Chapati - Indian Flatbread
Chapati was a staple in my parents' home during my growing up years. My father, being of Punjabi origin, was steadfast in making sure that his two daughters learnt to make chapatis well. This was ingrained in us from a young age. I started to make chapatis at about six years' old and earned my father's praises as I learnt to make chapatis the way he loved it. My sister, however, was excused as she showed little inclination for cooking.
In those days, chapatis were made over a wood stove, which had its own challenges to maintain the temperature just right so that the chapatis did not get burnt.
Wood stoves using firewood as fuel were the simplest and cheapest means of cooking in the early 1900's. Right until the early 1970's, many families burnt firewood for cooking using bricks that were arranged as in this picture, or cemented together for a more lasting stove. Firewood was cheap and easily obtained from the rubber estates; either from fallen rubber tree branches or old trees which had been felled. It often fell on the shoulders of the children to gather firewood from the estates. At a very young age, children were taught to chop firewood using axes. No firewood meant no cooking, so families made sure they always had a pile of firewood ready.
Mixing the dough for chapatis takes around 5 minutes. Resting it takes another 10 minutes or so. Thus chapatis are the easiest and quickest choice for dinner in my household. However, getting the chapatis to be soft and fluffy is an art by itself; something I have perfected through my many years of experience. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. Resting the dough makes it softer, but leaving it at room temperature for more than 30 minutes may make it too soft and render the rolling process difiicult. Pre-heating the griddle is necessary to produce perfect chapatis. A non-stick pan may be used if an iron griddle is unavailable.
1. Place 2 cups of wholewheat flour in a bowl.
2. Add salt and half the coconut oil into the flour and mix.
3. Add water gradually into the flour to get a soft dough.
4. Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes.
5. Smear the remaining coconut oil on the dough.
6. Cover and let the dough rest for 10- 30 minutes.
7. Pre-heat a griddle.
8. Place the remaining 1/4 cup of flour into a bowl for dusting.
9. Shape the dough into small balls and dust with some flour.
10. Flatten slightly
11. Using a rolling pin, roll the balls as thinly as possible.
12. Cook the chapati on the griddle, flipping a few times and
pressing the edges with a spatula to get both sides cooked well.
13. Serve while still hot.