We’ve been cooking with a lot of Indian inspiration lately. After some enlightening cooking with ps and bm, I was keen to show off my new skills at making aloo paratha (potato filled flatbread). And now we can’t stop making it! Today, dinner inspiration started with some urad dal (black lentils) I had cooked previously and potatoes that heard it was spring and weren’t going to last in the veggie box much longer. The urad dal turned out to be the perfect start to dal makhani, and this left us with potatoes screaming to become aloo paratha — the two came together for a delightful dinner.
With previously cooked (or simply canned) beans, dal makhani turns out to be surprisingly simple. I think it was done before we’d even cooked the potatoes. We started with a few coriander seeds and a good teaspoon of cumin seeds roasting in the dry pan, left until they started to brown. Then we added a tablespoon of butter and some minced garlic, and before this got too brown, we added about two cups of crushed tomatoes. This cooked together for a while and already smelled and tasted delicious. Then we added the urad dal (just under two cups) and kidney beans (about half a cup, just under half of a 15oz can). We mashed these with a fork as they heated up, until the tomatoes thickened and only occasional whole beans were left. Then we seasoned with salt, garam masala, a little cayanne, some galangal (like ginger; we should have added this earlier with the garlic), and some ground feungreek. Fenugreek seeds were called for in one recipe, so I thought I’d give it a try, and it turned out to add a really nice subtle-sweet flavor that rounded out the dal — I’d recommend it in the future. We let this simmer on low while we pulled everything else together and added just a dash of cream at the end when we took it off the stove.
Meanwhile, we started the aloo paratha dough as ps taught me: To one cup lukewarm water, add flour slowly, mixing it well, until a dough forms. Keep adding flour just until the dough is no longer sticky and then add some oil and salt (about a teaspoon of each). Mix it together well and add flour if needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Divide this dough into balls smaller than a fist (we got 8 this time).
For the potato filling, we’ve actually been pretty lazy and have been microwaving the potatoes. While we didn’t do it this time, I’d recommend peeling the potatoes in the future because the peels add a competing texture inside the bread. We mashed the potatoes very well with a potato masher and added a bunch of spices. I don’t know how ps makes her filling, but it should end up with a good kick to it. We added garam masala, ground cumin seeds and red pepper flakes, tumeric, salt, some cayanne, and a hint of hot curry. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s getting there. And I’ve learned that you can’t skimp on the salt in Indian food — it really makes a difference.
To fill the paratha, form one ball into a cup in your palm and fill this with potato filling (at least as much as the original dough ball). Pull the edges of the cup over the filling and press them together to seal the opening. Place this side down on a lightly floured surface and roll out the ball gently into an ~8 inch circle. Melt a small amount of butter (or better, if you have it: ghee) in a frying pan and cook the aloo paratha on both sides (it’s okay to flip frequently). Once both sides have browned, you’ve successfully made aloo paratha!
With a little basmati rice, this meal came together nicely, and I thought that the dal and paratha complemented each other well. The dal was slightly sweet, while the paratha was spicy and added nice texture. Since we made the paratha dough with some whole wheat flour, it was pretty dense, and in the future (at least with other rich foods like dal), I would probably make a more white-flour based dough. And considering how quickly this came together, the dal (or both) might be showing up more frequently on our dinner table.