mooli ke parathe
There were exactly three types of parathas made in our home - alu, methi, and gobi. If there had been any other types, then clearly I have forgotten. In contrast, I have been quite a rebel adventurer. Spinach, cabbage, paneer, beets, pumpkin, cheese, broccoli, peas, dals, mint, chutneys, molagaipodi, even leftover sabjees, have all had played a part in my parathas at some time or the other, with varied results. At this, Musical might just yawn and say, "So what? We make parathas with almost anything". Of course she does, but considering what I grew up with, this is quite a repertoire.
A paratha related mini-obsession started recently when a friend was visiting our area during Christmas break last year. We met for lunch at a basic, almost divey, Indian restaurant where we could eat good food, and talk for a long time without being bothered. The meal included giant parathas - I had gobi and she had mooli, and of course we tasted both. I liked the gobi, but the mooli one with a generous filling of spiced radishes was so good that I wished that I had ordered that one instead.
Very soon I was hankering for it at home, and wanted to give it a try. It was further fueled when my friend and I reminisced about the parathas we had. I used to make mooli parathas years ago, but because I found it difficult to make the stuffed ones, (this was just for mooli, not other types of parathas) I used to go the lazy route and mix in grated daikon radish with flour and spices to make the dough for the parathas. In fact this was many times a quick weeknight dinner that didn't need much planning if there was a white radish in the fridge. Somewhere along the way, I stopped making these and had even forgotten about them, but after tasting the wonderful stuffed parathas at the restaurant I realized how much better they tasted, with the filling sandwiched between the dough, giving you a little crust and a little taste of the vegetable in each bite. Soon I was on a mission to find out how to get the stuffed ones right. Once again, I tried to roll them out by filling the radish mixture into a ball of dough but the shreds kept leaking out and making a mess on the board. A big salaam to those who are able to roll those out, but I have just not been able to do that well. That is when Musical's "two layered parathas" really came to the rescue by working as perfectly as she describes. So a big Thank You, Musical!
For my paratha experiments, I used watermelon radishes (see note at end) just because I happened to have a bunch of them, an added bonus of which is that the filling looks very pretty when the parathas is torn off. One can use any kind of radish, larger ones being better because they are easier to grate.
There are all kinds of recipes for the filling, with additions ranging from turmeric to grated onion, so I decided to try out a few. In the first batch I tried Musical's combination of garam masala and red chili powder, and in the second batch I used Saffronhut's combination of ginger, green chilies and cilantro. I preferred the heat of red chili powder over that of green chilies, but I enjoyed the flavor of ginger. I am neutral about the cilantro as it did not seem to add much but wasn't bad. What I have given below is what I tried in the third batch, and liked a lot, but I might try other versions in the future. Ultimately, there is not one right thing, so experiment, have fun, and let your taste buds and mood decide. Do you have a favorite combination that you would like to share?
In a paradoxical way, while on one hand this is free form cooking at its best, it needs lots of practice to get it just right.
Stuffed Radish Parathas / Mooli Parathas
1-1/2 cups grated radish, not tightly packed
salt to taste
3/4 teaspoon red chili powder to taste
1/4 teaspoon mild garam masala
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
2 cups atta
salt to taste
a little oil for the dough
oil or ghee for the parathas
Place the grated radishes in a sieve or colander over a bowl, and add salt to it. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. The salt will draw out moisture from the radishes. Squeeze the radishes by hand, and collect the squeezed water in the bowl.
Use this water to knead the dough using flour and salt, adding more regular water as required. When the dough is kneaded smooth smear the ball of dough with a touch of oil. Divide the dough into 8 pieces of equal size.
Mix the grated radish with red chili powder, garam masala and grated ginger.
Start heating a tava.
Roll out one of the pieces of dough to about 6 inches round and keep it on a plate. Roll out another piece to about the same size. Spread about a fourth of the filling on it, leaving a small edge all around. Top with the previously rolled out roti, gently press the edges together, and roll lightly with the rolling pin just a little more until the 3 layers are held together. Put the paratha on the heated tava and cook on both sides. Drizzle a little oil around the edge if you like. I just like to brush some ghee on the paratha after it is done. Repeat this exercise with the rest of the dough and filling.
Serve with chutney, pickles, yogurt. For an added indulgence, try sour cream or crème fraîche.
In the last year or two I have been buying watermelon radishes from the farmers market whenever I see them. They taste very similar to regular radishes, maybe even a tad sweeter, but they look absolutely gorgeous. They have a greenish white skin, and inside they are a bright fuschia or deep red in color, and when sliced, they look like tiny watermelon wedges. For a simple but striking salad, I peel and slice them thin, and sprinkle a little coarse salt and ground black pepper which looks almost like seeds on them.