• This is a lesson on different salts – and their powers. (Samira Damirova)

This spicy potato-stuffed Indian flatbread shows you how salt is the key to unlocking different flavours in your food.

Makes
6

Preparation

20min

Cooking

1hr

Skill level

Easy
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Salt is the power player in my spice cupboard. It is the driver, pushing flavour forward and accentuating the personality of each individual spice. Salt makes cinnamon sweeter, amchoor more acidic. Salt takes chilli by the hand and raises its heat up high.

Thinking about salt in this way means that I am always considering how it will work in contrast.

If I put one teaspoon of salt in my pan, then I will need one third of a teaspoon on turmeric, a heaped teaspoon of cumin seed and a half teaspoon of red chilli to balance that.”

This is the conversation I have with myself. (Top tip: I always spice my pans off the heat, so there is time and space to talk myself through this balancing act without fear of those gentle aromatics burning.)

Salt finds its articulation in dispersing through other spices, and so matching ratios ensures the salt in your dish is allowed its fullest expression. Too much, and it overpowers. Too little, and the other spices will fall flat.

Of course, different salts have different ways of communicating. Aloo parathas are a clear example.

When making aloo parathas, I use two salts: a fine pink salt for the spicy aloo mix, and a white sea salt (I prefer Sicilian) for use in the paratha dough.

Salt is the power player in my spice cupboard. It is the driver, pushing flavour forward and accentuating the personality of each individual spice.

Fine pink salts are soft on the palate. Try some. Note the subtle tongue fizz and trailing end note that suggests sweetness. My Sicilian white sea salt, on the other hand, carves its channel on the outer and central lengths of my tongue. It’s a shouty, abrasive announcement of flavour.

This kind of strong character is ideal when working with atta (wholemeal) flour, or any flour, really. Dough acts as a blanket on spice, muffling subtleties. White sea salt has the ability to penetrate the dough’s density and still make itself heard.

(Pink salt is much more conversational, and this is important when I’m making a sabji (potatoes in a spicy gravy) where all spice elements need to be given voice. For my sabji, in my softened aloo mix, I create a slurry of ghee, red chilli, turmeric, amchoor, fresh ginger, ground ginger, a little jaggery and cumin seeds. It’s a bright, hot and warm bunch of flavours that looks to pink salt as a harmoniser.)

You’ll note that this recipe for aloo parathas doesn’t approach parathas in the traditional way; there is no working and rolling of ghee into the dough mix in order to create that characteristic paratha layering and lightness. My shortcut version is quicker for the kids – it’s a favoured after-school snack – and less involved for me.

Salt gives a dish its definition. Knowing my salts has helped me to become more nuanced at my stovetop. How to be sharp. How to let go and slip a little into that lovely soft blur.

Having the aromatic tools to move between states is a really important element in cooking. It’s also a pretty nifty trick to master in life.

 

Don't miss her column, The Spice Mistress, on SBS Food. Keep in touch with in touch with her on Facebook @sarinakamini and Instagram @sarina_kamini.

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Ingredients

Paratha dough

  • 3 cups atta (wholemeal) flour
  • 1¾ tsp Sicilian sea salt or sharp white salt
  • 4-5 tsp ghee

 

Aloo filling

  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp (heaped) fine pink salt
  • ⅓ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cm piece fresh ginger, grated (or to taste)
  • ⅓ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 small chunk jaggery (the size of half a Brussels sprout)
  • 2 cups mashed potato (with no salt or fats added)

 

  • plain flour, for rolling
  • ghee, for cooking

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

1. For the paratha dough, mix together the atta flour, white salt and ghee in a mixing bowl under a thin stream of hot water. I do this by hand. The dough should be combined and soft, but not sticky or wet. Set aside.
2. For the aloo filling, heat the ghee gently in a pan, along with the pink salt and all of the spices. Warm through until fragrant.
3. Add the mashed potato to the pan and stir through on low heat until well combined and the potato becomes a gloriously vibrant mess of golden richness from all of the spice. Let it cool a little before use.
4. Split the paratha dough into 6 balls. With each ball, create a little nest and place a round of the cooled aloo inside. Wrap the dough around the aloo until it is completely encased.
5. Scatter a little plain flour on the bench and, with a rolling pin, gently roll out the paratha ball. Mine will often split a little (especially if the aloo is warm), or tear or bulge. No matter. Dust with a little extra plain flour and keep rolling until quite thin – about 5 mm to 1 cm thick.
6. To cook, use a tawa or crepe pan or thin frying pan with great heat conduction – you want this baby to get HOT! Heat the tawa or pan, add a small dollop of ghee and allow it to melt, then fry the first paratha. Place another small knob of ghee on the other side before flipping. Fry until golden brown. Serve hot with pickles and raita.