Afghan Bolani: Potato stuffed flat breads
Like ‘dumplings’ stuffed flat breads can be found in variations the world over. Thinking about it, both dumplings and flat breads are similar in that they are both a form of dough with a filling inside then just cooked in different ways!
Today I had a little more time to cook up something tasty for brunch. With a kilo of King Edward potatoes to use up I decided to make some Bolani. Bolani is a vegan flat bread found in Afghanistan that is pan fried with a think layer of vegetable based filling. It is one of the first Afghan dishes that my partner made for me when we first got together. When he made it, he was guessing a lot of the ingredients and the cooking method based on when he watched his mum make them at home. Being a man in the house, he didn’t get involved in the cooking so he did it from memory. It tasted exactly like the Aloo Paratha that my good friend from university would make for me, except he used plain white flour to make the dough and she would use chapatti flour. Also Bolani are usually folded in half and paratha are usually kept in a round shape. Both were pan fried in oil or ghee and tasted delicious!
I’ve also encountered stuffed chapatti in Uganda during my travels in my gap year. These were the university student’s staple food at the end of the semester when funds were low and studying for exams meant that there was no time for cooking. ‘Rolex’ do not refer to the watches that we see advertised in glossy magazines, but to chapattis that are cooked and ‘rolled in eggs’ (‘roll-eggs’). The eggs are usually cooked with some thinly sliced tomatoes, onions or cabbage into a thin omelette then a panfried chapatti is laid onto and the two cooked together and rolled up to eat. I’ve made these at home on occasion using ready to eat wheat tortilla wraps and they have turned out pretty good!
I had the Turkish version of this street food snack at a food market earlier this year and watched in amazement as the stall holder deftly rolled out the dough into the thinnest, most delicate, strudel like layer. They were called Gozleme and the resulting flat bread was flaky and not too oily. Rather than adding oil to the pan as with paratha and bolani, she pan fried them in a dry pan then brushed oil onto each side of the bread as she flipped it over.
Learning from all these different ways of cooking stuffed flat breads from all over the world, I have settled on my own preferred recipe for making these delicious potato stuffed flat breads. I like to mix both white flour and wholemeal for the flavour. I also like to add oil to the dough recipe as I find it results in a much flakier bread and you can use less oil in the pan frying to get a lighter finish. This is the ‘recipe’ I used today (with rough estimates of amounts as I didn’t measure anything out!):
Ingredients for the dough
- Plain white flour (100g)
- Wholemeal flour (100g)
- Olive Oil (2 tbs)
- Salt (0.5 tsp)
- Mix all ingredients together with enough water to bring it all together into a dough
- Knead for 5 minutes then leave to rest in a bowl until ready to use
Ingredients for potato stuffing
- White potatoes (200g)
- Scallions/Spring onions (4 chopped finely)
- Oil (1 tbs)
- Various spices (I used cumin seeds, ground coriander, garlic powder, cayenne pepper)
- Salt (to taste)
- Microwave peeled potatoes (chopped into quarters) until softened and cooked through then allow to cool
- Cook out the spices in oil then add spring onions to cook a little then add salt
- Add the potatoes to the pan then use a masher to crush the potatoes into the spice mixture until all big lumps of potato have gone and all flavours are evenly mixed up
- Allow to cool
To make the bolani
- Roll out a small golf ball sized amount of dough into a roundish shape so it is quite thin
- Put a couple of tablespoons of the potato stuffing onto one half of the chapatti and then fold the other half on top
- Using the rolling pin, roll over the stuffed chapatti so that the dough sticks together and the bread is of even thickness for even cooking
- I used a large round bowl to cut the breads into a round shape as I have yet to master the art of rolling out a perfectly round chapatti!
- Get a heavy bottom sauce pan or chapatti griddle pan (if you are lucky enough to have one!) brush the pan with a little oil then add a couple of the bolani to the pan to fry slowly over a medium heat
- Brush the top of the bread with a little more oil and then flip over
- I repeat this process a couple of times to let them cook slowly and develop a flaky crisp crust
- Make the rest of the bolani as the ones in the pan are cooking, keeping cooked ones warm by covering in a clean tea towel
- Enjoy with some dips, we had a chilli yoghurt sauce this today. Yum!
The great thing about stuffed flat breads is that they can be stuffed with anything! They make the ideal street food snack and a great way to use up left overs at home. When watching other people make these, they always seem so quick to make, but it always takes me a couple of hours to make everything from scratch so using ready made chapatti or tortilla wraps is a great short cut when you are short on time!
- Aloo Paranthas or Potato Stuffed Flat Breads (simplyvegetarian777.wordpress.com)
- Indian bread stuffed with spicy potato stuffing (rakhiagarwal.wordpress.com)
- How To Make Gozleme Turkish Bread (lovefoodies.wordpress.com)
- Gozleme rule (wearingmytravellingshoes.wordpress.com)