In India, they are usually made with wheat flour, so this version is not authentic, but just as tasty.
Indian chapatis are easy, tasty and just what I want with a saucy curry or even a chunky soup.
- 250 g light or dark rye flour, plus extra to dust
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp rapeseed or sunflower oil
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.
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the oil and about 125ml water. Mix together, then work in a little more water, just a few drops at a time, until you have a firm, pliable dough with a texture a little like Play-Doh. Knead for a minute or so until smooth. You can start cooking the chapatis straight away but they will be even better if you cover the dough and leave it to rest in the fridge for 15–30 minutes.
When you are ready to cook, divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll each into a ball. Set a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat. On a lightly rye-floured surface, flatten out one of the balls of dough (with the base of a plate or the palm of your hand), then use a rolling pin to roll it into a disc, about 15cm in diameter and 2mm thick.
When the pan is really hot, drop in the chapati. Cook for about 30–40 seconds. Flip the chapati over (if it’s not mottled with a few dark spots the pan’s not hot enough). Cook for another 50 seconds or so until the second side is lightly browned too. Flip once more and finish for 30 seconds or so. They may puff up a bit (more likely if using light rye flour).
Wrap the chapati loosely in a tea towel to keep it warm, then repeat with the remaining dough, stacking all the cooked chapatis inside the folded tea towel. (This keeps them warm, soft and pliable.)
Eat the chapatis straight away, ideally while still warm. As well as serving with curries, soups and other saucy dishes, they’re also delicious for breakfast – trickled with a little rapeseed oil and runny honey, then eaten folded.
Use gluten-free buckwheat flour in place of the rye, for a gluten-free chapati. These can be cooked as above, but are even better if you leave the dough, covered, in the fridge for a little while, up to 8 hours, before cooking.
Use 250 g masa harina, a particular type of cornmeal, instead of the rye flour. This is made from corn that has been treated with a solution of calcium hydroxide, a process that allows the proteins in the corn to join with each other and form a dough - something that ordinary fine cornmeal will not do. It’s much more absorbent so you’ll need 350ml hand-hot water (half cold and half just-boiled from the kettle), plus 1 tablespoon oil and a pinch of salt. Knead to a smooth, firm dough, adding a little more water if it seems dry. Cover with cling film and rest for 15 minutes. Divide into 8 pieces and roll out as above (or a little thinner) – or use a tortilla press if you have one. Cook as above, until barely coloured, stacking them in a folded tea-towel as you go. They’re great with a chilli, stew or curry. Tortillas that have gone cold can be reheated quickly in a dry frying pan.
Recipe from Light & Easy by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury, hb, $45.00). Photography © Simon Wheeler.