Chapati with beef & vegetable curry stew
Chapati or "chapo"as we fondly refer to them in Kenya, is a very popular flat bread that is a staple in many homes in East Africa. The dish has it's origins in India as do many of our foods in Kenya. This owing to the large Indian population that has lived in Kenya since the 19th century, and whom we consider as our fellow Kenyans. Though this flat bread shares the same name with another flat bread in India, the preparation of the dough and the type of flour used make them different. The Indian chapati is made of a combination of whole wheat flour (atta) and all-purpose flour whereas the East African version of the chapati uses only all-purpose flour. When making the East African chapati, oil is used whereas no oil is used in kneading the dough for the Indian chapati. In that regard, the East African chapati is more similar to the Indian flat bread called "Paratha". But what's in a name? A chapati by any other name would still be delish :)
This dish is one that made a weekly appearance on our family's meal rotation (every Friday). If we needed to have a family meeting or gathering and my parents needed to have my bachelor brothers who had moved out to attend, my mom knew that a meal of chapati and any stew would guarantee that they showed up. Chapati was to my brothers what kryptonite was to Superman. It had some sort of power over them, and still does to this day :) Now that's just how much love this meal had in our family. The promise of a meal of chapati and some beef curry stew would make a pair of bachelors interrupt their Friday night plans for a few hours just to show up at the dinner table. So I'm about to share the recipe of this power-wielding dish with you. Use it's powers wisely.
-Tawa pan, crepe pan or even a regular frying pan. You can find a tawa pan on Amazon.com. Just type in-Premier Supreme Non-Stick Tawa/Pan 28cm.
-Wide spatula/ turner.
-Flat plate with one cup of all-purpose flour spread on it.
-A cookie sheet.
-Double boiler (a small pan 1/2 way filled with water over medium heat, and a bigger pan,with a lid, sitting on top of it).
A chapati "tawa" pan
A double boiler
SERVING SIZE: Makes 10-15 chapatis, depending on how big you like your chapatis.
-5 cups all-purpose flour.
-3 tablespoons ghee (melted, and warm) or 3 tablespoons warm cooking oil.
-1 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher salt).
-1 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar (to balance the flavors).
-2 cups tepid/warm water.
-1/2 cup vegetable oil to oil and cook the chapatis.
-Place your flour in the mixing bowl and make a well in the middle.
-Add the salt and sugar and mix it well into the flour.
-Add the ghee or vegetable oil and mix well with one hand as you hold and rotate the mixing bowl with the other hand,
-Add a little bit of water at a time and continue kneading the dough. Keep rotating the bowl with your other hand. Knead until there is no more flour left on the bottom and the sides of the mixing bowl.
****To get a soft chapati, you will need to knead your dough for at least 15-20mins.***
-If there is no more dough left on the bottom and on the sides of the mixing bowl and you find that your dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little bit of flour at a time until your dough does not stick to your fingers, but is still pliable. If you find that your dough is too hard, add a little bit of water at a time, until it is soft and pliable, but not sticky.
-After kneading your dough for 20mins, make a ball out of it, pour 3 drops of oil on it to stop it from being sticky in the next step and cover it with a cling foil and put it in a container with a lid and sit it on your counter to let it rest for at least 30mins. This will also make for a softer chapati. The gluten that has formed during kneading needs time to relax, which will make the dough easier to work with and cause the chapati to be more tender (Gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat. Gluten is what gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture).
-After the 30mins, take the ball of dough and divide it into four equal parts. Place three of those parts on the cookie sheet and cover them with a clean,damp kitchen towel.
-Flatten one of the parts between the palm of your hands.
-Lightly flour your clean working surface and place the disc of dough on it. Use your rolling pin to flatten the disc of dough to about 1/8 inch thickness all around. Starting at the center of the disc, roll outwards towards the perimeter of the dough. After each roll, rotate your dough to ensure that it has equal thickness all around. Use your hand to feel the surface of the dough for any thicker parts, and flatten it out further. Your disc should now be about 8inches in diameter.
-Dip your pastry brush in the cooking oil and lightly oil the surface of the dough (on one side only!). make sure to get the edges of the dough as well.
-Now take your dough and place the oiled side down onto the plate with the flour. Stand your dough up and shake of any excess flour, and repeat this process again.
-Holding your dough up (it will now look like pizza dough), stretch it out with your hands as you would do pizza dough.
-Lay your dough back down on the floured surface with the oiled/floured side still facing up. Find the center of the dough and fold it as if to fold it in half. Now keep folding the dough over itself and pressing as you go as if you were making an accordion(as shown on the video). Still holding together the folds you have made, flip the dough over to the other half and repeat the folding process.
-Now stand the dough up on its side to where you can see the folds if you looked down on it.
-Then using your right index finger as a guide on one end of the dough, hold on to one end and use your other hand to rotate the other end of the dough, coiling it tightly around itself as you go.
-With your right index finger still in the center of the coiled dough, pull the other end of the dough over the coiled dough and tuck the tip into the center (where your right index finger was, just as I'm doing in the video).
-Now use the palm of both hands to flatten the coiled dough and use your cupped hands to shape the perimeter into a perfect circle.
-Transfer the coiled disc to a baking sheet or any clean, flat surface and cover it with a clean,damp kitchen cloth. Repeat the oiling and coiling process with the other three parts of flour you had set aside.
-Once you have all your dough oiled and coiled up, cover them all with a damp cloth and set them on a surface at room temperature and let them further rest for 15mins.
After letting the coiled discs rest for 30 mins,flour you clean working surface and your rolling pin, then roll out the coiled disc. Begin rolling from the center of the disc and push outwards. Rotate the dough each time you roll. The dough should be rolled out to about 1/4 inch thickness and 8 inches in diameter as shown below.
Test your pan to see if its hot enough to cook the chapatis by putting a drop of water in the center of the the pan. If the water quickly evaporates, your pan is ready to use (see image below).
Use your rolling pin to transfer the rolled out chapati from your working surface,over to your hot pan. After 2-3 minutes, using your turner, check to see if there are light brown markings (as shown on the image below) on the side of the chapati that is touching the pan. If you see these markings, it is time to turn over your chapati using the turner (use the turner to avoid burning your fingers).
As you wait for the other side of the chapati to cook, dip your pastry brush into the cooking oil and lightly brush the browned surface of the chapati(make sure to brush the edges of the chapati as well, or they will be dry). Once you finish brushing on the oil, use the turner to flip the chapati over and repeat the same process on the other side of the chapati. Once both sides of the chapati have golden-brown markings as shown below, use the turner to transfer the cooked chapati onto the double boiler. As soon as you put the chapati into the double boiler, flip it such that the last chapati you put into the pan is the one at the bottom of the batch (touching the bottom of the pan). This way, all your chapatis will stay hot and moist. Keep doing this until you have cooked all your chapatis.
Now your chapatis are ready to eat. To serve, you can cut each chapati into quarters, or you can cut them into halves and roll them up into cone shapes and serve. You can serve your chapatis with any kind of stew, or you can enjoy them with some tea or coffee. To re-heat them, you can nuke them in the microwave for 45 seconds/chapati, or you can use the double boiler method (just like you did as you were cooking them).