Sunday, November 04, 2012

Meetha Paratha (Sweet Flatbread)

My grandmother is an innate nurturer. After my grandfather passed away 27 years ago she latched on immediately to us, her grand children, as a coping mechanism to try and fill the gap he left behind. Every memory I have of her involves her being in her kitchen, her domain, where she would move around like a whirling dervish chopping, dicing, stirring, kneading - pouring out her love for us into the meals she prepared.

One of the special treats she made for us on weekends was meetha paratha - a fat, sugary, crunchy, flaky flatbread. She's almost 90 now but still welcomes requests and will lovingly roll out this delicious comfort food for my breakfast each time I'm back home for a visit. Two weeks ago I stood next to her and watched as she dipped a fat ball of dough into the flour bin, shook off the excess, flattened and spread it with ghee and granulated sugar. She then rolled it into a log, smeared it with more ghee and sugar, brought the ends together to form a disc and then rolled it out flat.

The passing years have not changed how swiftly her hands move, how her fingers look as she spreads the ghee on the dough, how she places the flattened dough on the griddle and rotates it before flipping it on to the other side. My grandmothers' meetha partahas are always thick, shaped square and are irresistibly delicious. They have crunchy, crispy edges while their insides are soft and almost syrupy-sweet. It may have been two weeks since I had one but I can still taste it so well. And, because I miss her so very much, I made this indulgent breakfast for myself this morning. My paratha is so lackluster in comparison, not half as thick or as sugary, not even a very good square. To add insult to injury it even has a few burned spots. I'm not sure she would approve. I always fall short. But it's okay. It's a tribute all the same.

Meetha Paratha (Sweet Flatbread)

2 cups atta flour
2-3 tbsp wheat bran (optional)
1 cup warm water
a large pinch of salt
2-3 tbsp raw sugar
3-4 tbsp ghee

Sift the flour, bran and salt together in a large bowl. Pour in the water, half a cup at a time, mix into the flour with your hands and then knead to form a soft dough. Cover and leave aside for half an hour. Meanwhile heat the griddle on medium.

Divide the dough into 8 balls. Dip a ball of dough into flour or dust with flour and flatten into a disc. Smear with ghee and sprinkle generously with sugar. Bring the sides up and roll the disc into a ball. Flatten and roll it out thick. Spread a tablespoon of ghee on the griddle and place the flattened dough on top. Spread the top with a layer of ghee and flip it over when one side is cooked. Serve warm. These parathas are delicious on their own, with a cup of milky tea.



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