Chapati (or roti) is an ubiquitous part of many Indian homes. In ours, it was sort of a bread equivalent that we ate at breakfast or dinner in all its many versions. They were always made fresh and mostly eaten hot - or pulled from a pile my mother had made earlier and warmed. I don’t eat them that often anymore, and when I do, it tends to be ready made - simply for the convenience. But the other night, with groceries running low, I made a hummus with some freshly cooked chickpeas - and not having any bread at hand, kneaded some dough and rolled out a few chapatis. This was such a revelation to my partner F - that one could make ‘bread’ at home, so quickly and easily - he couldn’t stop marvelling at it. It transported me back home - to the mentality of fresh food, of nourishment, of learning and knowing how to transform basic ingredients into tasty meals.
Chapatis are usually made from wholewheat flour, I didn’t have any at hand and used the refined variety, which is why mine are so light-coloured. Make a batch and store them in the fridge for a couple of days : re-heat on a girdle or in a pan rather than microwaving, though. You can also spread an omelette and some vegetables over the chapati and then roll it into a tasty and easy-to-transport meal.
To make the dough, be sparing with the water in the beginning, drizzling it in with one hand and mixing the flour with the other until everything comes together into a firm, soft, moist ball. Even if the dough does become too wet, just add a tablespoon or so of flour to alter the consistency. Once you get the hang of it, it is simple and fast to make - the dough can also be stored in a jar or box in the fridge and used as required. You’ll need a rolling pin and a flat surface to roll the chapatis out, either a board or just your counter top.
1 cup (whole) wheat flour + more for the rolling
some ghee or oil, for the rolling and frying
a pinch of salt
about 100ml cold water
Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle in some water and start mixing the flour together with your finger tips. It will first come together in a series of strings - try to combine in all the water you just added before adding any further. Drizzle in a little bit more water and knead together until the flour becomes a soft moist mass - but it shouldn’t be sticky, because this will make it hard to roll out. Once the dough is done, knead it for a further minute to break down the starches. Divide it into 4 to 6 portions, depending on how large you want your chapatis to be, and roll these into little balls.
Heat a non-stick girdle or large pan on medium heat.
Place a couple of tablespoons of flour in a saucer. Take a ball of dough, press it into the flour on both sides to coat and then place it on the surface you’ll be using to roll the chapatis. Using the rolling pin, roll the ball out into a thin even circle. Spread a little ghee over the circle, then fold in half to make a crescent. Spread a bit of ghee over this surface as well and then fold into a quarter, pressing down gently to seal all the layers to each other. Press this quarter into the flour in the saucer, on both sides, and return to the rolling board. Roll out evenly until you have a even, thin triangle.
Place the chapati on the girdle and turn up the heat to high. Using a spoon, coat the upper surface with a little ghee or oil and flip it over. Repeat this for the other side. Cook the chapati for about 3 - 4 minutes flipping once or twice - it’s done when there aren’t any raw spots left on it. It can also lightly brown, but lower the heat in case you feel the girdle is too hot and the chapati is burning too quickly.
Repeat the steps above for the remaining balls of dough, storing the cooked chapatis in a napkin to keep them warm. Serve immediately or allow to cool before storing in the fridge.
Makes 4 - 6 chapatis (Served here with these Indian-style scrambled eggs)
Prep. time: 10 minutes, cooking time: 3-4 minutes per chapati