor or clay oven.  Most of us are not equipped with one in our kitchen, so the broiler is the next best option.  Hot, fresh, naans enhance any Pakistani or Indian dish as they serve the place of an extra utensil.  They are chewy and oh so delicious.  I am very lucky to have such a great mother-in-law who is able to teach me such recipes that I would have not tried making before.

Naan

Makes 8 naans

Ingredients

4 cups of all-purpose unbleached flour (organic)

1 1/2 tablespoons dry-active yeast

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup of yogurt

sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

kalonji seeds, for garnish (optional)

softened butter

extra water and flour, if necessary

Method

Proof the yeast with the warm water and sugar, for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture starts to form bubbles.  Sift together the flour with the salt and baking powder.  Add in the yeast mixture, milk, and 1/2 cup of oil.  Knead the dough together until it forms a ball.  If the dough is too sticky add extra flour to the dough and likewise if it is too dry, add water.  Allow to rise in a bowl covered with a damp kitchen towel for 4 hours.  Keep the bowl in a warm place, like over the stove.

Meanwhile mix the yogurt with the remaining oil in a bowl and set aside.

After four hours knead the dough slightly.  Separate the dough into 8 equal balls.  Allow the balls to rise for 30 minutes.  Then, using a rolling-pin roll the balls into 8-9 inch rounds.  Use your fingertips to make indentations in the dough.

Preheat your broiler.  Heat a griddle or frying pan on the stove on medium heat.  Brush the yogurt/oil mixture on top of the naans and cover with sesame seeds.  You can add a few kalonji seeds, if you like.  Next cook the bottom of the naans on the griddle or frying pan for about 4 minutes.  Then transfer them as the bottoms are browned onto a baking tray underneath the broiler.  This will brown the top of the naans.  Keep each naan in the oven for about 4 minutes, or until the top is slightly golden.  If you wish you can dab a little butter on top of the hot naans.  Serve them right away, they taste best right from the oven.

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