One of my favorite times of the day is opening up emails you send me, and over the weekend I got this message from a reader, Ruth. “I could eat Indian food every day – both northern and southern,” wrote Ruth who learned to cook from Indian friends. “So please post more Indian recipes.”
I looked through the past few weeks of my blog and realized that I have posted more Italian than Indian recipes recently. Not so strange, when you consider the fact that it’s easy to throw together a great one-pot meal with a pasta, especially if you add a protein component. All you need is a salad and dinner’s on the table. Or in the brown bag.
But like Ruth, I could eat Indian food every day. And I often do. But because Indian meals can be more elaborate than a one-pot recipe — you need rice or roti, a subzi (a cooked vegetable side), and a dal or a curry — it’s not always easy to get a quick and complete Indian meal on the fly. That’s why I often tend to combine components when I can so I have one less thing to make.
A paratha is one of my favorite ways to get vegetables and grains in a single dish. Most of you know what a paratha is — it’s a flatbread stuffed with a vegetable and you can use almost any vegetable, really, with potato being the most common. Cauliflower, radish, sweet potatoes, even tofu make great — and arguably healthier than potato — stuffings.
This time, I decided to stuff my paratha with mushrooms. Until a few years back mushrooms were not a common ingredient in Indian cooking. When I was a child, my father would sometimes get them on a trip down south to the city he grew up in — Belgaum– bringing them with him on the plane or train to Bombay. Those mushrooms, foraged from the wild, would be brown and juicy and meaty and my mom would cook them up in a spicy, exquisite curry.
Just a few years later, button mushrooms became easily available in little plastic packets in grocery stores and you could buy them almost anywhere in the city. Today, despite the reluctance some vegetarians in India exhibit toward this wonderful vegetable because of its meaty taste, mushrooms are a staple of Indian cuisine.
I love mushrooms– crimini, button, shiitake, portabellas, oyster, whatever– I could eat them just about any time. So I knew, even before I started, that these parathas were going to be amazing. And they were.
Mushrooms tend to express a lot of water, so one key step to ensuring your parathas are a success is to remove every trace of moisture from the stuffing. Also, a paratha stuffing should be soft and pliable and as smooth as possible– any big, hard lumps will cause tears in the paratha when you roll it. So be sure to follow instructions closely because every step I take, I take for a reason.
I loved the look of these parathas too. The mushrooms give them a pretty black color, which makes them look quite unique. I roll my parathas really thin because that’s how Desi and I like them. They just taste better that way.
Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!
- For the dough:
- ¾ cup whole wheat flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- For the stuffing:
- 8 ounces of crimini mushrooms, grated (use button if you prefer. Your stuffing will be lighter in color)
- 1 medium onion, grated
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch knob of ginger, grated
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp aamchur (mango powder)
- 1 heaping tbsp besan or chickpea flour
- Salt to taste
- ¼ cup finely chopped coriander
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- Make the dough:
- Mix the flour, salt and oil. Add enough water and knead to make a stiff but pliable dough. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Make the filling:
- Heat the oil. Add the grated onions, ginger and garlic. Add some salt and stir-fry the onions until they start to turn a light golden-brown.
- Add the cayenne, cumin, turmeric and aamchur and saute for a minute.
- Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is quite dry. Add the besan and salt to taste and stir-fry another two minutes or until there is no visible moisture. The mushroom mixture will hold together when you ball it up.
- To put together the parathas. divide the dough into four pieces.
- Roll each into a smooth ball.
- Take one ball and flatten it with your fingers. Prep the surface you will roll the bread on by flouring it, and flour the rolling pin as well.
- Roll the dough into a disc about four inches in diameter.
- Take one-fourth of the mushroom mixture and make a ball. Place it in the center of the disc of dough.
- Gather the corners of the dough on top, like a dumpling. Seal at the top, roll into a ball, and flour the top and bottom.
- Roll into a disc about six to seven inches in diameter.
- Heat a cast-iron or nonstick griddle. Roast the paratha until golden-brown spots appear on the underside, flip over and cook the other side. Spray a little oil for an extra-crispy paratha.
- Serve hot with a spicy curry like My Dad's Not-Mutton Mushroom Curry, or chutney.