Stuffed Flat Breads: Paratha, Bolani, Gozleme, Rolex…

Potato stuffed flat breads

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!

Ugandan Rolex Stand

Ugandan Rolex Stand. Image from http://www.monitor.co.ug

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)

Method

  • 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)

Method

  • 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!

 

 

Ciabatta: Learning how to work with sour dough

Ciabatta: Second attempt

Ciabatta: Third attempt

Bread is a staple food in our household. We go through mountains of store bought wholemeal pita bread because its is tasty and easy to throw in the toaster straight from the freezer! Pita is great for scooping up whichever curry or stew has been made for a mid-week dinner. One day I want to try and make my own pita bread…

After a recent trip to abroad, my partner came home asking me to make some ciabatta as he had really enjoyed the bread whilst away. I’ve never tried to make a sour dough bread before. It’s always seemed a big challenge as the ‘starter’ takes at least 7 to 10 days to get going before it can be used. A few years ago I went on a bread making workshop for beginners and learnt about the science behind the craft. Sour dough breads were mentioned and some of the more experienced students were sharing stories about ‘feeding’ their starter. It was all a bit scary sounding so I put it to the back of my baking mind.

When looking up ciabatta recipes, I found that it was made with a similar ‘starter’ called ‘biga’ that only needed to be made the night before so using this recipe I set about on this new challenge! While researching ciabatta recipes I also found out that the meaning in Italian is ‘slipper bread’ because it looks like an old man’s slipper!

Ciabbatta: one with sun-dried tomatoes and mixed herbs

Ciabatta: one with sun-dried tomatoes and mixed herbs

Ciabatta

Ciabatta

When making these loaves the dough was so wet that it wouldn’t hold a shape so I resorted to using cake loaf tins to bake them in, hence the different shapes and sizes! I added some sun-dried tomatoes and mixed herbs to add flavour to one loaf, which proved worthwhile as the flavour was delicious!

During my second attempt at this recipe I managed to get the consistency of the dough much better as they could be baked ‘free form’, however I’ve forgotten to take pictures!

For my third attempt at ciabatta, I found that the taste and the bread didn’t have the characteristic big holes in the middle as in previous attempts. This may be because I used a different recipe or it could be because it’s freezing cold in Manchester these days, and may too cold for the biga so it may have just been dormant overnight. The depth of flavour wasn’t there and though the dough was very bubbly when proving. Next time I want to try and make it from whole meal flour!

Compared to standard home made bread (baked in a bread machine) the taste of ciabatta is far superior. However remembering to do the ‘biga’ the night before is still a challenge for me so this will have to be a weekend bread to make when I have more time and don’t have a 6am start!

Ciabatta: Second attempt

Ciabatta: Third attempt

 

Fun With Bread: Stuffed rabbits and garlic dough balls

 

Bunny Rolls with Garlic Dough Balls

Bunny Rolls with Garlic Dough Balls

It is a well known fact that we eat with our eyes first. Food should look appealing as well as taste good, but it is also important to get the balance right.

I regularly go to my sister’s house at weekends for dinner. She’s a mum and works full time so I try and bring something along to ease the burden a little. This weekend she made a very complicated but delicious fish lasagne recipe, from one of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks. I offered to make the garlic dough balls to go on the side.

The weather in the UK has turned for the worse. It’s rainy, windy and generally pretty miserable out. This has had a pretty drastic effect on my bread making. Having decided to make the dough by hand, it just wasn’t rising during the proving as the kitchen was too cold. As a last resort I had to stick it into a warm oven which helped a little but I think it was a little too late as the dough still refused to rise much.

 

 

Garlic Dough Balls with Parmesan Cheese

Garlic Dough Balls with Parmesan Cheese

Bunny Rolls with Garlic Dough Balls

Bunny Rolls with Garlic Dough Balls

To make the dough balls taste a little more exciting, I made half the dough into dinner rolls but stuffed them with sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Looking a little uninteresting, I decided to snip in a couple of ears of poke in a couple of eyes to make them into cute little rabbits.

Now you would think that my two and a half year old nephew would love these little rabbits, since he’s completely obsessed with animals! However he seemed pretty indifferent and slightly bemused. He was however much more interested in the garlic dough balls, ploughing through the bowl one by one.

It may be true that you eat with your eyes but at the end of the day its the taste that really counts. Since the ‘rabbits’ could easily have been ‘cats’ or ‘mice’, I think I only passed the taste test on this one!