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Asma Khan’s Chapati: Wholemeal Bread

A foolproof recipe from Asma Khan for chapati, a small wholemeal flatbread.

From the book

Asma Khan

Introduction

This is the everyday bread eaten by many families in India. Chapati flour is readily available in many Asian shops and also in mainstream supermarkets. If you can’t find it, you can use sifted wholemeal flour. Weigh the flour after sifting and discarding the bran left in the sieve.

In some parts of India, the chapatis would be cooked and wrapped in a clean cloth and put into a closed basket or tin and taken to the dinner table. As the bread cools it becomes hard, so it is a bread that is meant to be eaten hot and immediately. Some of our food has uncomfortable roots of patriarchy. Historically, there was a culture where the men and boys of the family ate first, while the women and girls ate later – in many families it was the women and girls who were making the hot chapatis that were served to the men. Many years later, talking to friends about gender bias, I heard references to the burnt chapatis that were given to them – the rejects.

If you want to cook the chapatis in advance, so you can sit and break bread with your family and friends, you need to cook them on low– medium heat so they remain soft. Wrap them in a cloth immediately. If you cook the chapatis until they develop dark brown spots, they will harden if you keep them. To honour the memories of all those generations of women and girls who never broke bread at the table with their families, please do make these and share with your loved ones.

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Ingredients

225g sifted chapati flour (atta/chakki atta) or wholemeal flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ tsp salt
150ml cold water

Method

Put the flour and salt in a bowl and gradually add the water, kneading as you go, to make a soft but pliable dough. This may take 5–7 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead using strong downward pressure for about 5 minutes. Cover the dough and set aside for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into six equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Flatten to a disc and roll out on a lightly floured surface until each piece is 15cm in diameter.

Heat a tawa or frying pan over a medium–high heat and cook one chapati at a time, pressing down on the edges with scrunched-up kitchen paper or a clean kitchen cloth. The bread should puff up and be flecked with brown, which is the sign it is ready to eat.

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From the book: Ammu: Indian Home-Cooking To Nourish Your Soul

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