'Chapatis: the everyday bread of millions in India, made simply with flour, water and salt, baked on a griddle called a tawa and depending only on the way it is kneaded and rolled for its lightness and ability to puff up like a balloon.'
If you have a few good curries and spiced main meals on your repertoire, then surely you will want to add chapatis to the list. Chapatis is the unleavened flat bread made using Atta or Roti flour (or wholemeal flour) and a little ghee. Traditionally, a piece of chapatis is torn off and used to gather up pieces of meat or vegetable with all the wonderful sauce or gravy that they have been cooked in. I imagine you could almost 'lick the plate' with some chapatis too!
A few tips and hints from Charmaine, the doyenne of Asian cooking. If you leave the dough to rest for several hours, the chapatis will be very light and tender. Resting the dough between rolling and cooking will ensure even lighter chapatis. Charmaine also notes: 'In India, chapatis are cooked on the tawa or griddle plate and are held for a moment or two right over the fire - this makes them puff up like balloons. You can do this over a gas flame, holding the chapatis with kitchen tongs.' Do take care if you try this!
The recipe I'm sharing here is adapted slightly from The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon OAM.
375g Atta or wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon ghee or peanut oil
250 mls water
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Rub in the ghee with your fingers. Add the water and mix to a firm dough. Knead for up to ten minutes, noting that the long you knead the dough the lighter the chapatis will be. Form the dough into a ball, pop it back into the bowl, cover with cling film (or a plastic shower cap) and allow the dough to rest.
Next, divide the dough into about 20 pieces and shape each segment into a ball with a 5cm diameter. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board and work it into a circular shape. Continue with the remainder of the segments.
Heat a griddle or large cast iron skillet to high temperature. Cook the flat chapatis one at a time, for approximately a minute or so each, until browned lightly and bubbles form in the bread. Press down the flat bread with a metal lifter to encourage the chapatis to rise.
Pile the chapatis onto a plate and cover with a clean tea towel until all of the flat breads are cooked. Serve immediately. Makes 20.
Tell me dear readers, have you ever made chapatis?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.