Mrs Parmar's Indian Kitchen: Vegetable Curry & Chapatis
If you follow me on Twitter (I'm @joeatslondon, come and say hello) you may have seen that my next door neighbour - Mrs Parmar, a lady whose incredible cooking skill is matched only by her talent for gardening - frequently takes it upon herself to bestow Indian food upon me and my small family. Out of the blue there will be a knock at the door and Mrs Parmar is there thrusting a dish of spectacular spinach pakoras and ginger dipping sauce into my hands, or sometimes a beautifully fragrant saffron rice pudding, but usually her signature vegetable curry and chapatis. Whatever the dish of the day, we send a big thank you her way and tuck in with gusto.
Recently we were chatting and she invited me into her kitchen to learn how to make some of my favourite dishes myself; I couldn't believe my luck and jumped at the chance. So, with that, I bring you the first instalment of Mrs Parmar's Indian Kitchen and step by step instructions to making her vegetable curry with chapatis. I asked if the curry had a specific name, but apparently no!
You will need:
5 large tomatoes
Tsp mustard seeds
Tsp ground coriander
Tsp ground fennel
Chilli powder to taste
5 large cloves of garlic, crushed
Plenty of sunflower oil
Mug of warm water
Veg of your choice
In a large saucepan heat a good slug of oil over a medium heat and blend up your tomatoes while you wait. Use one of those whizzer things I'm always going on about - there should be an example of one in the sidebar on the left if you're reading this on a desktop. Once the oil is warm add the mustard seeds and wait for them to 'dance', as Mrs Parmar says, then you can add the tomatoes, the garlic and all the other spices.
Apparently if you put the lid on the pan for a few seconds at this point it is all you need to stop the smell going round the house. After this, remove the lid, turn the heat down to a simmer and wait until your sauce looks like this, with the oil just starting to float on top:
Now add your veg and cover whilst we make the chapatis.
Mrs Parmar is a girl after my own heart and shuns measurements in favour of doing everything by eye, so I'm afraid I have no clue as to the quantities of the chapati ingredients. Essentially she used two big scoops of chapati flour and kept adjusting the levels of oil and water until she was happy with the consistency.
I'm no baker, but I was pretty impressed by the bowl she had, which was rounded on the bottom to allow for rocking and kneading. I imagine a normal bowl will do just as well though, so chapati flour sifted into a large bowl, make a well and add about 200ml of sunflower oil.
She then rubbed it together as if she were making a crumble topping, then added the water to bring it all together into a dough to be kneaded.
Knead in the bowl until firm but springy, cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for about half an hour for ultimate chapati puffiness.
Then divide up into equal golf ball sized portions for rolling...
Again, Mrs Parmar, has got all the right kit for this and got out a very snazzy little elevated circular board and a slim tapered rolling pin.
I asked if a normal board and rolling pin would suffice, but she looked horrified. Give it a go if you dare.
Roll into even circular rounds and dust each side with flour as you heat a large flat pan ready for the chapatis to cook.
When the pan is really hot, place your chapati in and watch for it to start to form very small bubbles. Then it's time to turn and do the same for the other side. I reckon ours took about 30 seconds each side.
Then, take the pan off the heat and use the naked flame to toast the chapati to perfection, allowing it to properly colour and puff up like a chapati pillow. Take care to expose the centre of the chapati to the flame to avoid an underdone middle.
Have a plate handy nearby so that as each chapati is ready you can stack and rub the top with butter.
This is how the chapatis are best eaten - hot, pliable and dripping with butter. Mr and Mrs Parmar have them at 4pm every day with their chai tea, saving the rest for dinner. These will save for a day after making, after which Mr Parmar believes them to be sub-par. I secretly ate mine for a good day and or two afterwards as Mrs Parmar sent me home with about 20 chapatis and they were perfectly fine warmed in the oven.
I had a friend round for dinner that evening, and served up my authentically made chapatis with pride alongside Mrs Parmar's excellent mixed vegetable curry. Mrs Parmar is a strict Hindu, shunning eggs and meat, but I added a couple of fillets of salmon that I'd marinated with tandoori spices and yoghurt then grilled. A veritable Friday night treat. I can't wait for my next lesson!