Simple things have to be done perfectly… and chapati is one of those things. It is only flour and water, but if not done right, well, lets just say, there is no inbetween: it either works or it doesn’t.
I can’t really teach you chapati through a website. It is something you have to see. And something you have to have eaten to know how it is supposed to be. I have wonderful memories of sitting on the roof top in India, eating hot chapati cooked on a wood fire, from flour ground from home-grown wheat. That, with a cup of fresh milk from the village cows, is one of the best meals I have ever had.
With these memories, many years back, I took a determination to learn to make chapati myself. I failed many times, until finding the perfect technique. Effort always pays off. Until today, the satisfaction of watching chapatis open into perfect balloons,as I cook them every evening, does not wear off. The simple things in life are always the best.
So here is an explanation of how to succesfully make them. I would also reccommend searching for a few videos on youtube, and watching how its done. And be ready for some failures- perfect them for yourself before planning to make them for guests!!
- You will need to find the right flour! Chapati is made from wheat flour, but not any old kind from the supermarket. Go to an Indian shop, and search for ‘atta’. ‘Chaki atta’ to be exact. It is kind of whole wheat flour ground in a stone mill until it is very fine. This flour has a very different taste and texture. Of course, you can try with normal wholewheat flour, but I am warning you in advance, it will be dry and not very tasty. (Chapati flour, is, by the way, also great for making cakes and bread).
- 1 cup clour will make 3-4 chapatis. Place the flour in a bowl, and slowly add water to make a soft dough. You will need about half a cup of water. The dough should be as soft as possible without being sticky. Knead for 1 or 2 minutes into a smooth ball.
- Now, let it rest for 10-15 minutes. You can also leave it for longer, go and do something else, and come back later. But cover it first. If you are impatient, you can make them immediately, but the will not be so soft and tasty….
- Now divide the dough into balls. If you know the size if Indian lemons (much smaller than the European kind), then makes the balls about that size.
- Place some flour in a plate. Flatten the ball a little and coat in flour. Now comes the rolling technique… you need to roll a perfect circle… I find a small rolling pin to be much easier. You have to roll lightly, putting pressure to one or other side or the rolling pin. This way, the dough will move around without the help of your hands. At some point, around half way through rolling, you can dust with more flour on both sides to stop it sticking. Roll until it is not to thick or too thin!! (OK, just try, I can’t explain that in writing!)
- Now, heat up a flat pan. A pan for crepes will be perfect. If you have a gas stove, the whole thing is going to be a lot easier, because you can control the heat better. it needs to be hot enough, otherwise, the chapati will not puff open nicely.
- Place the chapati in the pan. Wait until the colour of the dough starts to change slightly, and then turn. It shouldn’t have any brown spots yet. Wait again… until some small bubbles start to develop, and then turn. There should be brown spots on the other side. Now, if it is cooked, it will start to open up. This is important, otherwise the dough will be uncooked. As it starts to open, press with a tea-towel next to where the bubble is opening (not on top– next to–). Anyway, you will see, that when you press some places, it helps it to open. Finally, it will have opened into one big round balloon, which means all the edges are cooked.
- Now put it on a plate, coat with a little ghee (or even olive oil if you want), and do then same with the rest of the dough.
- Now, put some tasty vegetables on the side of the plate, and tearing the chapati with your right hand, scoop up the vegetables with the the chapati, and enjoy. (You need to eat them fresh, otherwise they will become dry. If you will not eat them immediately, wrap them in a tea-towel to keep them soft). At this point, it is absolutely essential that you learn to eat with your hand. Just give up even trying with cutlery…. God gave you spoons connected to your body when you were born, and they are called hand with fingers 🙂
NOTE: THIS MAY SEEM LIKE A LONG EXPLANATION… THE WHOLE PROCESS ACTUALLY ONLY TAKES A FEW MINUTES, ABOUT THE SAME AMOUNT OF TIME YOU MIGHT SPEND WAITING FOR TOAST IN THE TOASTER. SO DON’T GET SCARED BY ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS!!