We very much recommend that these are served in conjunction with our Punjabi omelette!
A few weeks ago I was admonished by my lovely niece; she said that the blog was not “Punjabi enough.” I differed, and explained the purpose/ethos of the blog and the range of recipes published thus far – an equal balance of non-Indian and Indian. She still disagreed. So, in order to pacify her, I am sharing a recipe that are highly popular in our Punjabi kitchen. It’s a staple food in Indian cuisine, and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I defy anyone to resist these crispy layered flatbreads, delicious eaten with a knob of butter that gently melts and oozes onto the parontah. They can be eaten with any of the curries we have published and a pickle. Or even with some jam; that was a childhood favourite, perhaps not entirely confined to childhood though……….
Parontahs, whether they are plain or stuffed, are also an absolute favourite of my daughter. The combination of a parontah and omelette is a good old family tradition. Any journey – whether it be abroad or in the UK, (even to the Midlands to take your child to university!) calls for these delicious morsels, along with a piping hot flask of chai masala. Simply wrap them in a sheet of kitchen roll, which is then placed on a similar-sized square of foil, and hey presto, you will be hooked and never want to pack a sandwich again. Please don’t be daunted by the recipe, I have set them out in steps that are easy to follow.
Serves 4 (if having 2 parontahs each and 2 to spare for another day!)
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 35 minutes
Vegan – use suitable alternative to butter
Freezing – suitable, parontahs only. Layer them between sheets of cut cereal bags/parchment paper and they will last for up to 3 months
You will need a medium-sized frying pan, preferably non-stick or a heavy coated or a tava (an Indian frying pan), rolling pin, spatula or tongs and a pastry brush.
400g flour – I use medium brown which is available from Indian stores/large supermarkets, or use a mixture of half wholemeal and half plain flour – plus extra flour for rolling the parontahs
1 level teaspoon salt
I tablespoon sunflower oil, plus more for cooking (you can use olive or rapeseed oil)
260-270 ml warm water to bind the dough
3 tablespoons of butter, softened
1. Put the flour/flours in a large bowl, sprinkle the salt evenly. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, and mix it with your fingertips so the oil has incorporated into the flour. Gradually add enough water to bind the mixture – you will need approximately 260-270ml, it really will depend on the type of flour that you are using. The dough should come together, and the sides of your bowl should be clean with a minimal trace of flour. Knead in the bowl for a few minutes so that you have a soft and pliable dough. Set aside for 10 minutes. Cover with a clean tea-towel .(In Punjabi we say that is for the dough “to set”).
2. Make space on your counter so that you can roll the parontahs and have easy access to the rest of the ingredients . You will need to do the following:
a. Place 5 -6 heaped tablespoons of flour onto a plate.
b. Place 3 tablespoons of oil into a bowl.
c. Have the softened butter ready in a bowl.
d. Place a sheet of kitchen roll onto a large plate. (To stack your parontahs)
3. Dust your fingertips of both hands with a little flour. Roll out the dough into a long baguette shape, cut it into even sizes. You should get 10 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, and lightly dip this on both sides in a little bit of flour; set aside on one side of your counter. (I had a GBBO moment and placed the balls onto weighing scales – they should be around 65 – 68g in weight if you want to be really precise!
4. Dust your counter and fingertips lightly with some more flour. Lightly dust your counter with some more flour as well. Flatten the ball by pressing it into the palm of your hand so that you have a circle. Place this on the counter and roll the circle evenly so that it is approximately 19 – 20cm. Don’t worry if it’s smaller. Using the tip of a knife/small spatula, lightly spread the circle with the softened butter, then sprinkle some flour onto this.
5. Working your way from the top of the circle, roll it into a long tube and twist it (so that it almost resembles a breadstick), and then roll it into a tight coil, ensuring that the end piece is firmly tucked into the middle of the coil. Set aside on the side of the counter, again lightly dusting each side. Repeat the process for the remaining balls.
6. Place a further light dusting of flour onto the counter. Roll the coil evenly as possible, you want to end up with a circle approximately 18cm in diameter. Don’t worry if the circle is not as round as you would like. Practice really does make perfect, and as I jokingly tell my daughter, don’t worry if it resembles the Indian/African continent, that’s part of their charm!
7. If making these for the first time, I would suggest having a couple of the parontahs ready, as the actual cooking process does not take long.
8. Heat the frying pan on a medium – high heat, lower to medium when the pan is hot. Gently place the parontah into the pan. After a short while you will soon see the underside is cooking, it will puff up and the parontah will have changed colour. Flip over gently using a spatula/tongs. Cook until the underside has also changed colour, say another 40 seconds or so. Now brush the upper side lightly with oil, flip over. Repeat the process with the other side. Both sides should have an even coat of oil. You may need to flip them again a couple of times on both sides to ensure it is cooked properly on both sides; your parontah is ready when both sides are a light golden colour, with specks of brown.
9. Transfer onto a plate, and keep it in a warm place if eating immediately.
The dough can be prepared in advance for 1 day, store it in a sealed container in the fridge, or it can be frozen. If it has been in the fridge, take it out 10 – 15 mins before cooking. Ideally it should be at room temperature; that makes the dough pliable and easier to roll.
The recipe can be doubled if you want to make an extra batch.
If your dough looks dry, gradually add some more water. If it has become sticky, add a little bit of extra flour and knead again.