Today’s bites aren’t really a meal. Well, they’re parts of a meal. Maybe sometimes the pre-meal. But in any case, by the end of this photo shoot, they were dinner.
I’ve mentioned once or twice that nothing makes me happier than an Indian food buffet. They are like, the best. Can’t decide what to eat? Doesn’t matter. You can have it all. And so I do.
However, there are parts to an Indian spread that don’t typically get to shine, but they’re always reliably there. They are the supporting characters. They add some crunch, some spice, some sweet, or just some fluff, but they serve to complement the lead in such a way that a dish that may just have been okay suddenly becomes mind-blowing.
Today’s nominees for supporting characters are chutney and chapatti.
Let’s start with the chapatti.
Whereas other areas of India rely on rice or potatoes to starch up a plate, northern Indian cuisine relies on bread (God, I loooooove bread). In the way of the injera in Ethiopia, breads are used as mops, scoops or are splendid just as they are. I’ve had a few examples so far in my travels- the roti in Malaysia and Mama Buddha’s time-tested puffy puri breads– so now it’s the chapatti’s turn.
Chapatti means “flattened round,” and is just that- a round, flat bread made of whole wheat flour cooked in a clay oven or on the stovetop. It’s actually the same as roti, just called by a different name (though is no less sweet). It’s usually pressed pretty thin, almost like a tortilla and finished with a slathering of butter or ghee.
Sounds good, right? I made roti before and this is essentially the same. Easy peasy. The problem? Guess who can’t eat wheat anymore. Yup. Therefore, this recipe had to be reinvented.
Using the recipe at Show Me The Curry as a base, I played around with some of the flours in my arsenal and came out on top. I was a little worried since I decided to substitute chickpea flour for amaranth flour, which was a bit risky since chickpea flour has a very strong taste that’s hard to hide (how do I know? Pumpkin bread fail…), but in the end, I won this one.
Now that I got the bread part sorted, it was time for the chutney. Well, it started out as a pickle and ended up more as a chutney. I’ll explain. Indian pickles, or achaars, constitute fruits and veg finely chopped and pickled over time. Sweet or spicy, they’re used to add some extra pop to a dish. Growing up we had more than one variety in the fridge and an ever-present jar on the table so making this condiment seemed like an obvious choice.
I received the book Around the World in 80 Dishes for Christmas and was excited to find a chance in my travels to use it. It’s a great book, and the dishes presented are mouth-watering and beautifully photographed. Plus, Jaime Oliver is a contributor, and I am not ashamed to admit I’ve had a bit of a crush on him since he was The Naked Chef way back when. As I flipped through my new gift a month ago, I came across the recipe for Indian Pickles that I knew I just had to make when it came time.
The problem? It’s called a pickle for a reason…that reason being that it has to be pickled. As in left alone for a month in a dark corner to do it’s thing and get all happy. Well, I didn’t have a month. I had an hour. Duh, Buddha. Oops. Pickle fail.
When one door closes, another opens, and that leads me to the chutney. Chutneys are similar to pickles (and, in some regions of the world and the internet, indistinguishable), but according to my recipe book, the chutney didn’t need that stewing time, and was ready to eat right away.
The result was a melding of the two recipes, changing up some ingredients and adding others to create a sweet but tart topping to my lovely flatbread.
Okay, enough talking. Time to eat.
Makes about 6 Chapattis
For the Chapatti
½ cup chickpea flour
½ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup + 2 TB cornstarch
½ tsp xantham gum
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup potato flour
2 tsp oil
½ cup water
Coconut oil or ghee, for cooking
1. First, mix together the first 5 ingredients. Set aside 1 cup for this recipe. As for the rest, reserve for your next chapatti adventure. You now have your pre-made mix.
2. To that 1 cup of mix, add the potato flour and oil. Using your hands, rub the ingredients together.
3. Add half of water and start to knead the dough. Add the remaining water as needed, constantly kneading the bread. Note: Gluten free flours usually require more kneading than wheat flour, to acquire a soft, smooth texture and the addition of the gum will make the dough a little sticky.
4. When dough has formed into a ball, add a bit of oil and continue to knead and make a smooth dough. Place prepared dough in a bowl and allow it to rest for about 15 minutes.
5. Divide dough into 6 equal sized balls.
6. Take each ball between your hands and flatten to form a disc.
7. Take one flattened ball and dust it lightly with cornstarch. Preheat a cast iron skillet and coat it well with oil.
8. In between two sheets of plastic wrap dusted with cornstarch, begin to roll the disc flat. You will be able to roll out a fairly thin roti about 7” round.
9. Once rolled out, remove upper plastic sheet and place dough on a preheated cast iron skillet. Allow some bubbles to appear, flip the bread onto the other side and allow it to cook while gently pressing and moving it a little.
10. Flip once again and let the first side cook a little more. Take off the flame, set aside and continue with remaining dough balls. Coat with ghee, if desired.
For the Chutney
Makes about 1 ½ cups
½ cup malt vinegar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 medium yellow onion, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 tsp mustard powder
½ “ piece of ginger, freshly grated
½ cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup light brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place all the ingredients into a large saucepan. Bring the contents to a simmer, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Leave the chutney to cook about 40 minutes until all the liquid has dissolved and all the ingredients are very soft and thick.
3. That’s it. Seriously.
These sides are meant to be enjoyed and served along side whatever meal you fancy. However, in my case, it was a long day, so I combined the elements into an impromptu flatbread, topped with some melted sheep’s milk Manchego.
It was good. Very, very good.