Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for aloo paratha with quick lemon pickle

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Beige food has had a difficult few years: it has been all but cast out of media appearances (with the exception of sourdough). We have become so obsessed with what our food looks like that we sometimes forget that, actually, appearances aren’t everything. What really matters is how food tastes, and how much pleasure it gives us – and that includes ugly and brown food.

Aloo paratha, one of my all-time favourite dishes, will never win a beauty contest. In India, it is the breakfast of champions, but I’ll happily make room for it at any time of day. It might not get 1,000 likes on social media, but it’s proof that beige can also be brilliant.

Aloo paratha with quick lemon pickle

If you can’t find chapati flour, use a mix of wholewheat and white, though you may need a bit more water. And don’t worry if your paratha is not completely round: practice makes perfect. (Incidentally, you can freeze leftover parathas: lay a square of greaseproof paper between each one and put them in a sealed container.) Makes eight.

2 lemons 
Rapeseed oil 
½ tsp black mustard seeds 
1 fat garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced 
1 red chilli, finely chopped (deseeded, if you want less heat) 
Salt 
2 medium maris piper potatoes (about 350g), peeled
350g chapati flour 
2cm ginger, grated 
1 red onion, peeled and very finely diced 
1½ green finger chillies, very finely chopped (deseeded, if you prefer less heat)
30g fresh coriander, stems and leaves, very finely chopped 
½ tsp turmeric 
½ tsp cumin seeds
Non-dairy yoghurt, to serve

First make the pickle. Top and tail one lemon, cut it into four, then cut each quarter into very thin slices (use your sharpest knife), removing any pips. Put the slices in a bowl, and juice the other lemon over the top.

On a very low flame, heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan for which you have a lid. Add the mustard seeds and garlic, and when the garlic turns pale gold, add the red chilli, lemon slices, lemon juice and half a teaspoon of salt. Stir to mix, cover and leave to cook for five minutes. Remove the lid, cook for five minutes more, until the oil starts to split from the lemons, then take off the heat and leave to cool.

Cut the potatoes into quarters and put in a deep saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and cook until tender. Drain and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the dough. Put the flour in a bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in two tablespoons of oil and half a teaspoon of salt. Mix with your hands until it resembles breadcrumbs, then bit by bit work in 220ml hand-hot water, until you have a soft dough. Cover and set aside.

Roughly mash the cooled potato, then mix in the ginger, onion, green chilli, coriander, turmeric, cumin and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt. Combine with your hands, until well mixed, thick and starchy, then taste and adjust the seasoning.

Divide the dough into eight and roll each piece into a ball between your palms. Flatten a little, then dip in flour and roll out to 14cm in diameter. Take a golf ball-sized amount of potato mix, roll it into a ball and put in the middle of the paratha. Pull the edges of the dough up around the ball, seal and flatten. Dip in flour and roll out to 14cm in diameter. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.

Heat a frying pan on a medium flame and, once hot, lay in a paratha and cook for a minute, until brown spots appear on the underside. Flip over, cook for a minute on the other side, then flip twice more, giving both sides a final 30 seconds on the heat (by this time, there should be no doughy bits visible). Transfer to a plate and keep warm while you repeat with the remaining parathas.

Serve fresh and hot with the pickle and a dollop of non-dairy yoghurt.

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