The humble chapati – it’s so ubiquitous in India, but as ubiquitous they are, there are many familial variations and they’re difficult to get right. My version uses no oil in my cooking (just a little to coat the dough) and make them paper thin. This is a staple in India and a great alternative to serving your dish with rice.
Ingredients – makes about 10 chapatis:
2 Cups of atta (stone ground wholemeal flour)
1 tsp salt
1 cup of water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
The most important part of chapati is getting the right flour – you need to find Atta or stone ground wholemeal flour – you can use a combination of 2 parts plain white flour and 1 part wholemeal flour, but it’s not the same as getting some proper atta – pretty readily available, these days. To two cups of atta, add a teaspoon of salt and about 1 cup of water.
Mix the water and atta together and combine it into a dough
Cover the atta dough with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. This keeps it from sticking to you and the bench. Leave it to rest for a few mins to allow the gluten strands to relax a little (gives it a softer texture when you cook it)
The dough’s texture should be firm, but not sticky – you can see here I can press my fingers in to it and it keeps its shape, but it doesn’t stick to my fingers. The softer your atta, the softer your final chapatis, but the harder it is to work with.
Use a well floured surface and make a small disk shape
Press the disk down to start to form the shape of a circle – make sure you have plenty of flour to stop it from sticking
This is the hardest part of chapatis – rolling in to a circular shape – keep turning the chapati to keep the shape even
Pick up your rolled chapati and pat the excess flour off
I like mine thin – you can see it’s almost translucent – you can have them thicker, but drop the cooking temperature and cook slightly longer
Put your chapati on to a medium heat – I use a tava or flat skillet – keep the temperature even and wait for it to start to bubble – when this happens, flip it over
Cook for a few seconds on the next side – when it starts to bubble again, flip it one more time
With a dry cloth, press down gently on the chapati – this will encourage it to rise and give it a much lighter texture. I don’t have a gas stove, but if you did, you can drop the cooked chapati directly on to the gas flames and get it to puff up some more – just for a second, mind you, or you’ll have a fire on your hands!
Here’s an example of cooking one on too high a heat [purposefully for educational reasons] – it’s started to go black and you get a very bitter taste – this one goes to the birds
Finish by rubbing a little butter into a warm chapati
Serve hot (and try to get a photo before the kids grab it)