Aloo paratha is my childhood. It is a North Indian flatbread filled with soft, spicy mashed potatoes wrapped with homemade dough, called atta in Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu. Atta is made on a daily basis in many, if not most, Indian and Pakistani homes using a specific wholemeal wheat flour that is finely ground which offers a distinct texture and flavour to the roti and paratha made from it.
While every home and region across the Indian subcontinent has their own version of aloo paratha, this is mine. Half crushed coriander seeds add a nice contrast of texture to the soft potatoes, bright ginger, spicy chilis, fresh cilantro and warming cumin round the flavours out. If you cannot find dried mango powder, pomegranate powder is a great substitute.
Step into my childhood and enjoy my version of aloo paratha topped with copious amounts of ghee, dipped in a cool, tangy, yogurt – I prefer Balkan, and some mango achar on the side.
Assembly and serving
Add the whole potatoes to a large pot, fill with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover and cook the potatoes until they are just cooked through, about twenty to twenty five minutes. This is a key step, over-boiling the potatoes will result in the mixture being too wet to be filled into the atta and rolled out. Check on the potatoes at the 20 minute mark, and every 5 minutes thereafter.
While the potatoes are boiling, make the dough/atta. Mix the chakki atta and salt together. Add in ½ cup of warm water and mix the flour mixture with your hands. Add in the remaining ½ cup as needed, and the extra 2 tablespoons, one at a time, if the dough feels crumbly. Knead for at least five minutes. The dough should be smooth, and slightly firm. Drizzle ½ a tablespoon of oil over the dough, knead for one more minute. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to rest for at least 20 minutes.
Peel and roughly mash the potatoes while they are still warm, leaving very small pieces of potatoes for texture.
Make the potato filling: To the potatoes, add the salt, cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, amchoor powder, green chilis, ginger and cilantro. Mix well to combine.
Uncover the prepared atta and divide the dough into 5 equal sized balls. Each ball should fit into a quarter cup measuring cup perfectly.
Working with one dough ball at a time, dust the first with all-purpose flour on both sides. Begin to slightly flatten the ball into a 3-inch disk. Place the disk on your work surface and flatten slightly. Using a rolling pin, roll the disk out into a 5-inch circle.
Make a ball with ⅓ cup of the potato mixture. Holding the dough in one hand, place the potato mixture in the centre of the rolled out dough.
Carefully lift the sides of the dough up, being careful not to pull and tear the dough, and gently squeeze the dough so the edges almost meet at the top. Pleat or squeeze the dough together at the top, twisting and removing any excess. If the potato begins to squeeze out, carefully press it back in before sealing the ball.
Dust the closed ball on both sides with all-purpose flour. Using your palms and fingers, gently flatten the ball into a thick disk.
Place the disk on a flour dusted work surface, gently pressing the disk down to flatten it slightly.
Using a rolling pin, apply gentle pressure starting from the centre of the disk and upwards. Slowly bring the rolling pin down to the bottom of the disk. Working too fast or using too much pressure will cause the dough to tear, and the potato mixture to squeeze out.
Carefully lift and rotate the disc as needed, rolling and turning until the disk is even around the edges and the centre and is roughly 8 inches in diameter.
Heat a tawa or pan over high heat. Once warm, turn down to medium-high.
Brush any excess flour from the paratha, and carefully lift it off your work surface. Place the paratha onto the hot tawa/pan. Pan fry for about 2 minutes, or until you are able to see slight bubbles forming on top.
Flip the paratha using a spatula. Brush the cooked side with ghee, spreading the ghee around the paratha and over the edges.
Flip the paratha over, brush the top with ghee in the same method as above. Flip the paratha two more times, using a spatula to gently press down while it is cooking, ensuring both sides are crisp and a beautiful golden brown.
Repeat steps 6-16 for the remaining balls of dough.
Serve with cool yogurt and mango aachar/pickle.